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Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas (3) makes a touchdown catch against Alabama defensive back Laurence Jones (6) in the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal game, Thursday, Jan. Our committee of 13 national experts ranks the teams competing for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Members of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 59-0 in the Big Ten Conference championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. About the First Four Poll: Each week during the college football season, our committee of 13 national experts will rank the teams competing for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
About the voters: We've assembled a baker's dozen of top college sports writers from coast to coast. If you were looking for close, the vote in the final First Four poll delivered, even if the games in championship week did not. After the top teams mostly all impressed in a weekend where the average power five conference championship game margin was 32 points (and that includes Florida State's 37-35 win over Georgia Tech), it seems our panel couldn't make up its mind.
FSU had the most first-place votes, six, but was consistently further down in the vote of other voters, reflecting recent opinions of the committee. The vote was similarly close for the the fourth and final playoff spot as Ohio State took the fourth spot with 80 points, one point more than Baylor and just four more than TCU. The playoff committee's top team put its foot on the gas to blow out Missouri in a way Florida State has not done in a long time. Oregon's Derrick Malone and his teammates got after Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
In a weekend full of blowouts, Oregon's 51-13 rout of the nation's highest-ranked two-loss team, Arizona, took the cake. This ACC championship trophy was hard earned for Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles. Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa scored a touchdown in the Big Ten championship game, giving him one more score than the Buckeyes defense allowed to the Badgers. Could Baylor really be punished because it was challenged more severely than any contending team not named Florida State?
With two-loss teams going 0-4 in the major conference championships (plus two-loss Kansas State losing to Baylor), we were back to non-division winners returning to the top eight.
Sure, Mississippi State got its losses in the toughest division in the country, but Michigan State's two losses are to two teams our panel says will be in the playoffs, Oregon and Ohio State. As the top seed, we project Alabama to go to the Sugar Bowl and host Ohio State in a game one might think would be a somewhat frequent bowl rivalry, but in reality the two teams haven't played each other since 1994.

It would be interesting to see what Cardale Jones could do against Nick Saban's defense and if the Buckeyes' defense can contain Amari Cooper and company on Alabama's offense. If you're into supporting indie sites with your wallet, you can do so by purchasing one of our t-shirts or shopping Amazon with this link. Under the leadership of quarterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles finally put together a championship-worthy season, ousting Auburn to become the undisputed best of the college football world. It’s never easy losing in a championship game, so the Tigers will be looking to avoid a down year. The Spartans had a huge 2013 season, knocking off Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game to reach the Rose Bowl, where they vanquished Stanford. It would seem that the Gamecocks will be rebuilding a bit with Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney moving on to the NFL, but they still can’t be counted out in the ultra-competitive SEC. Missouri enters the 2014 season with big expectations, though the Tigers seem to be fitting in just fine with the rest of the SEC. Alabama has been on top of the college football world for so long that it seems crazy to find the Crimson Tide looking up at other teams in the polls.
The Knights easily had the best season in the program’s history in 2013, going 12-1 and upsetting Baylor 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl. We’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of themes for your favorite college football team. Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on in the first half of the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on November 8, 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan. These rankings will provide a look at how the contenders for the four playoff berths stack up and offer an alternative perspective to the official College Football Playoff rankings.
The Crimson Tide looked like a complete team, frustrating Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk while dominating on offense both on the ground with Derrick Henry and through the air with Blake Sims.
The nation knew what it was getting from Marcus Mariota and the high-powered Ducks offense, but the dominant performance by the Ducks' defense against a pretty good Arizona offense was a bit of a surprise.
A tough win over a Kansas State team also playing for first place in the Big 12 seemed to do the Bears in with our panel, but barely.
And it's appropriate for the Bulldogs, the second-best team in the best division of college football, to top the list. FSU would come in with its 29-game winning streak, the longest in college football since USC won 34 straight from 2003-2005. As an independent site, we're committed to delivering Buckeye fans the news and analysis they deserve, all while remaining free.

Can they bounce back in 2014 and try to once again fight for a title in the new playoff format?
For a conference that has had trouble winning big games, it was a huge step in the right direction. This is a group with a big chip on its collective shoulder, and it should never be counted out, especially in the new playoff format. Not after Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to the rout of what was a weekend of championship game routs around the country.
Oregon can only boast an eight-game winning streak, but its average margin of victory, 26 points, is impressive in the face of the Seminoles' weekly struggle to stay unbeaten.
If your favorite team is not listed here, check out our college football theme gallery and search for your team.
1 and still unbeaten Florida State -- and Alabama gets the top spot by virtue of having more first-place votes. That's what happens when the dust clears and the five teams ahead of you are the five conference champions. Joey Bosa and the gang looked like a group capable of challenging Alabama's potent offense. And only adding to the excitement is the sport’s new playoff format, which fans have wanted for years.
1 when it's the only unbeaten team in the country, is the defending national champion and has won 29 games in a row. To help get you pumped for the season, we’ve put together college football wallpapers and browser themes of some of the highest ranked teams. Hey, how can any committee vote against a team with players as clutch as Jameis Winston and Roberto Aguayo?
We all know that can change, though, over the course of a wild season, which only makes it all more exciting.

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