There’s still a long way to go in the college football season, but Saturday was the first time that the College Football Playoff picture started to clear up a little following three games between top-25 teams. Those three games gave us a little insight into what teams might be contenders and what teams are pretenders. Let’s take a look at what we learned from those three games.
Wisconsin 35, Michigan 14
The biggest takeaway from this game is that this isn’t going to be Michigan’s year, again. Jim Harbaugh’s team laid an egg in another big game, trailing 35-0 midway through the third quarter before scoring a couple of late consolation touchdowns.
The Wolverines barely beating Army turned out to be anything but a fluke. Michigan simply isn’t a championship-caliber team. To be fair, Michigan’s schedule is strong enough to keep them in the CFP picture if they can win out. But does anybody actually think they’re going to beat Iowa, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State?
On top of that, Maryland and Michigan State are no pushovers. Michigan might have to worry about just making a bowl game if they keep playing like they did Saturday, which could put Harbaugh on the hot seat.
Of course, is Michigan that bad, or is Wisconsin just good? It’s a fair question, and the Badgers certainly deserve a lot of credit for their blowout win. Remember, the Badgers outscored their first two opponents 110-0.
The Wisconsin defense is good, and the Badgers can run the ball as well as any team in the country. They are likely to move into the CFP conversation, although a road game against Ohio State in late October will be when we find out if they’re truly a contender.
Auburn 28, Texas A&M 20
We can safely say that Auburn has bounced back from last year’s disappointing campaign. In the first four weeks of the season, the Tigers have knocked off two ranked teams, one on a neutral field and one on the road.
They’ve also done so with a true freshman quarterback who figures to get better with every game. Auburn is hands down a CFP contender. The caveat is that the SEC is filled with good teams, and the Tigers will play four games against teams currently in the top 10. The good news is that they should be able to absorb a loss and remain in contention for a top-4 spot.
Meanwhile, this isn’t going to be Texas A&M’s year. The Aggies would have a strong case if they won out, which would mean wins over Alabama, Georgia, and LSU. But if they couldn’t beat Clemson or Auburn, it’s unlikely Jimbo Fisher’s team is going to beat those three teams, especially with two of those games coming on the road.
Georgia 23, Notre Dame 17
Georgia can breathe easy after Saturday’s tilt with Notre Dame. The Bulldogs are in the driver’s seat for a spot in the CFP and have been as impressive as any team in the country. However, they still have to face Florida, Auburn, and Texas A&M, followed by the SEC Championship Game. Georgia could potentially reach the top-4 with one loss, but then again, perhaps not.
Meanwhile, it’s not completely over for Notre Dame, in part because they lost a close game on the road to a top-5 team. The Fighting Irish could make an argument for the CFP if they win out. However, outside of next week’s game against Virginia, their schedule is loaded with teams having down seasons, so the Irish would need to win out and get A LOT of help.