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Alabama, Clemson top first College Football Playoff rankings; Utah No. 16

Utah Utes take the field in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. Washington won 31-24.
Utah Utes take the field in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. Washington won 31-24.
Jeffrey D. Allred,

Alabama grabbed the top spot in the first College Football Playoff rankings.

It marks the first time the Crimson Tide have been ranked No. 1 in the opening round of playoff rankings. Alabama (8-0), which won last season’s national championship, is making its 13th appearance in the playoff rankings.

The runner-up to Alabama in the last year’s title game — Clemson — grabbed the No. 2 in the first round of 2016 playoff rankings.

Michigan (8-0), which has never been ranked higher than 10th in its six previous playoff ranking appearances, grabbed the third spot.

Arguably the biggest surprise came at the No. 4 spot.

Texas A&M (7-1) earned the No. 4 ranking over undefeated Washington (8-0). The Huskies are off to their best start since 1992 and are making their first playoff rankings appearance.

“Simply stated, the committee, in our mind, believes that Texas A&M has played a stronger scheduled at this point in time of the season over Washington,” playoff selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said.

The College Football Playoff selection committee released their first set of rankings Tuesday. The final poll will be revealed live on ESPN at noon Sunday, Dec. 4. The top four teams qualify for the two semifinal games, which will be held at the Fiesta and Peach bowls on Dec. 31. The winners will meet in the national championship game on Monday, Jan. 9, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The remaining games that compose the New Year’s Six access bowl games — Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton — will select the highest ranked remaining teams that fill their criteria. The highest ranked conference champion from the Group of 5 conferences — American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt — also will receive a spot.

The Utah Utes (7-2), who moved up one spot to No. 16 in the AP poll on Monday despite falling to Washington last weekend, are also No. 16 in the CFP rankings released Tuesday.

The selection committee is composed of 12 members: Hocutt, Barry Alvarez, Jeff Bower, Herb Deromedi, Tom Jernstedt, Bobby Johnson, Jeff Long, Rob Mullens, Dan Radakovich, Condoleeza Rice, Steve Wieberg and Tyrone Willingham.