The College Football Playoff is starting to come into focus with just two weeks until the first set of rankings are unveiled.
No. 8 Florida won the weekend’s first top-10 showdown with an impressive 44-28 victory against No. 5 Georgia. No. 4 Notre Dame upset No. 1 Clemson 47-40 in a double-overtime thriller. Those games reshaped the Playoff picture, at least for a week.
A few other surprises are in this week’s forecast as well: Who had unbeaten Indiana, Cincinnati and BYU as top-10 teams heading into the middle of November? The first set of Playoff rankings are coming on Nov. 24:
With that in mind, Sporting News breaks down the College Football Playoff picture with four teams in, four teams out and four teams to watch heading into the first week of November:
1. Alabama (6-0)
The Crimson Tide had a bye week to prepare for another November run under coach Nick Saban. Alabama travels to LSU next week, and Mac Jones has emerged as a Heisman Trophy front runner. No. 24 Auburn is the lone ranked team left on Alabama’s schedule, and Florida is the only other one-loss team left in the SEC. The Crimson Tide’s path to an SEC championship is wide open.
2. Ohio State (3-0)
The Buckeyes cruised at home in a 49-27 victory against Rutgers, and Justin Fields turned in another borderline-flawless performance. He finished 24 of 28 passing for 314 yards and five touchdowns, and the biggest challenges in the Big Ten East have morphed into Maryland — next week’s opponent — and Indiana, which hasn’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1988. Ohio State is on track for a fourth straight Big Ten championship, and Fields looks like he’s made of Heisman material.
3. Notre Dame (7-0)
The Irish took control of the ACC race with a victory against Clemson. Who had that on their 2020 bingo card? Ian Book delivered in the clutch for a signature victory, and Notre Dame matched Clemson’s physicality by shutting down the running game. A run-it-back-scenario in the ACC championship game seems inevitable, but it’s Notre Dame that controls its own destiny leading up to that game.
4. Clemson (7-1)
The Tigers’ path is still open despite the road loss to the Irish. Trevor Lawrence should return after missing two games because of a COVID-19 test, and Clemson can make the ACC championship game by winning out. That head-to-head victory against Miami could come in handy in December. The Tigers have no margin for error left, and they likely lost the No. 1 seed as a result of the loss to Notre Dame.
5. Florida (4-1)
The Gators wrestled control of the SEC East race from Georgia in a convincing 44-28 victory. Quarterback Kyle Trask reemerged in the Heisman Trophy race by throwing for 474 yards and four touchdowns. Florida doesn’t have an opponent with a record above .500 on the second half of the schedule, and appears to be the next big challenge for Alabama in the conference.
6. Cincinnati (6-0)
Cincinnati continues to dominate the AAC in impressive fashion. The Bearcats’ tandem of quarterback Desmond Ridder (12 carries, 103 yards, three touchdowns) and running back Gerrid Doaks (16 carries, 184 yards, one touchdown) led a 38-10 disposal of Houston. Cincnnati has won its last three contests by an average of 32 points per game. The Bearcats need help, but a path to the Playoff is feasible.
7. Oregon (1-0)
Oregon worked out the kinks after halftime with new quarterback Tyler Shough, who passed for 227 yards and added 85 rushing yards in a 35-14 victory against Stanford. The Ducks’ defense didn’t force any turnovers, but locked down the Cardinal in the second half. Oregon still faces the pressure of running the table on a short Pac-12 schedule, but this was a good first step.
8. Texas A&M (5-1)
The Aggies maintained their spot with an impressive 48-3 victory at South Carolina. Kellen Mond threw four touchdowns, and Isaiah Spiller added 131 rushing yards. Texas A&M continues to hold down its spot behind Alabama in the SEC West, and a New Year’s Day 6 bowl appears within reach. That’s an excellent building block with third-year coach Jimbo Fisher.
Four to watch
9. BYU (8-0)
The Cougars took advantage of a trip to No. 21 Boise State with a 35-point second half. Zach Wilson passed for 359 yards and likely clinched a spot among the Heisman finalists. Now the question is how much consideration BYU will get in the larger Playoff conversations. The remaining games on the schedule are against North Alabama and San Diego State.
10. Indiana (3-0)
It is 2020, right? The Hoosiers have emerged as the lead competition in the Big Ten East after dominating No. 23 Michigan 38-21. Michael Penix Jr. put on another show against the Wolverines, and now the question revolves around how this program handles success under Tom Allen. Indiana has a road trip at Michigan State before the big game against the Buckeyes. Indiana has not beat Ohio State since 1988.
11. Miami (6-1)
D’Eriq King passed for 430 yards and five touchdowns and added 105 rushing yards in a 44-41 thriller with N.C. State on Friday. The Hurricanes rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and kept their ACC championship game hopes alive. The final three games (Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina) are winnable, and an ACC title shot will come out of it. Win out, and the Hurricanes could slip into the Playoff.
12. Wisconsin (1-0)
The big question is whether the Badgers return to the field after missing games against Nebraska and Purdue because of COVID-19 issues the last two weeks. Wisconsin could return with a road matchup against Michigan, which they need in order to meet the Big Ten’s requirement of six games to make the conference championship game.
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