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Playoff Picture: Week 3

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: Michigan State at Washington
Washington dominated Michigan State to move to 3-0 on the season and knock the Spartans from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It was a tune-up week for most of the top 10 in Week Three, with the nation’s top nine teams each winning by at least 28 points. The next several teams in the AP rankings, however, had a week to forget. Arkansas was less than a quarter away from a devastating loss to former head coach Bobby Petrino and his pesky Missouri State team, while numbers 11, 12, and 13 all suffered road losses that will push them to the back of the pack in the early Playoff hunt.


Penn State - Auburn is an absolute train wreck right now, but the ease with which Penn State dispatched of the Tigers in their own stadium on Saturday in a 41-12 beat-down was noteworthy. We won’t dub the Nittany Lions a national contender quite yet, but they have notched a couple of nice road wins now and have a largely manageable remaining schedule that also includes two signature win opportunities against Michigan and Ohio State.

Oregon - Oregon has looked light years better in the two weeks since its blowout loss to Georgia, including a three-touchdown win over BYU on Saturday. An interesting test at Washington State awaits this weekend and a win would be another step in the right direction. We still don’t think Bo Nix is the quarterback to take any team to the promised land, but Oregon has a chance to reestablish themselves as a threat if it can string some wins together.

Washington - One of the pleasant surprises of the early-going in 2022, the Huskies handled Michigan State with relative ease to move to 3-0 and potentially throw an extra wrench into this year’s Pac-12 race. Indiana transfer Michael Penix is thriving at quarterback so far with more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air in three games. We are still a long way from knowing if Washington will be a contender in the Pac-12, but the non-conference statement over the Spartans should build some confidence entering conference play.


Michigan State - We always give credit to schools that schedule true road games against other Power 5 teams in the non-conference, but this particular one didn’t go well for the Spartans. They were basically dominated by Washington from the outset and now find themselves behind the eight ball when it comes to any hope of reaching the Playoff. There are plenty of opportunities for big wins in Michigan State’s Big Ten schedule, but those may just as likely represent future losses if this week was any indication of the Spartans’ ability.

BYU - We sang the Cougars’ praises last week, and they promptly fell on their faces in a Week Three trip to Oregon. BYU trailed just 10-7 early in the second quarter but surrendered 28 straight points over the next two quarters and eventually fell 41-20 and absorbed a devastating blow to their hopes of crashing the 2022 Playoff party. We won’t rule them out completely at this early stage, but the Cougars need to win out to even approach the discussion.

Miami - The Hurricanes had a chance to make a statement on the road against a reeling Texas A&M team but couldn’t get out of their own way in a disappointing 17-9 loss to the Aggies. Miami controlled the game statistically but managed to become the first team in more than two decades to gain 27 first downs without registering an offense touchdown. Difficult to do! This game could have been a nice building block for the Canes but is now just a missed opportunity.


Pac-12 rising? - We are used to the nation’s western-most conference having already sabotaged its own Playoff chances by the end of the season’s third week, but the PAC-12 is surprisingly holding its own nationally despite what figured to be a Week One death blow with non-conference losses by Oregon and Utah. Since that unfortunate Saturday, Pac-12 teams have notched some impressive non-conference wins to seemingly right the ship as a collective. Washington State won on the road at Wisconsin a week ago, while Washington and Oregon blew out top-15 opponents this past week. Southern Cal has worked its way into the top 10, and Utah is a talented team that shouldn’t be forgotten about. Some of these teams will obviously eliminate each other from the Playoff hunt in the coming weeks, and we certainly aren’t ready to tout anyone here as a guaranteed contender, but there may be more here worth keeping tabs on than we have become accustomed to.


No. 5 Clemson @ No. 21 Wake Forest - Noon
No. 20 Florida @ No. 11 Tennessee - 3:30 p.m.
No. 15 Oregon @ Washington State - 4 p.m.
No. 10 Arkansas vs. No. 23 Texas A&M - 7 p.m.
No. 7 USC @ Oregon State - 9:30 p.m.