The College Football Playoff race is coming into focus with just six weeks left in the regular season.
Week 8 didn’t feature a game between ranked teams, but there was some drama. Where should Oklahoma be after a four-quarter fight with lowly Kansas? Who takes Oklahoma State’s place in the top 10 after the Cowboys lost 24-21 to Iowa State? How do you sort out the Big Ten contenders in relation to unbeaten Cincinnati?
Sporting News continues to sort those teams out based on how the contenders should be ranked. The first set of CFP rankings will be released Tuesday, Nov. 2.
MORE: SN’s Midseason All-Americans | How Penn State’s loss will shake up polls
Each week, we will break down the playoff picture based on if invitations were given today. Future results are not projected:
Four in the College Football Playoff
1. Georgia (7-0)
Remaining schedule: vs. Florida, vs. Missouri, at Tennessee, vs. Charleston Southern, at Georgia Tech
Georgia can clinch the SEC East championship with a victory against Florida. The Bulldogs lead the FBS in scoring defense (6.6 ppg.) and total defense (208.3), and JT Daniels (oblique) has another week to get healthy. Kirby Smart is 3-2 against Florida. That series has produced some shockers, but the favorite has won and covered the last six seasons. Georgia needs to take care of business in Jacksonville.
2. Oklahoma (8-0)
Remaining schedule: vs. Texas Tech, Bye, at Baylor, vs. Iowa State, at Oklahoma State
Kansas had a 10-0 lead with 22 minutes of time of possession in the first half of what appeared to be a potential Big 12 stunner. So, what happened? Freshman Caleb Williams settled down in the second half, and the Sooners won 35-23. Williams had an incredible presence-of-mind play where he took the ball out of Kennedy Brooks’ hands to get a key first down on the closing drive. Williams is the real deal, but questions persist about a defense that had trouble getting off the field against the Jayhawks. Oklahoma willl stay in this top four as long as they stay unbeaten. They might slide to No. 3 because of the perception that the game with the Jayhawks was too close.
MORE: How Williams used a double-handoff to ice OU win
3. Alabama (7-1)
Remaining schedule: Bye, vs. LSU, vs. New Mexico State, vs. Arkansas, at Auburn
Alabama trailed 14-7 after one quarter, and had a few coverage break-downs early in the Third Saturday in October. The Crimson Tide, however, poured it on the Volunteers in the fourth quarter of a 52-24 victory. Alabama now has won 15 in a row in the series, and Bryce Young continues to shine with first-year offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Young finished with 371 passing yards, 42 rushing yards and four total TDs. The bye week comes at the right time for Nick Saban, who will gear the Crimson Tide up for another November run.
4. Cincinnati (7-0)
Remaining schedule: at Tulane, vs. Tulsa, at USF, vs. SMU, at East Carolina
Cincinnati survived on the road against Navy in a 27-20 victory that was a survive-and-advance game in every respect. The Midshipmen maintained a huge advantage in time-of-possession (39:27-20:23) and offensive plays (84-51), but Desmond Ridder made the most of his opportunities with a pair of TDs. Jerome Ford added 90 yards and a TD. Cincinnati has a tenuous hold on the fourth spot for now, but they must rely on Pac-12 and Big Ten carnage to hold on to this spot.
First two out
5. Oregon (6-1)
Remaining schedule: vs. Colorado, at Washington, vs. Washington State, at Utah, vs. Oregon State
The Ducks nearly blew a 17-point lead, but D.J. James’ intereception in the final minute sealed a 34-31 victory against UCLA. Anthony Brown totaled 375 yards and emerged as a complement for Travis Dye (72 total yards, 4 TDs). Oregon continues to be a problem for the Big Ten, specifically Ohio State by virtue of the Sept. 11 non-conference victory. The Ducks have not looked dominant in Pac-12 play, but they found a way to beat former Ducks coach Chip Kelly in Week 8. Oregon has one-score victories against Fresno State and Cal and a one-score loss to Stanford. The Ducks, however, can control their CFP fate simply by winning.
6. Ohio State (6-1)
Remaining schedule: vs. Penn State, at Nebraska, vs. Purdue, vs. Michigan State, at Michigan
Ohio State left little to the imagination in a 54-7 blowout against Indiana in a rematch of last year’s instant classic. The Buckeyes led 44-7 at halftime. C.J. Stroud passed for 266 yards and four TDs. Stroud has 18 TDs and one interception in Big Ten play, and freshman TreVeyon Henderson (9 rushes, 81 yards, two TDs) continues to be a home-run hitter in the backfield. Ohio State remains the team to beat in the Big Ten. There isn’t a signature victory on the resume and Penn State’s nine-overtime loss to Illinois took some shine off Week 9. Still, the this looks like the nation’s best offense.
Four to watch
7. Michigan (7-0)
Remaining schedule: at Michigan State, vs. Indiana, at Penn State, at Maryland, vs. Ohio State
Michigan avoided a trap-game loss by controlling the tempo in a 33-7 blowout against Northwestern, which ensured a top-10 showdown against Michigan State to close out October. The Wolverines continue to ride the tag-team of Blake Corum (117 yards, 2 TDs) and Hassan Haskins (100 yards, 2 TDs), and the defense remains stout with SN Midseason All-American Aidan Hutchinson. Cade McNamara will have to take his game to another level knowing the Wolverines have road games at Michigan State, Penn State and a home game with Ohio State. Michigan is 3-15 on the road against those teams since Lloyd Carr retired after the 2007 season. Time for Jim Harbaugh to prove it once and for all.
8. Michigan State (7-0)
Remaining schedule: vs. Michigan, at Purdue, vs. Maryland, at Ohio State, vs. Penn State
The Spartans are 9-4 against Michigan since Mike Hart’s “Little Brother” statement in 2007. That included a 34-17 win in a matchup of unbeatens in 2010. Michigan State had a bye week to get ready, and that means Mel Tucker had time to put some new wrinkles in for the Wolverines. Michigan has won the last two meetings at Spartan Stadium. Kenneth Walker III remains in the Heisman hunt, too. Michigan State’s path is clear, and it starts with defending the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
9. Iowa (6-1)
Remaining schedule: at Wisconsin, at Northwestern, vs. Minnesota, vs. Illinois, at Nebraska
The Hawkeyes had a bye week to recover from the loss to Purdue, and now Iowa is in win-out mode. A rivalry matchup with Wisconsin looms; one the Badgers have won four of the last five years. The Hawkeyes are 7-1 in November the last two seasons, and this is Kirk Ferentz’s best shot to get back to get to the Big Ten championship game for the first time since 2015. Iowa does have three wins against ranked opponents, and that secures their spot in the top 10.
10. Ole Miss (6-1)
Remaining schedule: at Auburn, vs. Liberty, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Vanderbilt, at Mississippi State
The Rebels remain on track for at least a New Year’s Day Six berth after routing LSU 31-17 on Saturday. Ole Miss continued a three-game win streak that also includes victories against Arkansas and Tennessee. Heisman Trophy front-runner Matt Corral continues to guide Lane Kiffin’s offense with max efficiency. The head-to-head loss against Alabama could block the Rebels from the SEC championship game, and the next three weeks are tough. Kiffin, however, has Ole Miss in great position.