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Playoff Picture: Week 9

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

Oklahoma v Kansas State
Kansas State knocked Oklahoma from the ranks of the unbeaten and threw an unexpected wrench into the Playoff race.
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

We noted a couple weeks back that college football has an incredible propensity for turning things upside down at a moment’s notice just when everybody has gotten comfortable. And here we are, a few days removed from a third straight Saturday with a three-touchdown underdog (or more) shocking a previously unbeaten Playoff hopeful. This time it was Oklahoma, who went on the road and surrendered 48 points to a Kansas State team that had only scored 49 points in its last three game combined. As a result, the Sooners suffered a precipitous drop in the Playoff hierarchy, and even winning out may not be enough to claw their way back now.


Ohio State - The Buckeyes turned their showdown with Wisconsin into a laugher as J.K. Dobbins ran wild and Chase Young terrorized Badger quarterback Jack Coan for three hours. The win didn’t pack quite the punch it would have had Wisconsin not slipped up at Illinois the week prior, but it’s still a dominant win over a good team and a boost to the resume. The Buckeyes’ schedule hasn’t exactly been a murderers’ row of opponents, but they have undoubtedly passed the “eye test” as much as any team thus far. Is this finally the Ohio State team that can finish a season without an unexpected loss?

LSU - The Tigers got the win over Auburn, although perhaps not in the most impressive of fashions. The Texas win has lost much of its luster, but it’s still fair to say LSU has the best resume of the contenders to this point. The Tigers and Alabama both have the week off before their matchup next week — the single most impactful game so far this season when it comes to the Playoff.

Oregon and Utah - The PAC 12’s top teams both won this week, albeit in drastically different ways — Oregon via game-winning field goal, and Utah via blowout. But it wasn’t so much their wins that made them beneficiaries this week as it was the failings of other teams. Oklahoma’s fall from the ranks of the unbeaten and Notre Dame’s blowout loss to Michigan gave new life to a potential 12-1 PAC 12 champion. These teams, both at 7-1, could be on a collision course to a meeting in that conference championship game. If that comes to pass, the winner of that game could have a great case against a one-loss Big XII champion and/or a one-loss SEC non-champion when it comes to Playoff inclusion. There’s still a long way to go — and no conference brings chaos on a weekly basis like the PAC 12 — but Oregon and Utah suddenly have a clearer path in front of them.


Oklahoma - It appeared the Sooners had things under control after one quarter, leading 17-7 on the road at Kansas State, but things went absolutely haywire over the next two quarters. The Wildcats oustcored Oklahoma by a seemingly impossible 41-6 margin in the second and third quarters and led 48-23 heading into the fourth quarter before holding on for a 48-41 win. We knew Oklahoma would eventually meet a team that could expose its flaws. Admittedly, we didn’t think Kansas State had what it took to be that team, but the Wildcats provided yet another unforeseen upset that took the Sooners’ Playoff position from rock solid to dire straits.

Notre Dame - The Irish were likely going to need some help to have a realistic chance at making the Playoff field for the second straight year, but they can now kiss any fleeting hopes goodbye after being throttled by Michigan in prime time on Saturday night. Notre Dame was a legitimately good team a season ago, but they just lost too much from that roster to be a true Playoff threat this time around.

Auburn - The Tigers were able to drag LSU into a grinder but just couldn’t find enough offense in their 23-20 defeat. We’ve seen Auburn position itself for a Playoff bid with two losses before, but two SEC losses makes a similar run this season highly unlikely. We would have to see an unparalleled amount of chaos for Auburn to contend at this point.

Wisconsin - The loss to Illinois the week prior was a sign of things to come, as the Badgers were brutalized by Ohio State in what was a highly anticipated game not too long ago. We can now rule out any outside shot Wisconsin had of creeping back into the Playoff race.


The Big XII’s nightmare week - Apart from Oklahoma’s unexpected loss, Texas also dropped its third game of the season on the road at middling TCU. Not to be outdone, Iowa State lost at home to Oklahoma State after having played much better football last few weeks. We lamented the PAC 12’s struggles in the early part of the season, but suddenly the Big XII could be the conference most in danger of missing the Playoff. The Sooners were carrying the banner, but now the only remaining undefeated team is upstart Baylor, which can hardly be expected to make it through the season unscathed. A one-loss Big XII champion would certainly have a case to make the field, but can the conference produce one?

CFP poll debuts next week - The bickering over AP rankings can finally cease at approximately 9 p.m. next Tuesday, as the first College Football Playoff poll of the season will be released. It’s always interesting to see how the committee stacks up the various contenders, as there are often elements of the rankings that we don’t foresee. We would expect to see Clemson debut somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5 in the first poll.


West Virginia @ No. 12 Baylor - 8 p.m. (Thursday)
No. 6 Florida vs. No. 8 Georgia - 3:30 p.m.
No. 9 Utah @ Washington - 4 p.m.
No. 15 SMU @ No. 24 Memphis - 7:30 p.m.
No. 7 Oregon @ USC - 8 p.m.