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Playoff Picture: Week 5

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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.

Syndication: The Greenville News
Clemson handled Miami with ease in a top-10 showdown in Death Valley.
KEN RUINARD / Greenville News via Imagn Content Services, LLC

It was a wild weekend in the SEC, as Florida and LSU both went down in surprising fashion while Alabama had to outlast Ole Miss in a defense-optional shootout for the ages. Meanwhile, Clemson took care of Miami in impressive fashion and further established its standing atop the ACC. The Big Ten doesn’t return to play until next weekend, and this week’s slate of games is not the most appealing ever, but a prime time top-3 showdown will certainly have all eyes on it.

BIGGEST WINNERS:

Clemson - The Tigers are known for turning it on in big games, and they thoroughly dominated Miami in a manner that even the 42-17 final score doesn’t accurately depict. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne shined as Clemson outgained the Hurricanes 550 yards to 210, and the defense forced three interceptions and stifled what had been a potent offense to that point in the season. We’ll see if Clemson continues to round into its top form as the season progresses.

Georgia - It was an inauspicious first half for the Bulldogs, who handed Tennessee a free touchdown on their first drive thanks to an errant snap and trailed 21-17 at halftime. The second half was all Georgia, however, as 27 unanswered points turned a close game into a blowout more indicative of the gap between the teams. Georgia has their biggest regular-season game in recent memory this week when they travel to Alabama.

North Carolina - While the Tar Heel defense was certainly nothing to write home about, the high-octane offense we have been waiting for burst onto the scene in a 56-45 win over Virginia Tech. Circumstances have allowed North Carolina to rise to No. 5 (FIVE!) in the AP poll. Imagine if we had told you that two years ago. There’s no reason to think the Tar Heels will slow down this Saturday when they travel to Tallahassee to face the hapless Seminoles.

BIGGEST LOSERS:

Florida - We figured we might have to wait until a little later in the season for Florida to be exposed, but the Gators took care of that earlier than expected in a head-scratching loss to Texas A&M. You can have all the offense you want, but if you can’t stop anyone, it’s only a matter of time before you bite the dust.

Tennessee - We can’t imagine anybody thought the Vols had any realistic chance at toppling Georgia, and they ultimately were no match for the Bulldogs despite holding a 21-17 halftime lead. Tennessee would have you believe it’s on the rise, and that may be true. They’re still a long way off from returning to the SEC’s upper echelon, however.

LSU - If LSU fans were holding onto any fleeting hope that their team could repeat as national champions after their embarrassing Week 1 effort, Missouri quickly put that to bed in a 45-41 upset that saw them post nearly 600 yards of offense on the Tigers’ train wreck of a defense. We knew LSU would take a step back this season, but my goodness have they taken several. The Tigers could be heading for quite the down year if they don’t improve quickly and drastically, because there are plenty of teams better than Mizzou still remaining on the schedule.

STORYLINES:

Alabama and Georgia square off for SEC supremacy - We hate to use cliches (Who are we kidding, we love cliches!), but this massive Saturday night matchup is your classic unstoppable force vs. immovable object paradox in football form. Alabama has one of the nation’s most explosive offenses, and you could make a compelling case that Georgia has the nation’s best defense. Is Mac Jones ready for a defense of this caliber? Can Georgia do enough offensively to keep up on the scoreboard? We’ll find out tomorrow night. It should be a dandy.

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 14 BYU @ Houston - 9:30 p.m. (Friday)
Pittsburgh @ No. 13 Miami - Noon
No. 11 Texas A&M @ Mississippi State - 4 p.m.
No. 3 Georgia @ No. 2 Alabama - 8 p.m.
Boston College @ No. 23 Virginia Tech - 8 p.m.