Even though Alabama beat Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day and went on to win the national championship, the Tigers are No. 1 in ESPN’s initial 2018 FPI rankings, ahead of the No. 2 Crimson Tide.

That raised some eyebrows, but there’s an explanation for why the Tigers are in the top spot.

According to ESPN analyst Brad Edwards, the Tigers are being rewarded for having more starters returning next year than the Tide (via 247Sports):

“The truth is these teams are very even and if you understand what goes into preseason FPI, there’s one difference in Clemson’s favor that put them at No. 1,” Edwards said on SportsCenter this week. “Clemson has five more returning starters than Alabama. It’s because Clemson had several underclassmen, who were good enough to maybe be early-round picks in the draft, decide to stay.

“Alabama’s guys in that (same) boat decided to go out for the draft. Alabama isn’t far behind Clemson at No. 2.”

Of course, Alabama was No. 4 in the Sugar Bowl and made quick work of the No. 1 Tigers. This year, it appears the Tide will have to play the underdog role once again, if only for a short while.