The SEC’s big game turned into a one-sided affair in the second half, as Alabama stated its case for being at least the nation’s No. 2 team. Meanwhile, whatever the opposite of a big game hangover is, Clemson had it against Georgia Tech as the Tigers blasted the Yellow Jackets by a historic margin. The Big Ten enters the fold this week, and we’ll see what the conference can add to the Playoff race.
Alabama - The Tide actually trailed Georgia at the half in Tuscaloosa Saturday night, but another 400-yard passing effort from Mac Jones propelled them to a 21-0 second-half shutout and left little doubt who is the SEC’s best team at this juncture. Alabama’s remaining six regular-season games look like a relative cakewalk compared to this battle, and it seems unlikely that they won’t show up at the SEC Championship Game 10-0 as it stands right now. You could make a real case that their toughest remaining game is the season finale at Arkansas. Think that one through.
BYU - Winning at Houston may not be monumental, but it was another solid feather in the cap of what may be the most realistic Playoff party crasher of the 2020 season. Even at 10-0, we would be concerned that the Cougars’ strength of schedule won’t merit true consideration for the four-team field, but for now they have at least asserted themselves as a non-Power-5 team to watch.
Miami - The Hurricanes didn’t let Clemson beat them twice, which is more than we can say for a lot of ACC teams over the years. Obviously, Miami’s margin for error regarding the Playoff is basically gone, but there’s enough meat left on the schedule for the Hurricanes to make things interesting if they can prove to be the bona fide second-best team in the ACC. And after this past week, that position certainly seems to be there for the taking, which brings us to...
North Carolina - The Tar Heels had been skating on thin ice for a couple weeks. Last weekend, it all came crashing down on them as they failed to get out of the gate whatsoever against a Florida State team that had been largely dreadful this season. Everybody and their brother was high on North Carolina heading into the season, but the Heels being ranked No. 5 in the nation just seemed like too much, too fast. That said, this was not where we anticipated a loss might come. UNC still has everything to play for, but the program may simply have some maturing to do in order to avoid these kinds of unexpected losses.
Georgia - There are far worse things to tack on to a resume than a road loss to Alabama, but the fact remains that Georgia still hasn’t been able to get that elusive win over the Tide they so desperately desire. Stetson Bennett has done what he can at quarterback, but the Bulldogs probably need to find a better long-term answer if they hope to knock off the Tide in a potential rematch. It would theoretically be tough to state a Playoff case with two losses to the same team.
Auburn - We don’t think anyone considered Auburn any kind of serious Playoff threat, but the Tigers flaming out four games into the season against South Carolina has to be one of the low points of the Gus Malzahn era. The SEC West looks incredibly weak outside of Alabama.
The Big Ten returns - Nice of you to join us. Better late than never. With an eight-game regular-season schedule, there may be even less margin for error for the Big Ten’s top teams if they want to make a push for the Playoff. Ohio State is the one true potential contender entering the season, but we will see if anybody else can challenge the Buckeyes.
GAMES TO WATCH:
No. 23 N.C. State @ No. 14 North Carolina - Noon
No. 17 Iowa State @ No. 6 Oklahoma State - 3:30 p.m.
No. 8 Penn State @ Indiana - 3:30 p.m.
No. 18 Michigan @ No. 21 Minnesota - 7:30 p.m.
No. 9 Cincinnati @ No. 16 SMU - 9 p.m.