College Football Playoff Eliminator: Week 2

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF ELIMINATOR – WEEK 2

Week 2’s non-conference slate of games did not disappoint as the AP Top 10 went through some major shakeups. As we did last week, we’ll eliminate some teams, place others on the bubble, and officially start ordering teams by their playoff chances. Teams can always rise back into the hunt after an early-season loss.

Let’s run through the College Football Playoff (CFP) Eliminator criteria before breaking down the conferences:

  1. Three-loss Power Five teams: A two-loss Power Five team can absolutely make the CFP at the end of the season: see LSU, whose two losses in 2007 didn’t stop them from winning a BCS National Championship. A two-loss team would need a conference championship win and three losses would absolutely doom a team, even in the four-team system that exists.
  1. Two-loss Group of Five teams: Even though undefeated Group of Five teams have always been on the outside looking in (UCF in 2017 and 2018), I’d like to keep talking about the teams that are in the running for a New Years’ Six bid before eliminating them from the playoff completely. One loss is pretty much enough to eliminate them from the CFP, but we’ll talk about the teams at the top who can still finish the season ranked. This guideline could also be used for the FBS Independents, although BYU and Notre Dame both have difficult schedules that I want to keep an eye on for the coming weeks.
  1. Strength of schedule issues: Outside of a few teams going undefeated, pretty much every program in the country needs additional assistance getting into the playoff. Cincinnati absolutely has the strength of schedule, as they travel to Indiana and Notre Dame in back-to-back games.

Now that we’ve established the guidelines, let’s look at where we stand conference by conference:

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

Cincinnati and UCF continue to lead the Group of Five’s best conference. All four of the AAC’s 1-0 teams head into Week 3 at 2-0, which is a good sign for the conference.

Still in the hunt:

#8 Cincinnati (2-0)

UCF (2-0)

UCF was the first one out of the AP’s top 25 this week. Their Week 1 win against Boise State looks strong as did QB Dillon Gabriel (312 yards, 2 TD) in a Week 2 blowout of Bethune-Cookman.

Memphis (2-0)

SMU (2-0)

The current bubble:

Tulane (1-1): lost to Oklahoma, 40-35 (Week 1)

Houston (1-1): lost to Texas Tech, 38-21 (Week 1)

Temple (1-1): lost to Rutgers, 61-14 (Week 1)

Eliminated:

East Carolina (0-2): eliminated with loss to South Carolina, 20-17 (Week 2)

Navy (0-2): eliminated with loss to Air Force, 23-3 (Week 2)

Tulsa (0-2): eliminated with loss to Oklahoma State, 28-23 (Week 2)

USF (0-2): eliminated with loss to Florida, 42-20 (Week 2)

ACC

The ACC bounded back after a rough start from the top of the league in Week 1. Getting a few more teams ranked in the coming weeks is still a real possibility that can help the conference’s playoff chances. It will be interesting to see where Clemson and Ohio State land in the CFP rankings if they both dominate their conferences.

Still in the hunt:

#15 Virginia Tech (2-0)

VT will continue to rise if they can beat West Virginia and Richmond. The real test is a home contest against Notre Dame on October 9th. The Irish will be coming off a matchup against Cincinnati and could be vulnerable for a Hokies team that has a bye week then.

Pitt (2-0)

Boston College (2-0)

Virginia (2-0)

Wake Forest (2-0)

Early tumblers:

#6 Clemson (1-1): lost to Georgia, 10-3 (Week 1)

NC State (1-1): lost to Mississippi State, 24-10 (Week 2)

#21 UNC (1-1): lost to Virginia Tech, 17-10 (Week 1)

#24 Miami (1-1): lost to Alabama, 44-13 (Week 1)

Louisville (1-1): lost to Ole Miss, 43-24 (Week 1)

Syracuse (1-1): lost to Rutgers, 17-7 (Week 2)

Georgia Tech (1-1): lost to Northern Illinois, 22-21 (Week 1)

Duke (1-1): lost to Charlotte, 31-28 (Week 1)

The current bubble:

Florida State (0-2): lost to Notre Dame, 41-38 (OT) (Week 1) & Jacksonville State, 20-17 (Week 2)

BIG XII CONFERENCE

The Big XII’s biggest storyline of the weekend was Texas’ loss to Arkansas. Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech scraped by in Week 2 to stay unbeaten as Oklahoma and Baylor bounced back after close wins in Week 1.

Still in the hunt:

#3 Oklahoma (2-0)

TCU (2-0)

TCU’s two-point win over Cal put them closer to a top 25 ranking. The play of RB Zach Evans (22 carries for 190 yards, 1 TD) will be crucial when they see an impressive SMU defense in two weeks.

