With three weeks left in the regular season and an unknown number of games remaining amid consistent COVID-19 postponements and cancellations, the College Football Playoff picture is beginning to come into focus as 2020 draws to a close. It is clear that the SEC and ACC are in great standing as we enter the home stretch, but that is not necessarily the case for the rest of the Power Five conferences.
Here are some conclusions we can draw to this point …
Ohio State is in trouble. What was described over the weekend by school officials as a significant outbreak of COVID-19 forced a cancellation of the Illinois game. The Buckeyes are in danger of being ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game if one more game is missed. That is not to say an undefeated Ohio State couldn't reach the playoff without a Big Ten title, but when all the other participants are conference champions, well, it could get sticky.
The Pac-12 is probably be all but out of the playoff race. Its best team, Oregon, lost a Black Friday rivalry game to Oregon State. USC, Washington and Colorado are still undefeated but are ranked so far back that it will be tough to see them make a dent simply by the eye test.
Iowa State is the best team in the Big 12. When is the last time you read those words? The Cyclones entered the top 10 of these Power Rankings for the first time this season after a dramatic win at Texas. They're not flashy. They're not five-stars. But they'll clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game with another victory.
The biggest winners of the weekend may have been Cincinnati and Texas A&M. Both are fringe playoff possibilities if Alabama and Notre Dame win out. With the news out of Ohio State, the Pac-12 floundering and the Big 12 already out of the CFP race, there was nothing but good news for the Bearcats and Aggies this weekend.
|North Carolina had Notre Dame on the run until the Fighting Irish turned into themselves in the second half. A 14-0 run ended an easy 31-17 win that brought ND closer to the ACC Championship Game. It seems almost an insult call Ian Book an above average game manager. He had 327 yards of total offense.||--||10-2|
|The Crimson Tide somehow competed without Nick Saban (out with COVID-19) in the building. Mac Jones made up for his pair of pick sixes in last year's Iron Bowl with five touchdown passes in a 42-13 laugher over Auburn. DeVonta Smith has six touchdowns over the last three games. Maybe we should reevaluate Saban's value to the team. (Just kidding.)||--||13-0|
|Who was this No. 16 kid with the long hair at quarterback? I didn't recognize him. Wait, that was Trevor Lawrence? I'd forgotten he was on the team. It had been five weeks since he played. Anyway, this Lawrence kid has a future. He threw for 402 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh. Afterward, TL tipped his hand referencing his "last night in Death Valley."||1||10-2|
|Idle. An outbreak in Franklin County (Ohio) and an outbreak within the Buckeyes caused the cancellation of the Illinois game. They're all must win from here on in (at Michigan State, at home against Michigan) as Ohio State hopes for that Big Ten title game bullet point.||1||7-1|
|Kyle Trask is reaaallly slacking. His second straight game with only three touchdown passes resulted in a 34-10 win over Kentucky. Kyle Pitts returned to catch all three of those scores from Trask. Pitts has 11 on the year or one for every half of football he's played. For the first time since 2008, the Gators have defeated four SEC opponents by at least 20 points. They can clinch the SEC East this week at Tennessee.||--||8-4|
|Idle. The Temple game was wiped out. The best the Bearcats can do is 10-0. Their competition, as it stands, is Alabama (if it loses the SEC title game), Notre Dame (if it loses the ACC title game, though it may get in anyway), Texas A&M, Ohio State and Northwestern. Coach Luke Fickell continues to emerge as a candidate as jobs begin to open.||--||9-1|
|Idle. No blame from here on passing on the Washington game. No need for the Cougars to schedule a Pac-12 game to have it pulled out from underneath them later in the week. The Pac-12 allows schools to drop nonconference opponents through Thursday if a Pac-12 opponent becomes available. Washington eventually picked up Utah last week.||--||11-1|
|In the rain on an off night, the Aggies slogged their way past LSU, 20-7. Kellen Mond was horrid, going 11 of 34 for 105 yards. Is this the look of a playoff team?||1||9-1|
|The Hoosiers won the game but lost their quarterback. Michael Penix Jr. left in the third quarter with a right lower leg injury. The defense did more than enough in a 27-11 win over Maryland with three sacks and three turnovers.||2||6-2|
