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College Football Playoff picture for Week 7: Changes are on deck

There was not an upset in the top 10 in Week 6, and that means the College Football Playoff picture will not change much.

Change, however, is coming soon. Week 7 will feature two – perhaps three – top-10 showdowns.

Alabama visits Tennessee in the latest installment of the Third Saturday in October. Penn State travels to Michigan in a Big Ten East undercard challenge to see who wants to challenge Ohio State. Oklahoma State and TCU meet in a battle of unbeaten Big 12 teams, and Clemson stays on the road at Florida State.

This is the best week of the season to date, and, yes, there will be changes afterward.

BENDER: Tennessee-Alabama hype and more Week 6 overreactions

What does that picture look like now? It still starts with Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State – and all three have a case for that top spot. To this point, the Bulldogs have the best defense, the Buckeyes have the best offense and the Crimson Tide have the best combination of talent on both sides. Of course, that hinges on Bryce Young’s health heading into the matchup against the Volunteers. From there, it’s a scramble for the No. 4 spots, and Michigan can validate its claim with a victory against Penn State.

The first set of College Football Playoff rankings won’t be unveiled until Nov. 1, but Sporting News has a feel for how that looks heading into Week 7:

Week 7 College Football Playoff Picture

Four In

1. Georgia (6-0)

Up next: vs. Vanderbilt

The Bulldogs flipped the switch in the second half of a 42-10 victory against Auburn after a pair of so-so performances by their standards against Kent State and Missouri. Georgia led 14-0 at halftime, and that is when Stetson Bennett (22 of 32, 208 yards) heated up. He hit 15 of 19 passes for 183 yards in the second half, and Georgia pounded Auburn for 292 rushing yards on 7.5 yards per carry. The Bulldogs scored TDs on all five red-zone trips and totaled 500 yards, and the defense allowed 258 total yards. The Commodores come before a bye week – then the SEC East schedule heats up with Florida and Tennessee.

2. Alabama (6-0)

Up next: at No. 8 Tennessee

Alabama survived in a 24-20 victory against Texas A&M that could drop the Crimson Tide out of the top spot. That will be temporary considering the top-10 showdown looms with the Volunteers. Backup quarterback Jalen Milroe finished with 111 passing yards and three TDs, and he added 83 rushing yards in Young’s place. Jahmyr Gibbs added 154 rushing yards, but the offense was limited in the passing game without Young. The Crimson Tide also had four turnovers, and Will Reichard missed a pair of field goals. Alabama is still avoided an upset bid from the Aggies, and Nick Saban is 15-0 against Tennessee. The Crimson Tide are living on the edge, but a win against the Volunteers at Neyland Stadium would alleviate any doubts.

MORE: Alabama holds of Texas A&M’s upset bid

3. Ohio State (6-0)

Up next: Bye

A road test at Michigan State didn’t take long to turn in the Buckeyes’ favor in a 49-20 blowout. CJ Stroud (21 of 26, 361 yards, 6 TDs, INT) shook off an early pick six and threw four first-half TDs to build a 38-13 lead. Injuries to Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Miyan Williams did not matter. Marvin Harrison Jr. (7-131, 3 TDs) had his second hat trick of the season, with a sensational third TD catch in the red zone. Emeka Egbuka (5-143, 2 TDs) added a pair of TDs, and TreVeyon Henderson (19-118, TD) provided the ground support. Ohio State has the deepest offense in the FBS, and the defense limited the Spartans to seven rushing attempts for 20 yards. A bye week should help get those other playmakers healthy.

4. Michigan (6-0)

Up next: vs. No. 10 Penn State

The Wolverines made it to the halfway point with an unbeaten record, and JJ McCarthy (28 of 36, 304 yards, 3 TDs, INT) led a 31-10 victory at Indiana. The Hoosiers sold out to stop Blake Corum (25-124, TD), and McCarthy responded in the second half after throwing his first interception. The defense also turned up the pass rush in the second half. Seven different players had a sack. The Wolverines are not racking up style points, but the showdown with No. 10 Penn State will be a tell-all as far as who challenges Ohio State in the Big Ten East race.

MORE: Michigan assistant Mike Hart taken to hospital after collapsing on sideline

Two out

5. Clemson (6-0)

Up next: at Florida State

The Tigers’ dominant defense resurfaced in a 31-3 victory at Boston College. DJ Uiagalelei passed for 220 yards and three TDs and added 69 yards against the Eagles on a night when Clemson fought to convert on third down. The defense, however, took care of the rest by limiting the Eagles to 34 rushing yards. The Tigers have back-to-back ACC Atlantic tests with Florida and Syracuse the next two weeks, so Clemson coach Dabo Swinney should have no trouble keeping this team focused.

6. USC (6-0)

Up next: at No. 12 Utah

USC answered a few questions in a 30-14 victory against Washington State. The Trojans shut out the Cougars in the second half; a sign the defense is improving under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Caleb Williams (15 of 29, 188 yards, 2 TDs) did not put up monster numbers. Instead, Lincoln Riley opted to grind down Washington State with running back Travis Dye (28-149, TD). USC will find out how that toughness translates at two-loss Utah — the toughest road game to date under Riley.

Four to watch

7. Tennessee (5-0)

Up next: vs. No. 1 Alabama

Bring on Bama. That was the message sent by Tennessee in a 40-13 thumping of No. 25 LSU – the Volunteers’ first victory against the Tigers since 2005. Tennessee racked up 502 yards with a balanced attack led by Hendon Hooker (17 of 27, 239 yards, 2 TDs). Hooker had 282 yards and three TDs in last year’s 52-24 loss to Alabama, and he also threw one of his three interceptions since last season. Neyland Stadium will be rocking, and this is Tennessee’s best chance to break a 15-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide. Will receiver Cedric Tillman (ankle) return?

8. Oklahoma State (6-0)

Up next: at No. 17 TCU

The Big 12 is down to two unbeaten teams, and they meet in Week 7. The Cowboys trailed Texas Tech in the third quarter before ripping off 18 unanswered points in a 41-31 victory. Spencer Sanders totaled 297 passing yards, 56 rushing yards and three total TDs to keep his fringe Heisman campaign rolling. The defense allowed 527 yards, another reminder that Big 12 games can get wild in the second half. The Cowboys and Horned Frogs have split the last eight meetings, but Oklahoma State won the last meeting 63-17.

9. Penn State (5-0)

Up next: at No. 4 Michigan

Penn State started off 5-0 last season before a loss at No. 3 Iowa changed the trajectory of a 7-6 season. Sean Clifford left that loss with an injury. Now, Clifford is tasked with engineering a victory at Michigan Stadium – which he did in 2020. The Nittany Lions also will rely on the tag team of freshman running backs Nick Singleton (474 ​​yards, 5 TDs) and Kaytron Allen (303 yards, 3 TDs). This is a chance to pick up a third impressive road victory under coach James Franklin.

10. Ole Miss (6-0)

Up next: vs. Auburn

The Rebels are the fourth SEC team on this list. Vanderbilt led Ole Miss 20-17 at halftime, and the Commodores sold out to stop the Rebels’ prolific rushing attack of Zach Evans (11-80, TD) and Quinshon Judkins (11-46, 2 TDs). Jaxson Dart (25 of 32, 448 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) shook off a few mistakes to have his best game at quarterback this season. He averaged 14 yards per attempt. Lane Kiffin has the Rebels perfect at the midway point. UCLA could slide into this position based on an impressive victory against No. 11 Utah, but we’ll stick with the Rebels for now.