Baylor (2-0)

Texas Tech (2-0)

Kansas State (2-0)

Oklahoma State (2-0)

Early tumblers:

West Virginia (0-1): lost to Maryland, 30-24 (Week 1)

#14 Iowa State (1-1): lost to Iowa, 27-17 (Week 2)

Texas (1-1): lost to Arkansas, 40-21 (Week 2)

Kansas (1-1): lost to Coastal Carolina, 49-22 (Week 2)

BIG TEN CONFERENCE

The Ohio State loss to Oregon should be a wakeup call for the Buckeyes’ defense. The performance of Iowa over Iowa State is noteworthy in the West, as the Hawkeyes moved up to No. 5 in the AP Poll this week.

Still in the hunt:

#5 Iowa (2-0)

Iowa’s win in the CyHawk Series was huge for the Big Ten as the Hawkeyes’ defense stifled Iowa State QB Brock Purdy (12/27 for 138 yards and 3 INT). They draw Penn State in interconference play this year; the Nittany Lions look to have bounced back from a fluke 2020 season.

#10 Penn State (2-0)

#25 Michigan (2-0)

Michigan State (2-0)

Maryland (2-0)

Rutgers (2-0)

Purdue (2-0)

Early tumblers:

#9 Ohio State (1-1): lost to Oregon, 35-28 (Week 2)

#18 Wisconsin (1-1): lost to Penn State, 16-10 (Week 1)

Minnesota (1-1): lost to Ohio State, 45-31 (Week 1)

Northwestern (1-1): lost to Michigan State, 38-21 (Week 1)

Indiana (1-1): lost to Iowa, 34-6 (Week 1)

Nebraska (2-1): lost to Illinois, 30-22 (Week 0)

The current bubble:

Illinois (1-2): lost to UTSA, 37-30 (Week 1) & Virginia, 42-14 (Week 2)

CONFERENCE USA

C-USA is down to only three 2-0 teams heading into Week 3 with Marshall, Charlotte, and UTSA leading the way.

Still in the hunt:

Marshall (2-0)

The Thundering Herd offense will rely heavily on QB Grant Wells (34/47 for 347 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT against NC Central) in C-USA play this year. East Carolina and App State will be good nonconference tests before heading into C-USA East play.

Charlotte (2-0)

UTSA (2-0)

The current bubble:

Louisiana Tech (1-1): lost to Mississippi State, 35-34 (Week 1)

Florida Atlantic (1-1): lost to Florida, 35-14 (Week 1)

Middle Tennessee (1-1): lost to Virginia Tech, 35-14 (Week 2)

Western Kentucky (1-1): lost to Army, 38-35 (Week 2)

FIU (1-1): lost to Texas State, 23-17 (OT) (Week 2)

UAB (1-1): lost to Georgia, 56-7 (Week 2)

Old Dominion (1-1): lost to Wake Forest, 42-10 (Week 1)

North Texas (1-1): lost to SMU, 35-12 (Week 2)

UTEP (2-1): lost to Boise State, 54-13 (Week 2)

Southern Miss (1-1): lost to South Alabama, 31-7 (Week 1)

Eliminated:

Rice (0-2): eliminated with loss to Houston, 44-7 (Week 2)

INDEPENDENTS (FBS)

Notre Dame’s narrow escape of Toledo was difficult to watch as they dropped out of the top 10 this week. The big mover was BYU, who took down a ranked Utah squad for the first time since 2009.

Still in the hunt:

#12 Notre Dame (2-0)

#23 BYU (2-0)

BYU utilized the return of RB Tyler Allgeier (27 carries for 97 yards) and the play of QB Jaren Hall (18/30 for 149 yards, 3 TD) to control Utah’s defense the entire game. The schedule is strong enough for BYU to be the highest ranked independent, especially if Notre Dame drops a game.

Army (2-0)

Liberty (2-0)

Eliminated:

UConn (0-3): eliminated with loss to Holy Cross, 38-28 (Week 2)

UMass (0-2): eliminated with loss to Boston College, 45-28 (Week 2)

New Mexico State (0-3): eliminated with loss to San Diego State, 28-10 (Week 1)

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE

The MAC’s strongest performer was Toledo, who almost went on the road and beat Notre Dame in a packed house. None of the conference members made it through Week 2 without a blemish.

The current bubble:

Toledo (1-1)

A primetime television game didn’t stop Toledo from heavily competing with Notre Dame, knocking them out of the AP top 10. A balanced rushing attack and a pretty decent O-line performance should be a confidence booster for this Rockets’ team.

Central Michigan (1-1): lost to Missouri, 34-24 (Week 1)

Kent State (1-1): lost to Texas A&M, 41-10 (Week 1)

Ball State (1-1): lost to Penn State, 44-13 (Week 2)

Eastern Michigan (1-1) lost to Wisconsin, 34-7 (Week 2)

Western Michigan (1-1): lost to Michigan, 47-14 (Week 1)

Buffalo (1-1): lost to Nebraska, 28-3 (Week 2)

Northern Illinois (1-1): lost to Wyoming, 50-43 (Week 2)

Eliminated:

Akron (0-2): eliminated with loss to Temple, 45-24 (Week 2)

Bowling Green (0-2): eliminated with loss to South Alabama, 22-19 (Week 2)

Miami (OH) (0-2): eliminated with loss to Minnesota, 31-26 (Week 2)

Ohio (0-2): eliminated with loss to Duquesne, 28-26 (Week 2)

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE

The Mountain West’s strong start to the season includes six 2-0 teams (highest amongst the Group of Five). I like the Mountain West’s chances to have a few teams see an appearance in the AP Poll this year.

