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Playoff Picture: Week 2

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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 Columbus Dispatch
Oregon sent an early shockwave through the Playoff race with its road upset of Ohio State.
Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Oregon and Iowa added major non-conference road wins to their resumes, and their victims are left picking up the pieces and trying to forge a path forward. Meanwhile, Notre Dame and Texas A&M were both fortunate to escape massive upset bids. We’re gearing up for a wild season as the jockeying for Playoff positioning has already begun.

BIGGEST WINNERS:

Oregon - With apologies to Georgia, you can make the argument that the Ducks’ road triumph over Ohio State this past week is the premier win of the season so far. We are only entering the third week of the season — and if there is any team known for suffering unexpected losses, it’s Oregon — but this win is a massive feather in the cap of a team that may prove to be the class of the Pac 12. The Ducks have firmly inserted themselves into the early Playoff discussion.

Iowa - The Hawkeyes’ defense has been incredible through two weeks, especially when it comes to forcing turnovers. They won the turnover battle 4-0 in a top-10 rivalry showdown this past week at Iowa State, winning comfortably in a game where they amassed just 173 yards of offense. Therein lies the dilemma with Iowa, however. A stout defense can only get you so far in today’s college football, and this team will have to find more offense as the season progresses if it wants to threaten the four-team Playoff field.

BYU - For as great a rivalry as the Holy War is, we didn’t realize it had been since 2009 that BYU had beaten archrival Utah. So props to the Cougars for getting that monkey off their collective backs, and props also for knocking off a second straight Pac 12 opponent to open the season. Do they have a third in the tank this week when No. 19 Arizona State comes to town? We will find out Saturday night.

BIGGEST LOSERS:

Ohio State - The weaknesses of the Buckeye defense peaked through in their opening win against Minnesota and were on full display when the more explosive Oregon came town. The Ducks posted 269 rushing yards on fewer than 40 carries, simply running the ball at will against a Buckeye front that surrendered more than 200 yards on the ground to the Gophers a week earlier. For its part, the Ohio State offense was also quite explosive — with C.J. Stroud throwing for nearly 500 yards in just his second career start. But his late interception sealed the deal, putting the Buckeyes behind the 8-ball early on in the Playoff race.

Iowa State - This seemed to be lining up to be the Cyclones’ year — a year they could win the Big XII, a year they could make the Playoff, and a year they could finally knock off in-state rival Iowa. Well the third part of that equation is now off the table. The Cyclones could not get out of their own way against Iowa, turning the ball over four times and essentially handing the game to the Hawkeyes. This comes a week after barely holding off FCS foe Northern Iowa in a 16-10 slugfest. The good news for Iowa State is a non-conference loss to a worthy opponent does not disqualify them from the Playoff. The bad news is the Cyclones may not be the team many thought they would be.

Texas - You can count us among those who were begrudgingly impressed with Texas’ convincing Week One win over a solid Louisiana team. With that in mind, there’s a reason we didn’t get ahead of ourselves in praising the Longhorns. Steve Sarkisian’s group was never competitive in a blowout loss to Arkansas — a team that (worth noting!) is a perennial bottom-feeder in the conference Texas is planning to join in the near future. Is there still time to reconsider that move?

USC - Nobody with a brain viewed the Trojans as a legitimate contender for a Playoff spot, but even the biggest doubter couldn’t have seen their season spiraling out of control this badly, this quickly. After sleepwalking through a win over San Jose State, Southern Cal gave up 42 points at home to a Stanford team that may not score 42 total points the entire rest of the season. The fallout from this embarrassing loss was the dismissal of embattled head coach Clay Helton, and the season already feels lost just two weeks in for this once-proud program.

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 8 Cincinnati @ Indiana - Noon
Purdue @ No. 12 Notre Dame - 2:30 p.m.
No. 1 Alabama @ No. 11 Florida - 3:30 p.m.
No. 22 Auburn @ No. 10 Penn State - 7:30 p.m.
No. 19 Arizona State @ No. 23 BYU - 10:15 p.m.