Most of the exhibition games are winding down and the race for a spot in the first four-team College Football Playoff is finally starting to get serious. The biggest change this week is the exit of Georgia, which lost a heartbreaker at South Carolina(38-35), and the arrival of Oklahoma at No. 4.
Here are the 12 teams I have in the discussion this week. Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong.
THE FIRST FOUR
1) Oregon (3-0): The Ducks continue to be the most impressive team to date and quarterback Marcus Mariota has played his way to the top of a lot of Heisman Trophy lists. He completed 19 of 23 passes while throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more last week against Wyoming. Washington State won’t present a challenge this Saturday, even though the game is in Pullman.
2) Auburn (2-0): The Tigers were off last week as they prepared for Thursday night’s trip to Kansas State. But its season-opening win against Arkansas (45-21) is looking better each week. Win in Little Manhattan on Thursday and the buildup will start for Auburn’s Oct. 4 game with LSU at Jordan-Hare.
3) Florida State (2-0): I just don’t think we learned a whole lot watching the defending national champs beat Oklahoma State (37-31) and The Citadel (37-12). The ACC schedule starts this week with a visit from Clemson. An Oct. 18 visit from Notre Dame now looks a little more interesting.
4) Oklahoma (3-0): The Sooners looked like a complete team in a 34-10 win over Tennessee last Saturday in Norman. Quarterback Trevor Knight passed for 308 and looks like a confident, consistent player. Interesting trip to West Virginia coming this week. The Sooners will be without Keith Ford, their leading rusher, for a least a couple of weeks.
THE SECOND FOUR
5) Texas A&M (3-0): The Aggies are getting a lot of mileage out of their beatdown of South Carolina on Aug. 28. They’ll have their third consecutive scrimmage this week with SMU before an interesting matchup with Arkansas in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 27.
6) Alabama (3-0): A bunch of questions still remain about the Crimson Tide but we should start getting some answers this week against Florida.
7) LSU (3-0): The Tigers finally begin SEC play with a visit from Mississippi State (3-0). LSU has gone nine consecutive quarters without giving up a point.
8) Baylor (3-0): The Bears have scored 178 points in their first three games against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. But Saturday, Baylor goes to Iowa State (1-2), which took Kansas State to the wire (before losing 32-28) and then beat Iowa (20-17).
THE LAST FOUR
9) Michigan State (1-1): I’m a big believer in quality losses and I still believe Michigan State’s stumble at No. 1 Oregon was a quality loss. I think this team will go 12-1 which means the Spartans are in the conversation.
10) Notre Dame (3-0): The Irish will go to 4-0 after a trip to Syracuse and then the schedule gets serious with Stanford, North Carolina and consecutive trips to FSU, Navy (FedEx Field, Landover, Md.) and Arizona State.
11) South Carolina (2-1): Steve Spurrier showed why he is one of the best coaches of our generation as his team has recovered from an embarrassing loss to Texas A&M to post wins over East Carolina (33-23) and Georgia (38-35) the past two weeks.
12) Georgia (1-1): As disappointing as the loss at South Carolina was for the Bulldogs, I still think they are one of the Top 12 teams in the country. We’ll see if Georgia can bounce back against Tennessee next week. Back-to-back trips to Missouri and Arkansas in October now look a lot different.