College Football Playoff Picture for Week 6: Alabama, Georgia and everyone else
It’s Alabama and Georgia, a considerable gap, then everyone else.
That is what materialized in Week 5, when the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs reminded the SEC — and the FBS — where the College Football Playoff race starts — and perhaps will finish.
Georgia routed Arkansas 37-0 in a top-10 showdown. Alabama beat Ole Miss 42-21 in another cookie-cutter blowout. If the CFP rankings were released this week, then it would be a toss-up between the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs at No. 1.
With that, the scenario the rest of the FBS won’t like is in play. If Alabama and Georgia both make the SEC championship game with a 12-0 record, then it’s a good bet both make the CFP.
The first set of CFP rankings will be released Tuesday, Nov. 2. Each week, Sporting News will break down the playoff picture:
Four in the College Football Playoff
1. Georgia (5-0)
Quarterback JT Daniels did not play because of a lat injury in a top-10 showdown against Arkansas, but it didn’t matter. Georgia built a 24-0 lead with a defense that limited the Razorbacks to 78 total yards in the first half. Arkansas also had seven three-and-outs on 10 possessions.That’s back-to-back shutouts for the best defense in the FBS. Stetson Bennett filled in at quarterback, and the Bulldogs rolled up 273 rushing yards on 4.9 per carry against a previously strong Arkansas run defense. The Bulldogs have the most-impressive resume to this point, and they visit Auburn in Week 6.
MORE: Inside numbers of Georgia’s two-week dominance
2. Alabama (5-0)
So much for that theory that Lane Kiffin-led Ole Miss would challenge the Crimson Tide. The Rebels missed on three fourth-down attempts in the first half, and Alabama turned all three into TDs. The Crimson Tide dominated in a 42-21 blowout. Bryce Young finished 20 of 26 passing for 241 yards, two TDs and an interception, and Brian Robinson Jr. emerged with 36 carries for 171 yards and four TDs. Nick Saban is now 24-0 against former assistants, and another one will be waiting in prime-time with Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M next week.
3. Oklahoma (5-0)
Another week, another one-score victory for Oklahoma. The Sooners avoided an upset to Kansas State for the first time in three years in a 37-31 shootout, and to be fair a 93-yard kickoff for a TD from Kansas State’s Malik Knowles with 1:20 remaining created the final score. The trio of Spencer Rattler, Kennedy Brooks and Marvin Mims made the plays necessary to win on the road. Oklahoma is a default pick at No. 3, and a convincing victory in the Red River Showdown against Texas would strengthen that profile.
MORE: Officials award ball to OU after double-review of onside kick
4. Cincinnati (4-0)
Will the CFP committee be honest about it and give the Group of 5 its due? The Bearcats ended Notre Dame’s 26-game home winning streak with a 24-13 victory at Notre Dame Stadium. Desmond Ridder passed for two TDs to build a 17-0 lead, and he scored the game-clinching TD run after the Irish rallied in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game. The Bearcats still have to be perfect in American Athletic Conference play, and that might not be enough to sway the committee. Cincinnati will need help to hold off the Big Ten champion.
MORE: Cincinnati trolls Brian Kelly after big win
5. Penn State (5-0)
Make no mistake, the Iowa-Penn State showdown is the undercard to see who is the best challenger for the Buckeyes in the Big Ten. Penn State righted last year’s loss to Indiana by knocking out the Hoosiers in a 24-0 victory on Saturday. Sean Clifford has seven TD passes the last two weeks, and the defense has improved. So, why are the Nittany Lions behind the Bearcats? For now, Cincinnati has the better victory against Notre Dame; a team that routed the Wisconsin team Penn State knocked off in Week 1. That’s some serious transitive properties, but the Nittany Lions can slide into that top four with a victory against Iowa in Week 6.
6. Iowa (5-0)
Any doubts about the Hawkeyes’ defense were put to rest in a 51-14 blowout against Maryland. Six different Iowa players had an interception, and the Hawkeyes have a +12 turnover ratio through five games. Spencer Petras added 259 passing yards, three TDs and no interceptions. Kirk Ferentz has this team working in ruthless, methodical fashion, and Penn State comes to Kinnick Stadium for the best game on the schedule in Week 6.
Four to watch
7. Michigan (5-0)
Well, could this be the Big Ten challenger in waiting for the Buckeyes? Michigan dominated Wisconsin 38-17 for its first victory at Camp Randall Stadium since 2001. Coach Jim Harbaugh proved the Wolverines belong for now. Michigan shut down the Badgers on the ground and notched five sacks, and the offense has yet to commit a turnover this season. The Wolverines played clean, and freshman J.J McCarthy mixed in at quarterback with Cade McNamara. Look for that to continue in a trap game of sorts at Nebraska in prime time.
MORE: Michigan ‘jumps around’, then takes control vs. Badgers
8. Oregon (4-1)
The Ducks have a huge problem now after a 31-24 overtime loss to Stanford. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead missed the game with non-COVID related illness. CJ Verdell left with a leg injury. Oregon allowed a game-tying touchdown drive in the final two minutes, and the Cardinal scored again in overtime. Now, the Pac-12 is in trouble again. Yes, Oregon still has that head-to-head victory against Ohio State in hand. But the Big Ten has half the teams on this list, and that loss at Stanford is going to be a serious blemish even if Oregon runs the table from here. We won’t be surprised if the Buckeyes are ranked higher in the next AP Poll.
9. Ohio State (4-1)
The Buckeyes are the next Big Ten team, but we still consider them the favorite in the conference. The board sets up nicely with those other teams in front. Ohio State dominated Rutgers in a 52-13 victory. C.J. Stroud returned and had four of his five passing TDs in the first half, and playmakers TreVeyon Henderson, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson all scored TDs. Ohio State is the one team on this list with enough offensive firepower to entertain challenging Alabama and Georgia. That Oregon loss will be forgiven with a Big Ten championship.
10. Michigan State (5-0)
That’s five Big Ten teams. Kentucky, Coastal Carolina and BYU would be options here, but consider what the Spartans have done in Mel Tucker’s second season. Michigan State has a dynamic running back in Kenneth Walker III, who scored three more TDs. The Spartans have piled up Power 5 victories against Northwestern, Miami and Nebraska. They cruised in a 48-31 shootout with Western Kentucky (MSU led 45-16 after 3 quarters), and road trips to Indiana and Rutgers are negotiable. The Spartans could be unbeaten when Michigan comes to Spartan Stadium on Oct. 30.
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