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Playoff Picture: Week 2

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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 South Carolina
Georgia flexed its muscle on the road and proved it would be a mainstay in the Playoff race this season.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The season’s second weekend lacked what the opening week brought in high-profile matchups, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t Playoff ramifications throughout the country. Let’s see who made headway and who fell by the wayside.

BIGGEST WINNERS:

Georgia - South Carolina was billed by many as Georgia’s main competition in the SEC East this season, but the Bulldogs went into Columbia and blew the Gamecocks’ doors off, clearing an early path to back-to-back conference title game appearances. There is plenty of season still to play, but the Bulldogs stiffest remaining tests reside in the West division with a trip to LSU and a home date with Auburn.

Clemson - It’s not so much that the Tigers looked great (they didn’t), but more that they escaped unscathed from what may be looked back on as their toughest regular-season game. It was another chest-pain-inducing fourth quarter from Clemson, but they emerged from College Station 2-0 after edging a game Texas A&M team.

Stanford - One could certainly question the aesthetics of the Cardinal’s win over Southern Cal, but the annual rivalry matchup was a game they very much needed in the win column. With a plethora of tough road games left on the docket, a home loss to an overhyped USC would have spelled disaster for this Playoff darkhorse.

BIGGEST LOSER:

Michigan State - Unlike Big Ten counterpart Penn State, who used an underwhelming Week One showing against App State as fuel to blow out a Power Five opponent on the road, the Spartans’ ugly effort in their opener was a sign of things to come. Sparty couldn’t hold onto a 10-point fourth-quarter lead at Arizona State and gave Herm Edwards his first big win as a college headman. With a tough conference schedule awaiting them, it will be an uphill climb for Michigan State to be a true factor in the Playoff race, as even just one more loss could be enough to preclude them from making it.

STORYLINES:

Running back injuries - It was a troubling week at the running back position nationwide, as star ball-carriers Rodney Anderson (Oklahoma), Rodney Smith (Minnesota) and Kirvonte Benson (Georgia Tech) all went down with season-ending knee injuries, while Heisman threat Bryce Love (Stanford) will sit out this week with an undisclosed injury suffered in the late stages of the Cardinal’s win over Southern Cal. While the only two of these concerning Playoff hopefuls likely aren’t back-breaking losses - Love’s injury is not deemed serious, and Oklahoma has a great replacement option in Trey Sermon - it still exhibits how quickly fortunes can change in college football.

Hurricane Florence - The powerful hurricane has caused several game cancellations on the east coast, including ones involving No. 13 Virginia Tech, No. 14 West Virginia and No. 18 UCF. No. 2 Clemson still intends to play but has moved its game against Georgia Southern from 3:30 to noon.

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 12 LSU @ No. 7 Auburn
No. 17 Boise State @ No. 24 Oklahoma State
No. 4 Ohio State @ No. 15 TCU
No. 10 Washington @ Utah
No. 1 Alabama @ Ole Miss