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Playoff Picture: Week 7

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We take a weekly look at what happened in college football and how it will affect the race for the College Football Playoff.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Louisiana State
LSU bounced back from an ugly loss at Florida to knock Georgia from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve reached the point of the season where wild Saturdays seem to become more of the norm than an exception, and that was certainly the case this past weekend. Four top-10 teams went down, including two to unranked opponents, as the Playoff shuffle continues. Georgia and West Virginia each suffered their first blemish, while Washington and Wisconsin were put out of their misery with their second losses of the season.

BIGGEST WINNERS:

LSU - Credit the Tigers, whom we all but wrote off after their loss to Florida two weeks ago, for bouncing back to knock off Georgia in Baton Rouge. In fact, the Tigers straight up whipped the Bulldogs. LSU now possesses the best resume of the one-loss teams, but they still have Alabama looming in a few weeks. There’s still no margin for error because of the loss to the Gators.

Michigan - The Wolverines were so thoroughly unimpressive in their season-opening loss to Notre Dame that they hardly seemed like a team worth tracking. After six straight wins and a thorough beat-down of Wisconsin, however, that is no longer the case. Michigan has vaulted to No. 6 in the AP poll and now has a trip to Sparty and a home date with Penn State in the next three weeks to prove that’s where they belong.

Oregon - The Ducks’ metrics are hardly impressive (thanks an abysmal non-conference schedule), but they are now the standard bearer for the Pac 12 after knocking off Washington in overtime this past weekend. Honestly, even if Oregon finishes 12-1, it would likely take a notable amount of chaos for the Ducks to have much of a shot at making the Playoff. All they can do is keep winning and see how things play out.

BIGGEST LOSERS:

Georgia - We knew the Bulldogs were relatively untested, but it may be time to rethink what we thought we still knew about this team. LSU ran roughshod over a defense that appears to have just lost too much; Meanwhile, Jake Fromm was dreadful as the Bulldogs refused to commit to the running game. Suddenly upcoming games against run-heavy top-15 opponents Florida and Kentucky don’t look like such certain wins, and the Bulldogs are likely in a spot now where winning out is the only realistic Playoff path.

West Virginia - The Mountaineers didn’t even make it to their late-season gauntlet before stumbling in incredible fashion at Iowa State on Saturday night. The box score reads like a misprint: West Virginia, formerly one of the nation’s most explosive offenses, ran just 42 plays and was outgained a seemingly impossible 498-152 in yardage. Heisman hopeful Will Grier threw for just 100 yards on 11-of-15 passing and was sacked seven times — outplayed by a freshman quarterback making his second career start. We didn’t view the Mountaineers as a true Playoff threat, but crashing and burning in this fashion seemed like an impossibility.

Washington - A sexy Playoff pick at the start of the season, Washington’s flameout has to be filled with thoughts of what could have been. As if basically handing away their season-opener against Auburn weren’t enough, the Huskies had a 37-yard game-winning field goal attempt hook right and send their game against Oregon to overtime on Saturday. The Ducks’ subsequent game-winning touchdown knocked Washington — already hanging on for dear life — out of Playoff contention.

Penn State - The Nittany Lions were holding on to the fleeting hope that going 11-1 with a close loss to Ohio State could be enough to somehow sneak into the Playoff if chaos ensued. Losing at home to Michigan State put an end to that, and now Penn State is 4-2 with a win at Pitt the best thing they can claim. Done-zo.

Wisconsin - Yet another very disappointing team, the Badgers were embarrassed at Michigan this past Saturday. Couple that with their prior loss to BYU, and Wisconsin is effectively out of of the Playoff race despite still being in line to make the Big Ten Championship Game.

STORYLINES:

Tua’s injury - The Alabama quarterback has been otherworldly this season as a passer, but he aggravated a knee sprain against Missouri and sat out the rest of the Crimson Tide’s win. Nick Saban says he expects Tagovailoa to play this week against Tennessee, but there are conflicting reports about the severity of injury. It’s something to keep tabs on, because Bama is not nearly the imposing force they have been if Jalen Hurts is at the helm.

One-loss teams jockeying for position - There are now just four undefeated teams left at the top of the polls, with Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Notre Dame trying to fend off defeat with each passing week. If we have learned anything from the past, it’s that a nice, cut-and-dried group of four undefeated teams is exceedingly unlikely. With that in mind, we will see how the remaining one-loss teams stack up in the minds of the committee when the poll arrives in the next couple weeks.

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 6 Michigan @ No. 24 Michigan State, Noon
No. 16 NC State @ No. 3 Clemson, 3:30 p.m.
No. 22 Mississippi State @ No. 5 LSU, 7 p.m.
No. 12 Oregon @ No. 25 Washington State, 7:30 p.m.
No. 2 Ohio State @ Purdue, 7:30 p.m.