|It has to go down as one of the biggest wins in Iowa State history. The Cyclones roared back from a 10-0 deficit on the road to win late 23-20 at Texas. That was the program's first win in road game between two ranked teams. At 7-1, Iowa State is off to its best conference start. Can't wait for an Iowa State-Oklahoma rematch.||6||9-3|
|Idle. Meanwhile, the Sooners would settle for any kind of rematch. Their losses are to Kansas State and Iowa State. In the last four games, Spencer Rattler has thrown nine touchdowns to just one interception.||1||9-2|
|Kirby Smart took no pleasure in beating up South Carolina, 45-16. The Gamecocks were missing 20 players. Another seven have opted out since Will Muschamp was fired. The performance might have been the Dawgs' best of the season. "It's hard to say that," Smart said, "because of the quality of the competition."||1||8-2|
|Idle. You have to wonder where the Hurricanes' heads are at. They will have not played for almost a month when they face North Carolina on Dec. 12. Over the weekend, this Saturday's game against Wake Forest was postponed.||1||8-3|
|Clearly a Wisconsin hangover in a 29-20 loss to Michigan State. The team motivated by a television analyst last week couldn't get past the 1-3 Spartans. The Big Ten is now one more Ohio State cancellation from the effectively being guaranteed a one-loss champion (at best). That's no bueno for the playoff.||4||7-2|
|The Pac-12 may have seen its diminished playoff chances go pfft late Friday. The Ducks just couldn't stop Jermar Jefferson, who set a series record with 227 yards rushing in a 41-38 win. It has to be a concern that Tyler Shough has four interceptions in four games.||7||4-3|
|With their season on the line, the Cowboys survived a furious comeback by Texas Tech to win 50-44. The game featured 1,178 yards, seven offensive touchdowns of at least 20 yards and six turnovers. Dezmon Jackson ran for 235 yards in place of injured Chuba Hubbard. That's the fourth-highest total by a back in the Mike Gundy era. The Cowboys still alive for the Big 12 but need help.||1||8-3|
|The Chanticleers clinched a spot in the Sun Belt Championship Game with a 49-14 win at Texas State. In a steady rain, Coastal ran for 406 yards. Before the season, the Chants were picked to finish last in the Sun Belt East.||--||11-1|
|Billy Napier was stuck at home during the week recovering from COVID-19. He then joined the Ragin' Cajuns in time to watch them trounce Louisiana-Monroe, 70-20. For the first time since 2016, two teams scored at least 70 points on the same day. Buffalo beat Kent State, 70-41.||7||10-1|
|Idle. Another week off. The Thundering Herd will have three weeks between games when they play Rice this week (hopefully). Marshall leads Conference USA in scoring offense and scoring defense but still hasn't clinched the CUSA East.||1||7-3|
|Idle. Biggest beneficiary in the Pac-12 shuffling might be the Trojans. They didn't play, remain undefeated and watched Oregon lose. They have two games left (Washington State and UCLA) to sew up the Pac-12 South.||1||5-1|
|Might as well change their names to the Golden Idles. After losing the Houston game on Saturday, Tulsa has had a combined 54 days in delays/postponements/cancellations. It hopefully plays Navy on Saturday before what is likely to be back-to-back games against Cincinnati. Second one in the AAC Championship Game.||3||6-3|
|Idle. What do the Badgers have to play for? Not the Big Ten West as they have been effectively eliminated after having three games canceled. Indiana comes to Camp Randall Stadium this week.||1||4-3|
|It's time to account for the Buffaloes. They're undefeated and have a path to the Pac-12 Championship Game after a 20-10 win over San Diego State. The Aztecs scored only three points offensively. (The other was a pick six.) They ran 59 plays. Colorado limited SDSU to zero or negative yards on 30 of those plays.||NR||4-2|
|The Huskies announced themselves as a Pac-12 after coming from behind to beat Utah, 24-21. Dylan Morris hit Cade Otton with the game-winning touchdown pass with 36 seconds left. The Huskies scored 24 unanswered points after trailing by three touchdowns at halftime. The game was an arranged marriage after Washington had the Apple Cup canceled against Washington State and Utah was unable to play Arizona State.||NR||3-1|
|Malik Willis threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a 45-0 skunking of UMass. Credit Kent Austin, the quarterbacks coach/co-offensive coordinator, who is having one of the best seasons of his career. Austin inherited Willis after spending 20 years in the CFL as a player, coach and administrator.||NR||10-1|