CFP chase: Assessing Playoff contenders after Week 6
There are 4 games next week pitting Top 25 teams against each other.
Two are in the SEC.
Florida played the nation’s biggest game of Week 6 Saturday and defeated Auburn. Its reward? Playing in the nation’s biggest game of Week 7 again this Saturday, as the No. 7 Gators travel to face the No. 5 LSU Tigers in Death Valley.
But hey, the Gators proved to be ready for prime time and are in the College Football Playoff conversation with a shout.
That Florida-Auburn game was the one result that somewhat shook up the CFP picture. The SEC had 5 teams smack dab in the middle of that conversation going into that game … and it still does.
Auburn is not out of it, not by a longshot. Remember 2 years ago when Auburn nearly became the first 2-loss team to barge its way into the 4-team CFP field. If only it had beaten Georgia again in the SEC Championship Game.
This is not to say that the same scenario will play out in 2019. Rather, it’s a reminder that in the SEC, 1 loss does not knock you out of the CFP picture, because a 1-loss SEC team has made the CFP in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Actually, 2 1-loss SEC teams made it in 2017 — you might remember that Alabama and Georgia wound up meeting for the national championship.
So this week’s LSU-Florida game won’t spell the end of the dream for the loser. However, that could be the scenario for the Oklahoma-Texas loser this Saturday, especially if it’s the Longhorns. With 2 losses, Texas would be toast. If Texas wins, Oklahoma could find its path back into the CFP picture to be pretty difficult — though it’s worth noting that the Sooners lost this game last year and still made the Playoff.
There is still a long way to go (again, the CFP committee has yet to even release its first rankings) but the Big 12 could wind up on the outside of the Playoff if Oklahoma loses Saturday.
Here is our weekly look at the CFP contenders, broken down by groups. They will be listed in order of the newest Associated Press poll until the first CFP rankings come out.
The Crimson Tide have some major challenges coming up, as one would expect for a resident of the SEC West. Top-ranked Bama plays No. 24 Texas A&M on Saturday and that is all Nick Saban will let anybody in the building focus on this week — he is of the Bill Belichick school, after all.
After a week off to contemplate what could have been an awful defeat against North Carolina, Clemson comes off its bye this week to resume what used to be a great rivalry against Florida State. That game is still on network TV but isn’t the attention-grabber that it was just a couple of years ago.
After dispatching of Tennessee — perhaps not quite as comfortably as Dawgs fans would have liked but it was still a 29-point road victory over an SEC East rival — Georgia turns its attention to South Carolina this week. The Gamecocks have not beaten the Dawgs since 2014.
The Buckeyes get the week off after easing past then-No. 25 Michigan State at home on Saturday. OSU is the only team in FBS ranked in the top 10 in both total offense (8th, 535 yards per game) and total defense (4th, 234.7 ypg) but the level of competition has not been that great yet.
This has been written elsewhere, but these are not your grandad’s Tigers, or even your older brother’s LSU. These Tigers lead the nation in scoring at 54.6 points per game and are second in total offense at 571.2 ypg. The best test of that offense comes next, against a Florida defense that shut down Auburn.
The Sooners are LSU’s biggest rival for offensive honors. Oklahoma is tops in total offense (644.2 ypg) and 2nd to LSU in scoring at 53.4 ppg. After Saturday’s Red River Rivalry game, Oklahoma and LSU will also share a common opponent — Texas — for a truer point of comparison.
Welcome to the top category, Gators. We said last week that the Florida-Auburn loser would be the best 1-loss team in the country. That is true again for whoever loses Saturday’s LSU-Florida game. The Gators lead the SEC and are 5th in the nation in points allowed at 9.5 per game.
Knocking at the door
The Badgers quietly keep going about their business, as Jonathan Taylor builds a case to be the Doak Walker Award winner as the nation’s best running back. Wisconsin just has to stay focused until a mammoth battle against Ohio State arrives on Oct. 26.
Saturday’s victory over Bowling Green told us nothing, but the next 2 games just might. Saturday’s game against USC — the fact that this rivalry has fallen in the pecking order is on USC — and the one Oct. 26 against Michigan in Ann Arbor will tell us whether Notre Dame stays in the CFP hunt.
The Nittany Lions, though they are averaging 47 points a game, still have not really made anybody look at them and think of a CFP contender. Saturday’s win over Purdue was the latest example — Penn State won by 28 but it was a bit of a yawner.
On the fringes
The whole season feels like it comes down to this week for the Longhorns. Lose to Oklahoma and Texas might slide into an 8-4 type of irrelevance. Beat the Sooners and get right back into the CFP race, with the only loss coming against LSU. Either way Texas will not be in this category next week.
The offense looked dazed against Florida, which could be down to the Gators just having that good of a defense. Auburn could still claw its way back into the CFP race but must run a frightening gauntlet of LSU, Georgia, Alabama and the SEC title game to do it. If the Tigers reach the CFP, they will earn it.
The Ducks survived Cal on Saturday and stand as the highest-ranked team in the Pac-12. Utah, Arizona and Arizona State are the league’s other 1-loss teams. They will all fight it out for the league title and a trip to Pasadena — because, realistically, the league’s path to the CFP seems almost impossible.
Dropped out: None