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Playoff Picture: Week 3

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

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Clemson at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It wasn’t a particularly interesting week with regard to realistic Playoff contenders, with all of the top dogs facing overmatched opponents and even a decided lack of interesting matchups outside of that. But be patient, as Saturday finally brings a full day of games worth watching.


Top teams on the road - Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma all faced their first road games of the season and came away with wins by 24 or more points. Of course, none of these were necessarily expected to be competitive games, but these upper-echelon Playoff contenders all got the job done.

Iowa - If the Hawkeyes are going to make a dark-horse run to the Playoff, a non-conference win over rival Iowa State seems like a very important box to check. It required a fluky muffed punt by the Cyclones, but Iowa eeked out an 18-17 win and continued to hang around for the time being.

UCF - We’re admittedly grasping at straws a bit this week when trying to identify true “winners” that made a real move to increase their standing with regard to the Playoff field, so we understand that UCF’s dominant win over Stanford didn’t exactly cause a seismic shift in the race for the top four. Will the Knights ever have a realistic shot at qualifying for a four-team Playoff under the current construction? Probably not. But if the team that hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2016 keeps chugging along (consistently routing Power Five teams in the process), there may come a day when circumstances force the committee to actually give them consideration. That, or their continued success could help spawn an expanded Playoff. Either option presumably sounds great to UCF.


Michigan State - A home-and-home sweep at the hands of Arizona State culminated with an embarrassing 10-7 home loss at the hands of Herm Edwards’ Sun Devils on Saturday. It’s just another step in Michigan State’s fall from grace after managing to make the Playoff way back in 2015. Granted, we’re not sure anyone considered the Spartans any kind of actual threat to make the field this season, but like we said, we’re grasping at straws (Thank God we get some real games this weekend).

Maryland - It’s rare that you see a team look as good one week and as bad the next as Maryland just did. The Terrapins blasted Syracuse by 43 points last week and suddenly appeared to be a team that could make some noise earlier than expected under first-year head coach Mike Locksley. But no sooner had they dominated the Orange than they turned around and lost to Temple, 20-17, to dampen the heightened expectations.


The ACC STINKS - We are once again in the midst of a competition to see which ACC team can piss Clemson off the most as the Tigers continue to fend off jabs about the weakness of their conference. Fortunately Clemson is beyond reproach at this point, but the ineptitude displayed on a weekly basis by the rest of the ACC is still an incredible sight to behold. This past week may have been an all-time low. Boston College started the fun Friday night when it lost at home as a 20-point favorite to Kansas - a team that lost 12-7 to mighty Coastal Carolina just a week prior - by twenty-four points. Then came Saturday, where minutes after Virginia Tech was incredibly fortunate to pull out a nip-and-tuck battle with Furman, Georgia Tech managed to actually lose to an FCS team when it fell to The Citadel in overtime. Not to be outdone, NC State was inexplicably dominated by a West Virginia team that could barely even move the ball in its first two games. It’s a scary thing when you’re having to look to Virginia and Wake Forest to help boost your conference’s credibility.

A good slate finally arrives - If we’re being honest, it’s been a pretty uneventful first three weeks of the season, a fact aided by a noticeable lack of truly high-profile matchups. In fact, there will be as many games featuring two top-20 teams this week alone (3) as there have been all season to this point. Our patience is being rewarded, as Georgia-Notre Dame, Michigan-Wisonsin, and even Auburn-Texas A&M are games that could have Playoff ramifications down the road.


No. 10 Utah @ USC - 9 p.m. (Friday)
No. 11 Michigan @ No. 13 Wisconsin - Noon
No. 8 Auburn @ No. 17 Texas A&M - 3:30 p.m.
Oklahoma State @ No. 12 Texas - 7:30 p.m.
No. 7 Notre Dame @ No. 3 Georgia - 8 p.m.