College Football Playoff predictions: Tennessee, Georgia lead top 4, who should be No. 1?

The first College Football Playoff rankings will be released Tuesday night, and the debate over the four-team seeding will rage until we reach the final rankings in December. How do we think Tuesday night’s opening leaderboard will turn out? AthleticThe college football staff decided on Tuesday’s top four.

How these selections turned out:

Employees vote for initial CFP ratings

team First Second Third Fourth

21

3

3

3

16

8

3

8

12

3

2

13

1

7

1

3

1

And here are our reasons for our #1 pick:

Nicole Auerbach: Tennessee

The Vols should get the No. 1 seed if the committee believes — as I do — that the win over Alabama is the best win anyone has had this season. Moreover, everyone knows that Saturday’s game against Georgia will decide the standings anyway. So if the Bulldogs are really better than the Bulls, they will come out on top later.

Andy Bitter: Tennessee

Does anyone have as impressive a resume as the Vols? Not only do they have as many wins as any team in the country, beating Alabama in a shootout, but they also have wins against LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Pitt – all decent opponents.

Christian Caple: Tennessee

The Volunteers are undefeated, beat Alabama and lead the nation in scoring.

Scott Dochterman: Ohio State

The Buckeyes rank in the top six in offense and defense. Quarterback CJ Stroud has 29 touchdown passes, four interceptions and a 71.3 completion percentage, and the offense has scored at least 44 points in its last seven games and has done so largely without the nation’s top player, Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Seth Emerson: Georgia

There isn’t a great team in college football this year, so the need for all six undefeated to be No. 1 and for all of them to be sixth. The case for the defending champion Bulldogs: They have the most impressive win of any undefeated team, 49-3 over Oregon, only one really close win (at Missouri) and four wins away from home (two road, two neutral). Kirby Smart’s team is also in the top 10 in yards per game offense and defense.

Matt Fortuna: Tennessee

We can compare and contrast resumes with Tennessee and Georgia, but the great thing about this sport is that it settles down early on the field. The Vols won at home over the defending SEC champion and won on the road over the defending ACC champion and were completely dominant in their next six games, winning them by an average of 34.7 points per contest. A 27-point win at a ranked LSU team keeps looking better, and a 38-point loss to Kentucky and a top-15 defense Saturday convinces me that UT deserves the No. 1 seed.

Doug Haller: Tennessee

If we go by the biography, Volové belongs here. Behind Heisman Trophy candidate Hendon Hooker, they have wins over Pitt, Florida, LSU, Alabama and Kentucky. What to watch: Three of their last four are on the road, starting with Saturday’s game at Georgia.

Sam Khan: Tennessee

Of the undefeated teams, not only do the Vols have the most wins (over No. 6 Alabama), but their FBS opponents are a combined 31-26 this season, a better strength of schedule than any of the other undefeated teams. Wins over LSU and Kentucky are also solid resume boosters.

Stewart Mandel: Tennessee

The Vols have perhaps the most impressive resume so far with a signature win over Alabama, a lopsided road win at LSU and a home loss to Kentucky.

Austin Meek: Tennessee

The Vols have the best offense in the country, the best winning streak in a season and a Heisman Trophy front-runner playing quarterback. Forget preseason preseason games; this team belongs at number 1.

Brody Miller: Tennessee

No one really matches the Vols, who have four wins over teams ranked in the AP Top 25 at the time of the game, with the Alabama win clearly the most impressive in the country. Georgia might end up being better, but no one proved that more than the Vols.

Antonio Morales: Tennessee

I was tempted to put Georgia here, but wins over Alabama and at LSU outweigh UGA’s win over Oregon.

Manny Navarro, Tennessee

The Vols blew out top-20 Kentucky teams and faced the 19th-toughest schedule according to ESPN. They have wins over two teams in the top 10 of the ESPN Power Index: Alabama (No. 2) and LSU (No. 9). Tennessee leads the nation in scoring (49.4) and wins its games by an average of 28 points per game. That’s the strongest case to be number 1.

Grace Raynor: Tennessee

The Volunteers have the best offense in the country and are up to five wins in the standings. Sure, Pittsburgh and Florida fell out of the Top 25, but Tennessee dominated both LSU and Kentucky in addition to getting its best win of the year against Alabama on October 15th.

Joe Rexrode: Tennessee

With a win over Alabama, a feat no one else can match, it’s pretty easy, plus LSU (40-13 on the road) and Kentucky (44-6 at home) gossip. The season-opening win in Pittsburgh has lost some of its luster, but that resume still tops all others.

Cameron Teague Robinson: Georgia

It’s tough for me to go against the defending champion Bulldogs. They throttled Oregon to start the season and have done nothing but win since. Tennessee is pushing them and this weekend’s game will be the difference.

Pete Sampson: Tennessee

The Vols have the best wins in college football and the best offense. If the Vols keep winning, they are a lock for the No. 1 seed.


Kirby Smart led Georgia to its first national title since 1980 with a win over Alabama in January. (Jeff Blake/USA Today)

Jeff Schultz: Georgia

Georgia looked like a team that only plays great when they have to, but the upside is that the Bulldogs responded every time they were challenged.

Mitch Sherman: Tennessee

The Vols answered questions about their pass defense with a commanding performance against Will Levis and Kentucky. Tennessee has the most complete resume so far, with a win against Alabama and the most exciting duo in the country in Hooker and Jalin Hyatt.

Audrey Snyder: Ohio State

Led by a potential Heisman Trophy winner in Stroud, the scary thing about the Buckeyes is that they haven’t hit their stride yet. They were tested on the road at Penn State in a game they trailed in the fourth quarter and didn’t have Smith-Njigba. But another playmaker emerged: defensive end JT Tuimoloau. That’s the challenge with the Buckeyes; talent just keeps coming from all directions on the field.

Andy Staples: Ohio State

While some Saturday was a struggle, the Buckeyes appear to have the most complete team yet.

Aaron Suttles: Tennessee

Tennessee has the best resume and the Volunteers deserve the No. 1 seed. The win over Alabama trumps Georgia’s win over Oregon, though the Bulldogs were certainly more dominant. It doesn’t matter at this point because these two teams will settle it on the field.

Jesse Temple: Tennessee

The Vols are coming off a season-best win against Alabama, are the Heisman Trophy frontrunner in Hooker and just passed a Top 20 Kentucky team.

David Ubben: Tennessee

Las Vegas may not believe it, making the Vols two-touchdown underdogs on the road this week against Georgia, but I’m a resume guy and so is the committee. No one has a better win than Tennessee over Alabama, and no one has a better collection of wins than the Vols: LSU and Pitt on the road, plus Florida and Kentucky at home to top the Tide. That’s far beyond what anyone else has accomplished this season. No singular unit was better than Tennessee’s offense, which could have a Heisman Trophy winner in Hooker and a Biletnikoff Award winner in Hyatt.

Chris Vannini: Tennessee

The Vols have the best wins in the country, a win against Alabama, and have destroyed good teams in LSU and Kentucky.

Ari Wasserman: Tennessee

Saturday’s game should have been a potential risk for Tennessee because not only is Kentucky a good team, but it came a week before the Vols’ game against Georgia. Tennessee didn’t back down in a 44-6 victory. Not only do the Volunteers have their best wins of the year, but they continue to make their opponents look hopeless as the hype begins to build. Volunteers have earned this spot.

Justin Williams: Tennessee

The Vols have the best wins in the country, courtesy of a shutout of Alabama, with solid wins over LSU and Kentucky, among others. Give me a Tennessee resume over anyone else right now.

(Hendon Hooker Photo: Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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