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Playoff Picture: Week 8

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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: Texas at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State outgained Texas 530-287 but couldn’t overcome four turnovers in a damaging home loss to the Longhorns.
The Oklahoman-USA TODAY Sports

It may have been the scariest Halloween of all time for Clemson fans, but the Tigers pulled off a historic comeback to avoid a potentially damaging loss to Boston College. They hit the road for a much-anticipated showdown with Notre Dame this week, while Georgia and Florida square off in a de facto SEC East championship game. Meanwhile, the PAC 12 will be playing its first games when some teams have already played seven. Best of luck in your Playoff quest.

BIGGEST WINNERS:

Ohio State - The Buckeyes took care of what may be their largest hurdle in a potential undefeated season by winning relatively easily at Penn State. National sentiment seems to be that Ohio State is one of the nation’s top teams, and that a 9-0 record with a Big Ten title would be plenty to earn them a spot in the Playoff. There is a long way to go in that conference’s jammed-up schedule, so we will see how things pan out for the Buckeyes.

Cincinnati - For the second straight week, the Bearcats brutalized one of their conference’s better teams — this time a 49-10 drubbing of Memphis. Cincinnati is halfway to an undefeated season and has a real chance to be a Playoff threat if it can run the table in the back half of the season as well. With the Big XII collapsing and the PAC 12 playing such an abbreviated schedule, this season is as ripe as any for a team like Cincinnati or BYU to make a push for inclusion.

Clemson - After a Murphy’s Law first half for the ages, highlighted by a disastrous 99-yard fumble return touchdown, Clemson was able to mount a comeback from 18 points down behind an admirable performance from freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei to secure a 34-28 win over Boston College. With Trevor Lawrence (and a host of defensive stars) out again this week against Notre Dame, the Tigers could not afford to drop this game and put their season fully on the line against the Irish. Given that, Clemson was a big winner simply because of what didn’t happen against the Eagles.

BIGGEST LOSERS:

Oklahoma State - From the Penn State book of “How to Lose a Game You Should Absolutely Win”, Oklahoma State managed to drop a game in which it out-gained Texas 530 yards to 287 thanks to four turnovers and a 4th-and-22 roughing the punter that led to the Longhorns’ go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys’ margin for error is now gone, and they are the absolute last hope for the Big XII as every other team in the conference has at least two losses. Last week we asked whether Oklahoma State was an actual contender or just a nice little team. I think we may have the answer.

Michigan - Michigan has been plagued by thrilling highs and head-scratching lows for years now, but there may never have been such a stark juxtaposition of those as the first two weeks of the Wolverines’ 2020 season. A week after dismantling Minnesota on the road, Michigan returned home and promptly lost to a Michigan State team that was fresh off a two-score home loss to Rutgers. Nobody kills their own momentum quite like the Wolverines.

Kansas State - We were under no impression that the Wildcats were a potential Playoff team, but they were one of the remaining long-shot hopes the Big XII had of finding its way into the field. No more, as Kansas State was obliterated by West Virginia. Ironically, K State could put the final nail in the Big XII coffin if they knock off Oklahoma State this week.

Penn State - Welp, this has been an inauspicious start to the season for the Nittany Lions. We detailed their nearly impossible loss to Indiana last week, and now the Big Ten’s supposed No. 2 team has dropped to 0-2 after a pretty uncompetitive effort against Ohio State. You have to wonder what this team even has to play for anymore — a sad thing to say when their season has barely begun.

STORYLINES:

Return of the PAC - Not to be outdone by the absurdity of the Big Ten’s scheduling efforts, the PAC 12 decided to play a literal half-season with a 6-plus-1 scheduling effort that finally, mercifully begins this weekend. Oregon is expected to be the conference’s best team, with teams like USC, Utah, and Washington hoping to jump into the mix, but can we even consider a hypothetical 7-0 football team a realistic participant in the four-team Playoff? We suppose it’s not impossible, but there would almost certainly have to be carnage across the country for that idea to even be entertained.

Clemson vs. Notre Dame week is here - We mentioned earlier that Clemson could not afford to bring its battered roster on the road to Notre Dame with a loss already on the resume, and the Tigers have at least managed to do that. That may be the end of the good news. DJU will be making his second career start on the road against one of the nation’s best defenses, and Clemson is down three of its most important defensive starters (plus Xavier Thomas for a half). Conventional wisdom says that Notre Dame may have more to lose than Clemson, given the aforementioned circumstances and the potential opportunity to avenge a loss this week with a win in the ACC Championship Game. We’re smarter than to doubt the Tigers, but let’s just say it’s good the season isn’t completely on the line in this particular game. It didn’t seem like that would be the case around 1:30 last Saturday.

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 9 BYU @ No. 21 Boise State - 9:45 p.m. (Friday)
No. 23 Michigan @ No. 13 Indiana - Noon
No. 8 Florida vs. No. 5 Georgia - 3:30 p.m.
No. 1 Clemson @ No. 4 Notre Dame - 7 p.m.
Stanford @ No. 12 Oregon - 7:30 p.m.