Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Mississippi are the top four teams in the first College Football Playoff rankings.
The first of seven Top 25 rankings compiled by a 12-member selection committee was released Tuesday night. The selection committee will ultimately pick the four teams to play in the national semifinals and set the matchups for other four marquee New Year's Day bowls that are part of the playoff rotation.
"It was extremely difficult, more difficult than any of us had expected having gone through our mock selections before," Arkansas athletic director and committee chairman Jeff Long said.
Oregon was fifth and Alabama was sixth, giving the Southeastern Conference's West Division four of the top six teams. There are still four games remaining matching those SEC West rivals, starting with Saturday's matchup of Auburn and Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi.
The final rankings will be released Dec. 7, the day after the most of the conference championships are decided.
TCU was seventh, Michigan State was eighth, Kansas State ninth and Notre Dame was 10th.
Mississippi State and defending national champion Florida State are the only undefeated teams left among the Big Five conferences and also hold the two spots in the AP Top 25 poll. No. 3 was where the differences started between the playoff rankings and the AP media poll.
The AP voters had Alabama at No.3 and Auburn at No. 4. Oregon was fifth, Notre Dame was sixth and Ole Miss was seventh after losing for the first time this season at LSU on Saturday. Ole Miss beat Alabama at home earlier this month.
This is the first year for the playoff format in college football, and the list is the first indication of how the committee is evaluating teams' playoff potential.
The committee creates small groups of teams, debates their merits and ranks the teams using as many votes as needed to come up with a consensus. Members are given reams of data on each FBS team and each member is allowed to judge those numbers however they determine is best.