Penn State is No. 7 in the first College Football Playoff ranking
The Nittany Lions' first loss of the season left them looking up at the top four in the initial College Football Playoff ranking. Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson are in the first four.
Penn State discovered Tuesday night where it stood in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee, and that was in the No. 7 spot in the first ranking released by the 13-member panel.
The Nittany Lions (7-1) suffered their first loss of the 2017 season on Saturday when they surrendered a 15-point fourth-quarter lead and dropped a 39-38 decision at Ohio State. Of the six teams ranked ahead of them, four have one loss.
The Buckeyes (7-1) came in at No. 6, the highest-ranked Big Ten team.
The top four in the rankings were Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson.
Committee chair Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director at Texas Tech, did not mention Penn State by name in his interview with ESPN but said there was "very passionate discussion" by the committee for third through seventh place in the rankings.
Behind Notre Dame and Clemson came Oklahoma at No. 5, followed by Ohio State and Penn State. The Sooners, who won at Ohio State in September, were ranked behind the Buckeyes in this week's Associated Press poll.
"When you look at Notre Dame, three wins against CFP teams, only loss coming against No. 1 Georgia," Hocutt said. "Clemson has an impressive resume, six wins against teams with a winning record, two wins against CFP top 25 teams, only loss their quarterback was injured.
"Head-to-head results were important in 5, 6, and 7 for the selection committee, knowing that these teams will have an opportunity to enhance their resume in front of the committee in the weeks ahead."
That could spell trouble for Penn State. The Nittany Lions do not have a marquee non-conference win and their best win of the season to date, their 42-13 thumping of Michigan on Oct. 21, was against a team that is not ranked in the top 25.
The Lions' opponent this Saturday, Michigan State, is ranked No. 24.
Of the 12 teams that have played in the College Football Playoff in its first three years of existence, three teams — No. 16 Ohio State in 2014, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 15 Oklahoma in 2015 — have been ranked seventh or lower in the season's first poll.
The surprise in the rankings, especially for the Big Ten, was the fact that undefeated Wisconsin was placed at No. 9. The Badgers have not played a very tough schedule, and their toughest test in the rest of the regular season will be against Michigan at home.
The remainder of the Top 10 was eighth-ranked Texas Christian, and No. 10 Miami.
College Football Playoff Top 10
All will be televised on ESPN
Tuesday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 14, 9 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 21, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 28, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 3, 12 p.m. (final)
Monday, Jan. 1: Rose Bowl, 5 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 1: Sugar Bowl, 8:45 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 8: at Atlanta, 8 p.m.