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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.

Syndication: The Des Moines Register
Iowa State knocked Oklahoma State from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 24-21 win.
Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

BIGGEST WINNERS:

Pittsburgh - In a week where no top-level Playoff contender had a momentous particularly win, it was perhaps the Panthers who made the biggest statement on a national level. Beating Clemson this season (as we know very well) is not anything to scream about from the mountaintops, but it was still a bit of a symbolic way for Pitt to assert that they have arrived as a legitimate contender. Now, is this team a Playoff contender? That’s still to be determined, as they have a bizarre loss to Western Michigan dragging down their overall profile. But this team may be the ACC’s most complete squad and truest threat to creep closer toward the CFP consideration.

Top-10 teams escaping disasters - Oklahoma was a five-touchdown favorite heading into its road game at Kansas and inexplicably trailed 10-0 at halftime and 17-14 after three quarters. The Sooners eventually fended off the Jayhawks, but it was a very troubling result against a team that had been demolished by every other FBS team it has placed. Cincinnati controlled its game against Navy a bit better, but the Bearcats were still very much caught in a slog with a 1-5 opponent of their own. Even Alabama, which ended up winning 52-24, was stuck in a one-touchdown game in the fourth quarter at home against Tennessee. Oregon, for its part, had to hold off UCLA after nearly handing away a 17-point fourth-quarter lead. So while only a couple of top-10 teams bit the dust this past weekend, we weren’t too far away from a much wilder week.

BIGGEST LOSERS:

Oklahoma State - The Cowboys came out on the wrong end of a back-and-forth battle at Iowa State, and the loss likely stings even more due to a questionable fourth-down spot that ended their potential game-winning drive in the final minutes. A path to the Playoff still exists for Okie State, but their margin for error is gone, and they will need to win out and take the Big XII title game as well to stake a legitimate claim for inclusion. Their upcoming games are winnable, but it’s possible they would need to win back-to-back games against Oklahoma to finish the campaign.

Penn State - Penn State got quarterback Sean Clifford back this week, but it was not able to retain the form it had this season before his injury. So much so, that the Nittany Lions lost at home to Illinois in a pain-staking nine-overtime slugfest in which the two teams combined to fail on TEN STRAIGHT two-point conversion attempts. The end result was Penn State losing its second straight game and dropping completely out of the Playoff picture after being smack in the middle of it just a couple weeks ago.

NC State - You would have been hard-pressed to label the Wolfpack a team destined for the Playoff before last week, but now any remote hope for a magical season for Dave Doeren’s bunch is out the window after a resume-killing loss at Miami. This loss also dealt a blow to N.C. State’s Atlantic Division aspirations in the ACC, and they need to recover quickly for an important division tilt against Louisville on Saturday night.

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 6 Michigan @ Michigan State - Noon
No. 9 Iowa @ Wisconsin - Noon
No. 1 Georgia @ Florida - 3:30 p.m.
No. 10 Ole Miss @ No. 18 Auburn - 7 p.m.
No. 20 Penn State @ No. 5 Iowa State - 7:30 p.m.