2017 College Football Playoff Scenario Heading into October

kelly-bryant-clemson-starterThe College Football Playoff (CFP) picture is far from complete. After all, we’ve only seen five weeks of college football so far.

But on the other hand, we’re almost halfway through the season. And this means that we can at least begin discussing the CFP picture right now.

Let’s look at the leading playoff contenders from each of the Power Five conferences. We’ll also check out some winners and losers from Week 5 of college football.

ACC CFP Leader: Clemson

The Tigers but are still #2 behind Alabama in the latest AP poll. Nevertheless, Clemson has played the best schedule in the country so far. Three of their five victories have come against top-15 teams. This includes last Saturday’s 31-17 win over No. 12 Virginia Tech.

Deshaun Watson may be gone, but quarterback Kelly Bryant has stepped in and played great. And Clemson’s defensive line is even more talented than it was last year.

Nobody in the ACC is a real threat to the Tigers right now. That said, we look for Clemson to go undefeated in the regular season and walk into the CFP.

Big Ten CFP Leader: Penn State

saquon-barkley-penn-stateThe Nittany Lions look really strong so far. This especially the case with their running game, which is led by Saquon Barkley. Barkley is quite possibly the best back in the game and has rumbled for 574 yards and 4 touchdowns thus far.

The only problem for Penn State is that the Big Ten is extremely competitive this year. Both the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes play in the Big Ten East and could foil the Nittany Lions’ run.

But then again, Ohio State has gotten off to a rocky star after losing to Oklahoma in Week 2. Michigan’s defense is elite, but their red zone offense is weighing the team down.

Big 12 CFP Leader: Oklahoma

baker-mayfield-soonersThe Sooners are definitely in the driver’s seat for a CFP spot right now. They have one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield, who’s thrown for 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns. Even if they lose, Oklahoma can bank on their win over Ohio State to boost their playoff resume.

TCU and Oklahoma State could also challenge for a CFP slot. The Horned Frogs are leading between these two because they beat Oklahoma State last week.

Pac-12 CFP Leader: Washington

washington-huskiesThe Pac-12 is shaping up to be a very competitive race. The Washington Huskies have a slight lead in the CFP standings. But Washington State, who beat USC on Friday night, are very close to the Huskies right now.

Standford could also make a run at the conference title and CFP. But their playoff chances took a hit with a recent loss to San Diego State.

Regardless of how the Cardinals finish up, it’ll be exciting to see if running back Brice Love continues his torrid pace. He has 1,088 rushing yards on just 98 carries (11.1 YPC).

SEC CFP Leader: Alabama

nick-saban-alabama-1The Crimson Tide are firmly entrenched as the nation’s #1 team. And this doesn’t look to change after they destroyed Ole Miss 66-3. This helped Alabama avenge a 2015 lost to the Rebels in Tuscaloosa.

Auburn and George are both playing some good football right now. But it’s hard to see either of these schools being able to defeat Alabama. Furthermore, I highly doubt that the SEC will get more than one team into the College Football Playoff this year.

Overall Take on the 2017 CFP Picture

Again, we’re not even close to a complete College Football Playoff picture. Nevertheless, here are my educated guesses on who’ll be playing for the title:

  • No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan (Wolverines smother the Lions on Oct. 25, then beat OSU on Nov. 25)
  • No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Oklahoma (Sooners are for real and hold off TCU & Oklahoma State)

As for the Pac-12, Washington and Washington State will probably both lose a game. And losses from these teams would eliminate the conference from CFP talk.

Other Happenings from Week 5 of College Football

While most of the attention is at the top of college football, there were plenty of other great stories from last Saturday. That said, let’s take a look at the winners and losers from Week 5.

Week 5 Winners

Central Florida – The Knights are off to a hot 3-0 start, which includes a 40-13 blowout over Memphis. UCF racked up 600 yards of offense against the Tigers last Saturday. Be prepared to see Scott Frost earn a Power Five conference head coaching gig next season.

Maryland – How do we know that the Terrapins are a really good overall team? They beat undefeated Minnesota on the road with their third-string quarterback. Third-stringer Max Bortenschlager had to fill in for backup Kasim Hill (ACL), who was already replacing the initial starter Tyrrell Pigrome.

Oklahoma State – Earlier we mentioned how the Cowboys have a chance to make the College Football Playoff. Their chances took a big hit when they lost to TCU a week ago. But they came back strong this Saturday with a 41-34 victory over Texas Tech.

Texas A&M – Head coach Kevin Sumlin has had plenty of reason to fear for his job security. But his team pulled out a 24-17 victory over South Carolina Saturday night to help ease his fears.

Losers

BYU – It was easy to chalk up BYU’s rough start to a brutal schedule. They played No. 13 LSU in Week 2, rival Utah in Week 3, and No. 10 Wisconsin a week ago. But after a 40-24 loss to Utah State, it’s clear that the Cougars just aren’t that good. And the LSU loss is looking pretty bad at this point too.

Mississippi State – The Bulldogs started this season off with a bang after going 3-0, including a win over LSU. But they’ve since lost their last two games by a combined score of 80-13. The 49-10 loss to Auburn last Saturday – where they gave up over 500 yards of offense – is a telling sign that Mississippi State isn’t a true SEC contender.

North Carolina – The Tar Heels have had some really bad luck this season, losing 13 players to a season-ending injuries. And the injuries really took their toll in a 33-7 loss to Georgia Tech this past weekend. The Yellow Jackets dominated UNC by rushing for 403 yards on 66 carries.

Ole Miss – Most sportsbooks had the Rebels as a four touchdown underdog to the Crimson Tide. That said, it’s little surprise they lost to Alabama. But a 66-3 loss? This is Ole Miss’ second-worst defeat to the Tide, only to be outdone by a 64-0 loss in 1917.

Rutgers – Another team that suffered an embarrassing blowout last Saturday is the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. They were crushed 56-0 by the Buckeyes. This means that Rutgers has been outscored 219-24 by Ohio State since they start playing them in 2014.

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