College Football Playoff Picture for Week 3: Alabama leads five tiers of contenders

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We’re still seven weeks away from the unveiling of the first set of College Football Playoff rankings

A lot can happen over those seven weeks. A lot already did happen in the first two weeks, with CFP regulars Clemson and Ohio State taking their first losses. How did those shake-ups affect the playoff picture? 

Sporting News looks at 16 schools that have the best playoff chances through two weeks. We then separated those contenders into five tiers based on their early-season performances. That list will dwindle in the coming weeks, but we’ll always be here for playoff prognostication. 

MORE: Week 3 picks against the spread

With that, a look at the CFP picture through two weeks: 

Sporting News 

Tier 1: Alabama 

1. Alabama (2-0)

The Crimson Tide get their own grouping after an impressive two-week stretch in which they average 46 points per game with new quarterback Bryce Young, who has a 180.1 passer rating.  Everybody say it together now: “The season doesn’t start until Alabama loses.”

Tier 2: Three in the driver’s seat 

2. Georgia (2-0) 

The Bulldogs have allowed just 10 points and 177 yards per game through two weeks. That has created the early-season what-if question for everybody else in the FBS. That is, “What if Alabama and Georgia get to the SEC championship game with identical 12-0 records?” Answer: Both are going to the College Football Playoff. 

3. Oregon (2-0) 

The Ducks picked up a huge CFP playoff chip with the victory at Ohio State, one that has the Pac-12 thinking playoff for the first time since 2016. Three of their next four games are at home, and the key will be avoiding that unexpected regular-season upset. Coach Mario Cristobal seems to have this team on the right path to stay the course. 

MORE: Oregon plants Pac-12 flag in middle of playoff discussion with Ohio State upset

4. Oklahoma (2-0) 

Oklahoma had a scare in Week 1, but the Sooners can’t afford to lose one and drop into that mix with Clemson and Ohio State. Iowa State and Texas suffered non-conferences losses in Week 2, and the Sooners’ strength of schedule is comparable to the Tigers. If Oklahoma is in, then does that the SEC can take credit for three teams? 

Tier 3: Win out, and you’re probably in 

5. Ohio State (1-1) 

Ohio State’s loss was worse than Clemson’s because it was at home. You’re going to hear that a lot, but the CFP committee values who teams beat more. The Buckeyes are in the stronger division in the Big Ten East, and they need Penn State and Michigan to keep rolling. It wouldn’t hurt if Michigan State beat Miami this week either. 

6. Clemson (1-1) 

To write the Tigers off based on the Week 1 loss to Georgia would be foolish. Clemson has the best shot to go 12-1, and a seventh ACC championship would seemingly be enough to get the Tigers back in. 

Tier 4: Six teams in contention 

Iowa (2-0), Cincinnati (2-0), Texas A&M (2-0), Florida (2-0), Penn State (2-0), Notre Dame (2-0) 

Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Florida all have varying levels of quarterback unease. The Gators can make the biggest statement of this bunch by beating Alabama on Saturday; something they haven’t done since 2008. The Aggies will get their chance on Oct. 9. 

MORE: ND quarterback pops finger into place, throws winning TD

Iowa and Penn State are on a collision course for what could be a battle of unbeatens on Oct. 9. The Hawkeyes are the only FBS team with two victories against ranked opponents. 

Cincinnati is the lone Group of 5 school on this list, and the only way to stay on it is to beat Indiana on Saturday. If they do, circle the Oct. 2 matchup at Notre Dame on your calendar. 

Tier 5: Four teams on the fringe for now

UCLA (2-0), Arizona State (2-0), Michigan (2-0), Auburn (2-0) 

Of these four teams, which one is the best bet to make the College Football Playoff for the first time? 

The answer has to be UCLA, right? Chip Kelly has the Bruins rolling with an offense that averages 233.5 rushing yards per game and a defense that allows 37.5 rushing ypg. Run the ball, stop the run. It really is that simple sometimes. UCLA hosts Oregon on Oct. 23.

Speaking of rushing offense, Michigan averages 339 rushing yards per game through two weeks and Jim Harbaugh is name-dropping George Patton and Neil Armstrong. That means this is one of those years where the Wolverines are probably going to stay in Big Ten East contention leading up to the Ohio State game. 

Arizona State is averaging 259 rushing yards per game with the tandem of quarterback Jayden Daniels and running back Rachaad White. Auburn averages 340 rushing yards per game, and they can prove they belong on this list with a victory at Penn State in the “Whiteout” on Saturday. 





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