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Playoff Picture: Week 4

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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: Auburn at Georgia
Georgia stonewalled Auburn and will look to do the same to Tennessee this Saturday.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Simply avoiding an upset was a relative success for any Playoff hopeful this past week as six ranked teams bit the dust against unranked opponents. A top-10 showdown between Georgia and Auburn was a complete dud, but the Clemson-Miami game this week may be the one that actually gives fans their money’s worth.

BIGGEST WINNERS:

Georgia - The Bulldogs were expected by most to take care of Auburn, but the ease with which they did so was particularly impressive. Georgia more than doubled the Tigers offensive output and simply cruised after racing to a 24-0 first-half lead. The quarterback situation in Athens is something to keep an eye on, as the current starter (who is playing well) is probably the last person anybody expected to actually be the starter. As long as that doesn’t go haywire, however, the Bulldogs will be a force all season thanks to what may be the nation’s best defense.

Alabama - It’s stunning to exactly no one that Alabama was able to easily dispatch Texas A&M, but it was still a win over a top-15 team (LOL) that was at least an example of taking care of business as a top-2 team. Mac Jones seems to be progressing nicely, and proving capable of distributing the ball to a wide receiving corps that still does not lack for explosive playmakers despite what it lost to the draft. We have next weekend’s matchup with Georgia circled on the calendar. It could very well be the game of the year.

Oklahoma State - The Cowboys were a big winner Saturday not because of what they did — beating Kansas may be the simplest thing to accomplish in all of college football — but because of the carnage that continues to amass with each passing week throughout the rest of the Big XII. Quarterback Spencer Sanders should be returning from injury soon, and Oklahoma State has some of the best playmakers in the country. Can they avoid the deflating losses the rest of their conference has already encountered?

BIGGEST LOSERS:

Auburn - We certainly didn’t consider Auburn a particularly threatening Playoff party crasher, and the Tigers showed why in a complete no-show at Georgia. The Bulldogs had plenty to do with it, but it’s hard to envision any team that could make a run at the four-team field being dominated to that degree. We can’t technically eliminate Auburn yet, but the second the Tigers drop an SEC West game we will be beyond ready to bury them.

Texas - Texas frankly deserved to lose to Texas Tech the week before, so we can’t imagine anybody felt an ounce of pity for the Longhorns when they fell to TCU last Saturday. This is just not a good football team, period. It’s a team that’s hyped up every year with no justification. We’re a little sick of even talking about Texas honestly.

Oklahoma - The Spencer Rattler era has gotten off to an extremely rocky start, with Oklahoma dropping its first two conference games and disqualifying itself from the Playoff race in the blink of an eye. Honestly, the Sooners have played plenty of games exactly like the last two over the past several seasons; they just usually find a way to come out on top. It seems their luck is evening out in 2020 — not in a good way.

Mississippi State - We have seen the best and worst of a Mike Leach team in a two-game span to open the season. A week after throwing for a million yards and knocking off defending national champion LSU, Mississippi State lost at home to an Arkansas team that hadn’t won a conference game since 2017. Bulldogs star running back Kylin Hill went down with an injury early in the game, but that is still a terrible loss to incur. Not that we were harboring any thoughts of Mississippi State as a Playoff threat, but this was not a bump in the road we expected.

UCF - The Knights may have had their most realistic shot at making the Playoff field yet, but their explosive offense was derailed this week by an incredible 18 penalties in a frustrating home loss to Tulsa. It’s tough to see a path for a one-loss UCF to make the field, regardless of how gaudy their offensive numbers might be at season’s end.

STORYLINES:

Ok, the Big XII is REALLY in trouble now - Texas lost, Oklahoma lost again, and through just three games worth of football Oklahoma State is the only undefeated team in the conference. That’s almost unfathomable, but here we are. Barring a one-loss team putting together an unforeseen run, the Cowboys are your lone Playoff contender from the Big XII. And the best team they have played so far might be Tulsa. YIKES.

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 4 Florida @ No. 21 Texas A&M, Noon
No. 19 Virginia Tech @ No. 8 North Carolina, Noon
No. 22 Texas vs. Oklahoma, Noon
No. 14 Tennessee @ No. 3 Georgia, 3:30 p.m.
No. 7 Miami @ No. 1 Clemson, 7:30 p.m.