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College Football Playoff Picture after Week 13: Four in and four out ahead of second rankings

The College Football Playoff remains as scheduled, with just three weeks left in the 2020 college football regular season.

The Playoff race continued to come into focus on Saturday, with only 10 contenders remaining after Week 13. There are no sure things in a season affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just ask Oregon, whose 41-38 loss to Oregon State — the Ducks’ first since 2016 — cost it a shot at the Playoff. Even Ohio State is on notice after a COVID-19 outbreak on its team. The Buckeyes must play their next two games just to qualify for the Big Ten championship game.

Our top four teams remain the same heading into the first week of December: Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State appear to be in position to make the four-team Playoff — but that could change. Below is the remaining schedule for Playoff rankings to be unveiled:

RankingsDate
SecondTuesday, Dec. 1
ThirdTuesday, Dec. 8
FourthTuesday, Dec. 15
FinalSunday, Dec. 20

MORE: Alabama proves its No. 1 status in Iron Bowl romp — even without Nick Saban

With that, Sporting News breaks down the College Football Playoff picture with four teams in, four teams out and two teams to watch heading into the first week of December:

Four In

1. Alabama (8-0)

Remaining schedule: at LSU, at Arkansas

Nick Saban wasn’t on the sidelines after testing positive for COVID-19 this week, but it didn’t matter in the Iron Bowl. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian called a brilliant game, and the offensive trio of Mac Jones (302 passing yards, five touchdowns), DeVonta Smith (171 receiving yards, two touchdowns) and Najee Harris (130 total yards, rushing touchdown) delivered in a 42-13 blowout against Auburn. Alabama closes the regular-season schedule on the road against two SEC West rivals, and they can clinch the division with a win at LSU. The Crimson Tide have the most breathing room among the top four teams.

2. Notre Dame (9-0)

Remaining schedule: vs. Syracuse, at Wake Forest

The Irish are close to clinching a berth in the ACC championship after knocking off North Carolina 31-17 on Friday. Ian Book remains hot at quarterback, and the defense limited the Tar Heels to 58 yards in the second half. Notre Dame will have a strong Playoff case, even with a potential loss in the conference championship game. The key will be avoiding a slipup to either the Orange or the Demon Deacons.

MORE: How Northwestern’s loss impacts Ohio State, Big Ten, College Football Playoff race

3. Ohio State (4-0)

Remaining schedule: at Michigan State, vs. Michigan

The Buckeyes’ game against Illinois was canceled and the program is on pause after a COVID-19 outbreak. Now, there is no margin for error for reaching the Big Ten championship game. Ohio State likely will stay in the No. 4 spot behind Clemson, and the CFP committee faces a real dilemma if the Buckeyes can’t get to Indianapolis. We still think Ohio State will be in if it stays undefeated.

4. Clemson (8-1)

Remaining schedule: at Virginia Tech, at Florida State*

The Tigers returned after a three-week absence, and Trevor Lawrence showed no rust against Pitt in a 52-17 blowout. Lawrence finished with 403 passing yards and two touchdowns in his final home game. Five different Clemson players scored, and Dabo Swinney clearly has this team playing with the necessary sense of urgency. The Tigers have to finish the ACC slate on the road, but that rematch with Notre Dame is starting to come into focus.

MORE: Notre Dame building ACC-proof Playoff case with each convincing victory

Four out

5. Florida (7-1)

Remaining schedule: at Tennessee, vs. LSU

The Gators are a better bet to make the CFP than Texas A&M, which knocked off the Gators in a 41-38 shootout on Oct. 10. Kyle Trask passed for 256 yards and hit favorite target Kyle Pitts for three touchdowns in a 34-10 victory against Kentucky. The Gators can clinch a spot in the SEC championship game with a victory against rival Tennessee. Florida controls its own destiny and is the best-positioned team outside the top four. Just beat Bama, right?

6. Texas A&M (6-1)

Remaining schedule: at Auburn, vs. Ole Miss, at Tennessee

The Aggies took care of business against LSU in a 20-7 victory. The defense was dominant, and the backdoor path as the second SEC team in the Playoff isn’t out of the question. Style points matter against their next three opponents, and the lack of an SEC championship game berth will be a drawback. Texas A&M needs Alabama to knock Florida out in that one; a Notre Dame sweep of Clemson wouldn’t hurt either.

7. Cincinnati (8-0)

Remaining schedule: at Tulsa

The Bearcats’ game against Temple was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns, and their last remaining game is against No. 25 Tulsa on Dec. 12. Don’t count on Cincinnati scheduling a make-up game this week. The Bearcats still need some help, but Oregon’s loss to Oregon State was a good first step for this Group of 5 buster.

8. Miami (7-1)

Remaining schedule: vs. North Carolina, vs. Georgia Tech, at Wake Forest

The Hurricanes have been idle two weeks because of a COVID-19 outbreak, and next week’s game against Wake Forest has already been postponed. A season-ending stretch that includes North Carolina and Georgia Tech is manageable. The Hurricanes need Clemson to lose to open that path up. Miami is on path for a New Year’s Day 6 bowl.

MORE: How Oregon loss to Oregon State hurts Pac-12’s slim Playoff hopes

Two to watch

BYU (9-0)

Remaining schedule: vs. San Diego State

The Cougars benefitted from Oregon’s loss to Oregon State. If BYU wants to improve on its CFP ranking then it should try to schedule an opponent for this week. The gap between the Cougars and Cincinnati in the rankings is substantial, and a New Year’s Day 6 bowl seems like the best-case scenario for BYU.

USC (3-0)

Remaining schedule: vs. Washington State, at UCLA

The Trojans couldn’t play Colorado this week because of a COVID-19 outbreak, and it remains to be seen how the CFP committee would view a 6-0 Pac-12 champion as far as the four-team race goes. USC does have brand power, however, and the Trojans are likely the last hope the Pac-12 has to get back into the mix.




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