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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.

Texas A&M v Clemson
Clemson’s defense stifled Texas A&M in clearing perhaps the Tigers’ biggest hurdle of the season.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

A pair of Tigers emerged with big wins as Clemson and LSU reigned supreme in key inter-conference showdowns. Meanwhile the PAC 12 is already running out of potential Playoff threats just two weeks into the season. Week 3 brings another mediocre slate, but big matchups are looming around the corner.

BIGGEST WINNERS:

Clemson - Time will tell if last week’s win over Texas A&M will prove to be Clemson’s toughest test of the regular season, but that is certainly the conventional wisdom at this juncture. It’s a long season, and circumstances can change. And it’s college football after all — you MUST expect the unexpected. The Tigers will presumably get a hungry Syracuse team on the road this week, and we’ll have to see how other opponents develop over the course of the season. The Orange have been a thorn in Clemson’s side, but if they can’t stay within 40 points of Maryland, do they really pose the same kind of threat they have recently? Regardless, the Tigers have completed what was undoubtedly one of their most difficult obstacles.

LSU - Does LSU actually have ... an offense? The Tigers went into Austin and escaped with a 45-38 win after amassing 573 total yards, including 471 through the air courtesy of Joe Burrow. Regardless of your feelings on Texas, that’s a performance that is difficult to ignore, and it gives LSU perhaps the nation’s best win through two weeks. Powerhouse non-conference wins always give teams a leg up with the committee, which means this result will resonate throughout the season if the Tigers continue to play well.

BIGGEST LOSERS:

Texas - The Longhorns had a massive opportunity laid out for them to jump into the thick of early Playoff conversations, but they could never quite get over the hump against LSU. Texas crept within two points on two separate occasions in the second half, but they simply couldn’t stop the Tigers. They seemed primed to make a final push trailing by seven and with LSU in 3rd and 17 in the final minutes, but Burrow’s near-miraculous dart to Justin Jefferson turned into a 61-yard touchdown that broke Texas’ back once and for all. The Longhorns may need to run the table from here to be able to crack the top four.

Texas A&M - The Aggies never mounted much of a challenge on the road at Clemson, and while a road defeat to the nation’s No. 1 team is hardly cause for concern at face value, they didn’t put forth a performance that inspired a ton of confidence. A&M’s schedule is enough of a gauntlet that they could easily compile a Playoff-worthy resume with two losses, but they’ll have to pick up a marquee win or two before we consider them back in contention.

Washington - You almost feel compelled to forgive the Huskies, who waited out a three-hour lightning delay only to be stunned by a Cal game-winning field goal with 8 seconds left at nearly 1:30 a.m. local time. Ah, but the Playoff is unforgiving, and it’s once again an uphill battle for Chris Petersen’s team to sniff the field.

STORYLINES:

The PAC 12 is already running out of contenders - We knew going in that if the PAC 12 were to produce a Playoff-caliber team, it was going to be a bit of a dark-horse run. What we didn’t know was that two weeks in, two of the conference’s top teams would already be one loss in the hole. Oregon’s collapse last week was followed up by Washington’s inexplicable home loss to Cal, and now the conference may have to turn to teams like Utah and Washington State to give them some semblance of hope. Cannibalism has been a consistent problem for the PAC 12, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 6 Ohio State @ Indiana - Noon
No. 2 Alabama @ South Carolina - 3:30 p.m.
No. 19 Iowa @ Iowa State - 4 p.m.
No. 9 Florida @ Kentucky - 7 p.m.
No. 1 Clemson @ Syracuse - 7:30 p.m.