College Football Playoff Picture for Week 8: Iowa loss creates fourth-team debate

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Believe it or not, there are just weeks left in the 2021 college football regular season.

Upsets and upheaval have been a leading storyline, but in Week 7, the College Football Playoff picture stayed relatively unchanged.

No. 2 Iowa was the latest to go down in a 24-7 upset loss to unraked Purdue. How would the CFP committee stack up the contenders after seven weeks? We’re not sure, but this is our best guess on how they should be stacked up given the resumes. The perception factor also must be accounted for, too. 

MORE: What to expect in next AP, Coaches poll after Iowa loss

The first set of CFP rankings will be released Tuesday, Nov. 2. Each week, Sporting News 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: Bye, vs. Florida, vs. Missouri, at Tennessee, vs. Charleston Southern, at Georgia Tech 

The Bulldogs opened a commanding lead in the SEC East after beating Kentucky 30-13 at Sanford Stadium. Georgia’s defense continues to be the story, and the Wildcats were limited to 243 total yards. Kentucky became the first team to score an offensive TD in the first half against the Bulldogs this year. Stetson Bennett filled in again at quarterback, and tight end Brock Bowers emerged as an All-American candidate with five catches for 102 yards and two TDs. The Bulldogs have a bye week before facing Florida on Oct. 30.

2. Oklahoma (7-0) 

Remaining schedule: at Kansas, vs. Texas Tech, Bye, at Baylor, vs. Iowa State, at Oklahoma State 

The Caleb Williams era is here. The freshman quarterback dazzled in his first start by hitting 18 of 23 passes for 295 yards and four TDs in a 52-31 blowout against TCU. He added 66 rushing yards, including a thrilling 41-yard TD run. The Sooners looked like the full-blown offensive machine promised in the preseason, and there is a different aura around Lincoln Riley’s team now. Oklahoma broke a string of one-score victories with its most-convincing victory of the season, and the Sooners are clearly the team to beat in the Big 12. Oklahoma likely will bump up to No. 2 in the AP Poll as a result. 

3. Alabama (6-1)  

Remaining schedule: vs. Tennessee, Bye, vs. LSU, vs. New Mexico State, vs. Arkansas, at Auburn 

Alabama responded to last week’s loss against Texas A&M with a 49-9 beatdown of Mississippi State. The defense got its mojo back behind linebacker Will Anderson Jr., who had four sacks. Bryce Young (20 of 28 passing, 348 yards, 4 TDs) worked the passing game with the 1-2 receiving punch of John Metchie III (7 catches, 117 yards, TD) and Jameson Williams (2 catches, 77 yards, TD), and Brian Robinson added 73 rushing yards with three total TDs. The Crimson Tide have three victories against ranked opponents, and they will be the highest-ranked one-loss team in any format. Unless Alabama loses a second game, they will be in the CFP. 

4. Cincinnati (6-0)

Remaining schedule: at Navy, at Tulane, vs. Tulsa, at USF, vs. SMU, at East Carolina

Would the committee give Cincinnati the proper respect off the jump? The Bearcats need to put up big numbers the rest of the season, and that was the case in a 56-21 blowout against UCF. The Knights had one first down in their first seven drives, and the Bearcats built a 35-7 lead by halftime. Running back Jerome Ford deserves All-American consideration, too. He rushed for 189 yards and four TDs. Ford has four games with at least 100 rushing yards and multiple TDs this season, and Cincinnati remains on track to force the CFP issue, and they need Notre Dame to keep winning. 

Two out 

5. Oregon (5-1) 

Remaining schedule: at UCLA, vs. Colorado, at Washington, vs. Washington State, at Utah, vs. Oregon State 

The Ducks escaped with a 24-17 victory against Cal on Friday night in another tight Pac-12 matchup. Travis Dye finished with 218 total yards and a TD as the new feature back, and the defense is getting healthier around standout edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. Oregon does have the biggest nonconference win of the season at Ohio State in Week 2, and head to head always matters. The Buckeyes, however, will be ranked higher than the Ducks in the AP Poll. That is why there is no margin for error for the remainder of Pac-12 play. 

6. Ohio State (5-1) 

Remaining schedule: at Indiana, vs. Penn State, at Nebraska, vs. Purdue, vs. Michigan State, at Michigan 

SN had the Buckeyes in the CFP in its latest bowl projections, and that’s where they will stay after the bye week. As far as what the actual playoff path looks like, there is work to do. Ohio State piles up wins against its Big Ten East competition then they will have earned their way back into the CFP mix. Any one of C.J. Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson, Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson could emerge as a Heisman finalist in the second half of the season. Who is going to stop that offense in the Big Ten? Two other conference teams are unbeaten, but the Buckeyes would have to rely on the “eye test” treatment knowing there isn’t a signature victory on the resume yet. 

Four to watch 

7. Michigan (6-0)

Remaining schedule: vs. Northwestern, at Michigan State, vs. Indiana, at Penn State, at Maryland, vs. Ohio State 

The Wolverines enjoyed a bye week to prepare for a brutal second-half schedule that includes trips to Michigan State and Penn State before the regular-season referendum against Ohio State. The Wolverines rank in the top-15 in scoring offense and defense, and this team resembles the 2016 and 2018 teams in terms of quality. The Wolverines have victories against Washington, Wisconsin and Nebraska, but those teams are all .500 or worse. Michigan has won six in a row against Northwestern; this week’s opponent. 

8. Michigan State (7-0)

Remaining schedule: Bye, vs. Michigan, at Purdue, vs. Maryland, at Ohio State, vs. Penn State 

The Spartans clamped down in the second half to pull out a crucial 20-15 road victory at Indiana. That’s what good teams do. Michigan State had just 57 total yards at halftime, but the defense forced three turnovers to hold off the Hoosiers. Kenneth Walker was limited to 85 yards, and Michigan State’s penalties (12 for 134 yards) are a major concern with the big tests remaining.You could make a case for the Spartans ahead of the Wolverines based on strength of victory, but it’s close at this point. Bottom line: Michigan State is undefeated heading into a bye, and Michigan comes to East Lansing on Oct. 30. Nobody saw that coming in September.

9. Oklahoma State (6-0) 

Remaining schedule: at Iowa State, vs. Kansas, at West Virginia, vs. TCU, at Texas Tech, vs. Oklahoma 

The Cowboys rallied from a two-TD defict in the first half to beat Texas 32-24 on the road Saturday, and that should solidify their top-10 ranking. Jason Taylor II had an 85-yard interception return for a TD that flipped the momentum, and the Cowboys were clutch in the second half with 19 unanswered points. All signs are pointing to an epic version of Bedlam that might have two installments in 2021. This is the right spot for Oklahoma State. 

10. Iowa (6-1)

Remaining schedule: Bye, at Wisconsin, at Northwestern, vs. Minnesota, vs. Illinois, at Nebraska

The Hawkeyes used their mullligan in the Big Ten. Purdue handed Iowa what would be termed a “bad loss.” Boilermakers receiver David Bell finished with 11 catches for 240 yards and a TD, and the Hawkeyes lost their first Big Ten game. Purdue has the lead in the division now, but the Boilers still play Ohio State and Michigan State. The Hawkeyes are still a top-10 team based on a resume that includes three victories against ranked opponents. Iowa, however, must win out, and that includes the potential Big Ten championship game. It’s also possible Ole Miss could wind up in this spot. 

 



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