USA TODAY Sports is keeping careful tabs on how each week's wins and losses impact the eventual makeup of the inaugural College Football Playoff. If the season ended today, here are three teams moving into the championship picture and three moving out.
Teams that played their way into the conversation during college football's opening weekend:
LSU. It took the Tigers nearly 40 minutes to gather their wits. In the interim, Wisconsin made them taste some adversity: LSU fell behind 17-7 at halftime and 24-7 after the opener drive of the second half, and needed to pull out a converted fake punt – Les Miles' calling card, after all – to flip momentum back to its advantage. What was 24-7 became 24-10, then 24-13; that turned into 24-21, thanks to a successful two-point conversion, and Kenny Hilliard's 28-yard touchdown run handed the Tigers a 28-24 victory. It's a big win for simple reasons: LSU topped a ranked foe at a neutral site, seemed to develop an identity and survived at its worst. The Tigers should grow even stronger with each passing week.
Ohio State. The Buckeyes survived a scare against Navy, not to mention a major test: The Midshipmen's option-based offense can give even the nation's best teams fits, as it did for much of Ohio State's 34-17 victory. But the clear positive of the win can be found, quite simply, in the win itself. The team that took the field in the opener might just be the weakest group OSU puts forth all season, due to redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett's status as the team's new starting quarterback. As with LSU, it's possible that OSU might eventually look back on the win against Navy as its most crucial victory of the early season.
Georgia. The Bulldogs dominated the second half of a 45-21 win against Clemson like a championship contender should. Georgia scored 21 points in the fourth quarter; Clemson gained 15 yards of offense in the entire second half. Credit new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who flipped the script with some halftime adjustments, and give some credit to Todd Gurley, who put on a Heisman-worthy show. The win serves to validate Georgia's preseason trendiness, vaults the Bulldogs into the playoff conversation and sets up a high-risk showdown with rival South Carolina, which has issues to address.
Teams that played their way out:
South Carolina. The Gamecocks will spend the week at the drawing board, preparing for Georgia. The season isn't lost: South Carolina can recover from Thursday's 52-28 loss to Texas A&M, an altogether humbling experience, but must fix its defense before taking on Gurley and the Bulldogs. The schedule does help, but the Gamecocks must take advantage of the opportunity to regain some national luster by defeating Georgia, Florida, Clemson and others.
Wisconsin. The Badgers may very well end up winning the Big Ten West Division and competing for the conference championship, should the passing game join another powerful ground attack. But the Badgers have to think about what was lost: Wisconsin held a 17-point lead against LSU and let it slip away, shoved aside with ease during the Tigers' dominant final quarter. What hurts worse, perhaps, is the idea that an undefeated season might have been in the cards. For the rest of the regular season, Wisconsin plays just one team ranked in the Amway Coaches Poll – divisional rival Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers come to Camp Randall Stadium.
Clemson. There were only three chances to make a real national impression: Georgia, Florida State and South Carolina. Clemson already lost to the Bulldogs; FSU comes on Sept. 20. The Tigers simply cannot lose another game the rest of the season and claim a spot in the playoff – tough, I know, but a two-loss team isn't going to make the cut. Clemson can only take it one big game at a time, beginning with the Seminoles and continuing until the Gamecocks. To be honest, the Georgia game was the one Clemson could least afford to lose.