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Playoff Picture: Week 1

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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: Advocare Classic-Auburn vs Oregon
Auburn’s comeback win over Oregon dealt an early blow to the Pac 12’s Playoff hopes.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With only one matchup between ranked teams, the opening weekend of the 2019 season wasn’t ever going to be as intriguing as past ones have been. But college football is back, so you won’t catch us complaining. Let’s take a look at what happened over the long weekend.

BIGGEST WINNERS:

Auburn - It wasn’t pretty, but the Tigers began their second straight season with a neutral-site win over a Pac 12 front-runner. Bo Nix’s debut wasn’t exactly sparkling, but he converted a gusty fourth-down run on the Tigers’ final drive and delivered a game-winning touchdown strike with 9 seconds remaining to stun Oregon. Auburn will assuredly get a bump in the rankings from the win, but they have more to prove if they are to be considering a realistic Playoff contender.

Utah - There weren’t many highly ranked teams that faced a realistic upset opportunity in Week 1, but the Utes had a more difficult test than most with a Thursday-night road game against an archrival. They took of business efficiently with a 30-12 win over BYU and have already overtaken Oregon in the Pac-12 outsider hierarchy when it comes to Playoff hopes. Utah will be a team to monitor because - while not flashy - they boast an experienced quarterback, a high-level running back, and a stout defense. That’s three good boxes to check when it comes to Playoff aspirations.

BIGGEST LOSERS:

Oregon - New year, same story - both with regard to Oregon falling short of their capability, and the Pac 12 being seemingly unable to notch non-conference wins that can give them clout with the selection committee. The Ducks, like Washington last year, had ample opportunity to put Auburn away but could never close the door on the Tigers. Bo Nix’s last-second touchdown pass may have already ripped away Oregon’s hopes of making the Playoff field.

The SEC East - While we certainly never considered anybody in this division outside of Georgia to be any kind of threat to make the Playoff, it was still an awful first weekend for the group as a whole. South Carolina blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead to North Carolina in Mack Brown first game back as head coach of the Tar Heels. Missouri couldn’t get out of its own way in a road loss to Wyoming. Tennessee lost to Georgia STATE, of all teams, in a game that wasn’t even as close as the 38-30 margin would indicate. Vandy, as expected, couldn’t hang with Georgia. Throw in Florida’s unimpressive performance against Miami a week prior, and you have a division that looks ready to hand the crown over to the Bulldogs before the season even gets going. Georgia might be glad to have two good SEC crossover opponents and Notre Dame on the docket just to make sure its strength of schedule doesn’t go too far into the tank.

STORYLINES:

Transfer quarterbacks shine for Playoff contenders - College football has never been defined by transfer players the way it is currently. While the opposition obviously left a lot to be desired, it’s still worth noting that Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and Washington’s Jacob Eason (that list felt very weird to type) all posted big numbers in Week One victories. Ramped up competition will of course provide more resistance for all three eventually, but it’s always nice to get off to a productive start.

GAMES TO WATCH:

Cincinnati @ No. 5 Ohio State - Noon
Army @ No. 7 Michigan - Noon
No. 25 Nebraska @ Colorado - 3:30 p.m.
No. 12 Texas A&M @ No. 1 Clemson - 3:30 p.m.
No. 6 LSU @ No. 9 Texas - 7:30 p.m.