Each Saturday from now until December will bring more clarity to the College Football Playoff. Once crowded with potential contenders, the race for the national semifinals has now been trimmed to a select few. Here are the teams who played their way in or out of the Playoff chase:
Ohio State. The Buckeyes are headed for a Big Ten title. Saturday’s win against Penn State essentially hands OSU the East Division title and sets up a matchup with Wisconsin in early December for the conference championship. Better yet, the way the Buckeyes are playing means two things: one, that this team is scary, and two, the debut Playoff rankings might have them in the top four. OSU is in really good shape when it comes to the postseason picture.
Notre Dame. Every Georgia win makes Notre Dame look good, so the Bulldogs’ 42-7 win against Florida is good for business. And that 35-14 win against N.C. State? Even better. The Irish are beginning to look the part of a top-four team as we turn to November, and just in time. With four more tough games ahead, including a finale against Stanford, the Irish will have several opportunities to impress.
Oklahoma State. The Cowboys still have a lot to prove. For one, that loss to TCU earlier this year now looks a little weaker. But that’s not the big issue. While beating West Virginia on the road makes a strong statement about Oklahoma State – and the Playoff selection committee should see that – the Cowboys still seem a little bit disjointed, as during a sloppy sequence in the second half that gave WVU two non-offensive touchdowns in less than a minute. While Saturday’s win was huge, the Cowboys are still behind a handful of fellow one-loss teams.
Penn State. It might not be over, technically speaking, but think about the hole that loss to Ohio State digs for the Nittany Lions. For one, that head-to-head loss will be a factor in the Playoff rankings. More than that, however, Penn State now needs close to a miracle to win the Big Ten East Division. So the odds of winning a conference title are slim. Can a non-conference champion reach the Playoff? It’s happened before. But in 2017, it seems like that team will be one of Georgia or Alabama, not Penn State.
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North Carolina State. The Wolfpack did themselves no favors when they dropped the opener to South Carolina despite outplaying the Gamecocks. That loss meant Saturday’s setback to Notre Dame probably knocks N.C. State out of the mix. But there is one reason for hope: The Wolfpack play host to Clemson next weekend and still control their path in the ACC, and running the table would feature a handful of very impressive wins to present to the selection committee.
TCU. The Horned Frogs are eliminated from the hunt after an ugly 14-7 loss Iowa State. There’s still a chance that the remaining Power Five conferences undergo enough madness for a one-loss Big 12 champion to make the top four. But the loss definitely removes TCU’s room for error heading into November, meaning Gary Patterson and his team can’t lose to Oklahoma on Nov. 11 or anyone else. There’s reason to think the team can rebound, but TCU will need to be at their best to stay at one loss.
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