This week, most of the contenders for the College Football Playoff did the same thing: They sat and watched. The spread of COVID-19 led to several top teams having their games either postponed or canceled.

Between that and regularly scheduled byes, only 1 of the top 5 teams in the AP poll played. No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Clemson and No. 5 Texas A&M were all on the sidelines this weekend.

But we did get to see a few top teams play, and we learned a few things. For instance, we learned that Florida is a scoring machine, but that any defensive fears are still well-founded. We found out that Cincinnati still dominates the American Athletic Conference, but that their strength of schedule concerns are not going anywhere.

We also learned that ignoring the Pac-12 is probably still wise for now. Favorites Oregon and USC are both 2-0 but don’t look dominating. In such a short season, the Pac-12 needs somebody to dominate (like Cincinnati has done in running over 5 AAC foes with an average victory margin of 31 points) if the league wants to get a team into the conversation alongside teams that have played 7 or 8 games.

Here’s a look at the top 10 CFP contenders in order of the current Associated Press poll, released Sunday. We will know much more after next week because the first CFP rankings come out Nov. 24.


One idle week led to another as COVID-19 caused the Crimson Tide’s game against LSU, scheduled for Saturday, to be postponed. But under coach Nick Saban, the No. 1 Crimson Tide are the type of team that can withstand just about anything and stay on course. Behind Heisman Trophy contender Mac Jones, Alabama is 3rd in the nation in passing yards per game (380) and 2nd in scoring (47.2 points per game). The defense has also righted itself since getting rocked by Ole Miss, allowing just more than 300 yards per game and 5 total touchdowns in the 3 victories since then.

Notre Dame

The one top-5 team that played on Saturday faced a trap game with a bit of history behind it. The Fighting Irish faced Boston College, the team that famously knocked Notre Dame off its No. 1 perch in a 1993 game. This time BC put up another fight but, behind Ian Book, Notre Dame’s offense was too much for the Eagles to stop. The No. 2 Irish showed balance, rushing for 274 yards while Book passed for 283 and 3 TDs. But Notre Dame has questions on defense, as BC had 357 yards and 31 points. After allowing 10.3 points a game in a 6-0 start, Notre Dame has allowed 71 points in the past 2 games combined.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes got an unexpected bye week when a spate of coronavirus cases at Maryland led to the Buckeyes-Terrapins game being scratched. Like Bama, OSU under Ryan Day should know how to navigate the situation. Justin Fields leads the nation in completion percentage at a ridiculous 86.7 (72-for-83) after 3 games and is 5th in passing yards per attempt at 10.9 (Alabama’s Jones leads that category at 12.4 ypa). The No. 3 Buckeyes face Indiana this week — the Hoosiers are for real and OSU will have to stay focused to keep their place as king of the B1G.


A bye this week was probably well-timed to heal from a bitter loss at Notre Dame and to make sure quarterback Trevor Lawrence is sufficiently healthy after a positive COVID-19 test to play this week against Florida State. The No. 4 Tigers still score almost at will — 45.4 points a game, 8th in the nation — but surprisingly they’re only 27th in yards per play at 6.5 and have allowed 4 blocked kicks, tied for 2nd most in the nation. One note about critical situations: Clemson has converted 8 times in 11 attempts on 4th downs this season; only 2 Power 5 teams have converted a higher percentage.

Texas A&M

Speaking of converting, we mentioned last week that Texas A&M has succeeded on 62 percent of its 3rd downs, 2nd best in the nation. But the Aggies are not so great at preventing opposing teams from converting; A&M allows 40 percent conversions on 3rd down, right in the middle of the pack nationally (ranked 65th). That’s a bit surprising from the team that leads the SEC in total defense (338.2 yards per game) and is 1 of only 13 teams in the country allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards per game (95.7). Still, No. 5 Texas A&M is just waiting to pounce if an undefeated Power 5 team slips up.


A comparison of UF vs. Alabama, the presumed SEC title game matchup, using common opponents is interesting. The Crimson Tide and the Gators have both faced Missouri, Georgia, Texas A&M and Ole Miss. In those 4 games, Alabama has scored an average of 48.5 points and gained an average of 561 yards; UF has scored 43.5 ppg and gained 532 ypg. On defense, UF has allowed 30 points and 420 yards per game, Bama has given up an average of 29 points and 458 yards. On that basis, give Bama a slight edge — a very slight one. The No. 6 Gators are disciplined, ranking 2nd in the SEC in fewest penalties per game at a 4.5 average, barely behind South Carolina (4.43).


Another week, another dominant conference victory, this time 55-17 over a bad East Carolina team. But again, how much will it matter to the CFP voters? The No. 7 Bearcats have not had a conference game closer than a 21-point margin all season. In fact, the closest game for Luke Fickell’s bunch was a 24-10 win against Army. And, aside from being a Group of 5 team to begin with, that’s the major hurdle for Cincinnati to get any CFP love. The American usually has a couple of teams ranked, but how good can the league be if none of its teams can give Cincinnati a better game than Army can?


The Cougars have elbowed their way into the conversation about non-Power 5 teams and how worthy they might be of CFP contention. Then when it matters most, they will likely get elbowed back out, through no fault of their own. No. 8 BYU was idle on Saturday. The Cougars take the field again on Nov. 21 … against FCS program North Alabama. Then comes 2 more weeks off before a Dec. 12 game against San Diego State. Right at the time when teams need to prove themselves most in the eyes of the CFP committee, BYU will be all but invisible for more than a month.


It seems unlikely that the Hoosiers will stay on this list for more than a week. After all, IU has to travel to Columbus to face Ohio State this week. But hey, IU is ranked 9th and has won all 4 games, all against B1G opposition, including traditional powers Penn State and Michigan. Indiana is 3rd in the conference in scoring (33.8 points per game) and 4th in scoring defense  (19.3 ppg). Michael Penix leads the B1G in passing yards with 1,070, and Ty Fryfogle leads the league in receiving yards with 424, including 200 in Saturday’s shutout win over Michigan State. This is perhaps the best story in college football in 2020.


True, Michigan’s defense is lousy, so Wisconsin’s 49-11 win in Ann Arbor isn’t as impressive as it would be in past years. True, the No. 10 Badgers have played only 2 games because of their own coronavirus predicament. But Wisconsin sure looks the part of a possible contender and is a program with some history behind it. This week’s game against Northwestern will go a long way toward settling the B1G West and gives Wisconsin another chance to make headway. With a 6-game regular season after 2 games were canceled, there’s no margin for error in Madison.