The SEC teams at the top of the heap just keep staying on a collision course that will be must-see TV for the College Football Playoff voters.

The CFP committee members have more information to go on every week, and they learned plenty this past weekend, as did we all.

Let’s take a national view before we come back to the SEC.

For instance: The Pac-12 is all but toast. Wait, is that a hot take? Or is it even a hot take to kill the Pac-12 in September anymore? Utah’s loss to USC on Friday left the Pac-12 without a single team in the top 12 of the Associated Press poll. Except for the ACC, every other Power 5 league is represented in the top 12 at least twice. Of course the AP poll is only for guidance, because we do not yet know what the CFP gang will be thinking.

For the moment, Oregon is the Pac-12’s best CFP hope, even though Cal is still unbeaten. Hey, Golden Bears, go beat Arizona State this week and the Ducks on Oct. 5, then we’ll meet you on this list. Deal? Same with Iowa, Kansas State and a handful of other unbeaten but somewhat unproven Power 5 teams.

Wisconsin crashes our list this week after destroying Michigan. The Wolverines drop from “prime-time players” all the way out because, really, who had them rated that highly anyway? (Please don’t look at last week’s list, OK, dear reader? Thanks.)

As for the SEC, the league boasts 5 unbeaten teams. They all have to start playing each other soon, so this will not last, but fans have this moment to savor. In the AP poll, all 5 of those teams are ranked in the top 9. Remarkable strength even by SEC standards.

Here is our weekly look at the CFP contenders, broken down by groups.

Prime-time players


Another nonconference win, another bunch of gaudy numbers for the Crimson Tide. Up next Bama resumes its SEC slate with a game at home against Ole Miss. We know you already know all of these numbers, but it really is remarkable to reflect on them once in a while: Alabama has lost 15 games since the start of the 2008 season. Fifteen! The Crimson Tide has 10 conference losses in that span, all while residing in the toughest division of the best college football conference in America.


Beating Notre Dame in a top 10 clash is a real feather in the cap. No doubt about it. But is it crazy to think that Alabama or LSU would have beaten the Fighting Irish by a wider margin? Whatever the case, or one’s sanity level, the Bulldogs are still the best team in the SEC East until somebody proves otherwise, and the Dawgs also don’t have to deal with Bama or LSU in the regular season. They do, however, have to reckon with 2 other teams farther down this list.


The Tigers have put themselves so far ahead of the ACC that is has become difficult to imagine a scenario where Clemson does not reach the CFP. With Florida State having fallen so far off the map, and Miami nowhere near its former glory, it would appear that the second-best team in the ACC is now … um … Virginia? NC State? Boston College? One non-Clemson ACC team gets to punch a ticket to the Orange Bowl this season because a contract says so. They won’t get near the CFP.


The SEC opener against Vandy looked just like all of the other games the Tigers have played this season: Joe Burrow and Co. lit up the scoreboard, more than enough to make up for the fact that the Tigers’ defense is suddenly giving up some serious points. The last time LSU gave up 38 points or more twice in a 3-game span was in 2014, when the Tigers finished 8-5. Still, the offense looks CFP worthy for sure. The same could be said for the next 2 entries.


Jalen Hurts and his Sooners teammates lead the nation in total offense at 676.7 yards per game. This program lost a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, kept scoring, saw the next quarterback also win a Heisman Trophy, saw him go to the NFL as well (both Heisman winners also went No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft) and yet Oklahoma still has not missed a beat on offense. This team looks unstoppable in the Big 12.

Ohio State

Three teams in this category occupy the top 3 spots in the NCAA Bowl Subdivision in scoring — LSU at 57.8 points a game, Oklahoma at 55.7 ppg, then the Buckeyes at a 53.5 average clip. It’s worth noting that, of the 3, LSU has faced 2 Power 5 opponents; Oklahoma and Ohio State have played 1 each. The Buckeyes have also gotten it done on defense, with the No. 2 total defense in the NCAA through 4 games at 222 yards per game. OSU’s road is going to get rougher, though.


The Tigers pushed their way into this category by knocking off Texas A&M at Kyle Field, one of the toughest places to win in the country. Three other teams on this list — Alabama, LSU and Georgia — are ahead on the schedule. Auburn has the defense to compete with anybody, but can the Tigers score enough when it counts? We will find out, but in the meantime Auburn is riding high and any talk of Gus Malzahn being on the hot seat has quieted.

Knocking at the door


The Gators hammered Tennessee on Saturday in what has become an annual habit around Gainesville. New starting quarterback Kyle Trask made for a nice story and Florida has opened SEC play 2-0. A cruise against Towson is coming this weekend, but then we will really find out where UF is: Auburn, at LSU, South Carolina and Georgia in a 4-game stretch.


This is the most talented team in the B1G West Division and a serious threat to be unbeaten when the Badgers roll into Columbus to meet Ohio State on Oct. 26. Wisconsin vaults Penn State on this because, well, the Badgers have just looked way better. Jonathan Taylor might be the best running back in the country and the Wisconsin defense opened the season with 10 consecutive shutout quarters.

Notre Dame

Meet your new “most dangerous 1-loss team in the country.” The Fighting Irish impressed a lot of observers with the way they hung with Georgia on Saturday before 90,000-plus fans in Athens. And they still have quality foes such as Virginia, USC and Michigan on deck, so that’s why Notre Dame hangs on in this category even after a loss.

On the fringes

Penn State

The Nittany Lions were off this weekend, so they had time to get it together after looking very average in their previous 2 victories. Penn State is at Maryland on Friday, but bigger challenges in the Big Ten East will pop up farther down the road.


The Ducks are 1-0 in the Pac-12 for the first time since 2014 after beating Stanford on Saturday. That opening defeat to Auburn — and remember, the Ducks led almost the entire game — looks more and more like one of the “best losses” in America, assuming there is such a thing.


The Longhorns snapped a skid that might qualify as a “Did You Know” item everywhere outside of Big 12 territory. Texas had lost 4 in a row to Oklahoma State and 5 consecutive meetings in Austin before beating the Cowboys on Saturday. Another dangerous one-loss team.

Dropped out: Michigan, Utah, UCF, Texas A&M.