Still in the hunt:

Nevada (2-0)

San Diego State (2-0)

A dominant win over lowly Arizona showed off the Aztec’s strong rushing attack as they finished with 271 yards on the ground. They get Utah this week, which would be a massive statement win. The Utes are coming off their first loss to BYU since 2009.

Utah State (2-0)

Air Force (2-0)

Wyoming (2-0)

New Mexico (2-0)

The current bubble:

Fresno State (2-1): lost to Oregon, 31-24 (Week 1)

Boise State (1-1): lost to UCF, 36-31 (Week 1)

San Jose State (1-1): lost to USC, 30-7 (Week 1)

Eliminated:

Colorado State (0-2): eliminated with loss to Vanderbilt, 24-21 (Week 2)

Hawai’i (1-2): eliminated with loss to Oregon State, 45-27 (Week 2)

UNLV (0-2): eliminated with loss to Arizona State, 37-10 (Week 2)

PAC-12 CONFERENCE

The firing of Clay Helton at USC and Oregon’s win at Ohio State were the highlights of the Pac-12’s weekend. Oregon now controls their own playoff destiny.

Still in the hunt:

#4 Oregon (2-0)

#13 UCLA (2-0)

The Bruins received a much-deserved bye after helping their conference with a win over LSU in Week 1. They have a tough Fresno State squad this weekend, who only lost to Oregon by seven.

#19 Arizona State (2-0)

Early tumblers:

Colorado (1-1): lost to Texas A&M, 10-7 (Week 2)

Utah (1-1): lost to BYU, 26-17 (Week 2)

Stanford (1-1): lost to Kansas State, 24-7 (Week 1)

USC (1-1): lost to Stanford, 42-28 (Week 2)

Oregon State (1-1): lost to Purdue, 30-21 (Week 1)

Washington State (1-1): lost to Utah State, 26-23 (Week 1)

The current bubble:

Arizona (0-2): lost to BYU, 24-16 (Week 1) & San Diego State, 38-14 (Week 2)

California (0-2): lost to Nevada, 22-17 (Week 1) & TCU, 34-32 (Week 2)

Washington (0-2): lost to Montana, 13-7 (Week 1) & Michigan, 31-10 (Week 2)

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

The SEC West is the nation’s top division. Arkansas’ upset win over Texas proved that, along with the offensive showcases of Ole Miss and Auburn. And of course, Alabama.

Still in the hunt:

#1 Alabama (2-0)

#2 Georgia (2-0)

Georgia QB Stetson Bennett threw five TDs on only ten completions against UAB on Saturday. They have a balanced rushing attack and arguably the best defense in the country heading into Week 3.

#7 Texas A&M (2-0)

#11 Florida (2-0)

#17 Ole Miss (2-0)

#20 Arkansas (2-0)

#22 Auburn (2-0)

Kentucky (2-0)

Mississippi State (2-0)

South Carolina (2-0)

Early tumblers:

LSU (1-1): lost to UCLA, 38-27 (Week 1)

Tennessee (1-1): lost to Pitt, 41-34 (Week 2)

Missouri (1-1): lost to Kentucky, 35-28 (Week 2)

Vanderbilt (1-1): lost to East Tennessee State, 23-3 (Week 1)

SUN BELT CONFERENCE

App State gave Miami (FL) a scare over the weekend as Coastal Carolina dismantled Kansas. QB Grayson McCall has been electric and efficient for Coastal and is a huge reason for their current success.

Still in the hunt:

#16 Coastal Carolina (2-0)

South Alabama (2-0)

The only other 2-0 team in the Sun Belt will play host to HBCU Alcorn State on Saturday night. Their final three games of App State, Tennessee, and Coastal is the toughest stretch regarding conference members.

The current bubble:

Appalachian State (1-1): lost to Miami, 25-23 (Week 2)

Troy (1-1): lost to Liberty, 21-13 (Week 2)

Arkansas State (1-1): lost to Memphis, 55-50 (Week 2)

Texas State (1-1): lost to Baylor, 29-20 (Week 1)

Louisiana (1-1): lost to Texas, 38-18 (Week 1)

Louisiana-Monroe (0-1): lost to Kentucky, 45-10 (Week 1)

Georgia Southern (1-1): lost to Florida Atlantic, 38-6 (Week 2)

Eliminated:

Georgia State (0-2): eliminated with loss to UNC, 59-17 (Week 2)

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