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Zach Pekale | | November 29, 2020

How Week 13 shaped the College Football Playoff picture

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Week 13 marked the first slate of FBS games following the release of the opening edition of the 2020 College Football Playoff rankings. Sixteen teams from those rankings took the field throughout the week. Some bolstered their résumés while others are now trending in the opposite direction. Here's how Week 13 of the college football shaped the postseason picture.

Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson roll

The CFP's top three teams all held serve this weekend. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Notre Dame handily knocked off top 25 teams in No. 22 Auburn and No. 19 North Carolina by multiple scores while No. 3 Clemson routed Pittsburgh in Trevor Lawrence's return.

Alabama cruised 42-13 in the Iron Bowl despite head coach Nick Saban having to watch from home due to COVID-19. Quarterback Mac Jones picked apart Auburn's pesky defense, adding to his Heisman Trophy chances with the help of wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Jones and Smith linked up seven times for 171 yards and two scores. Jones finished with 302 passing yards and five touchdowns with the Tide firmly in the driver's seat of the SEC West.

Notre Dame also remained unbeaten after a 31-17 win over the 19th-ranked Tar Heels. UNC put a brief scare into ND with scores on their first two drives before the Fighting Irish allowed three points the rest of the way. Irish running back Kyren Williams recorded his fifth 100-yard game of the season to go with three total touchdowns. The Irish are on the doorstep of an ACC Championship Game appearance, which could wind up being a rematch of their 2OT thriller against Clemson

Speaking of the Tigers, Clemson improved to 8-1 with a 52-17 win over Pittsburgh. Trevor Lawrence showed no rust in his first game since Oct. 24 while the Tigers returned to the field following a three week layoff and their first regular season loss in over two years. Lawrence threw for 403 yards and two touchdowns while the defense forced five turnovers. Clemson moved ahead of Miami (Fla.) for second place in the ACC — 7-1 to 6-1 — but also owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Hurricanes.

CFP impact: Don't expect much movement at the top, if any. 

Ohio State misses second straight game

The Buckeyes were ranked fourth in the CFP poll, but have since drifted into uncharted territory after being sidelined for the second week in a row due to COVID-19. Despite a perfect record and sole possession of first place in the Big Ten East standings at 4-0, conference rules add a wrinkle when it comes to being eligible for the Big Ten Championship game in terms of minimum games played.

CFP impact: There's only been one instance (2017) through the CFP's first six years where the top four teams remained the same from a season's first poll to its second. Ohio State's COVID uncertainty could adversely affect its Playoff positioning.

Week 13 risers and fallers

Like we mentioned above, some teams improved their Playoff chances this week while others saw their postseason hopes take a hit. Here are our CFP risers and fallers from Week 13:

Rising: Florida — Don't look now, but the No. 6 Gators are 5-0 and winning by an average of 22.6 points per game since their early-season loss to Texas A&M. Sure, the head-to-head result with the Aggies is an interesting wrinkle as we get deeper into the season, but Florida has the better chance to play for a conference title, at least at this moment. UF steamrolled Kentucky 34-10 in Week 13 to tighten its grip on the SEC East. Kyle Trask threw for three touchdowns, all to Kyle Pitts, and quietly continues to put up numbers comparable to Joe Burrow's production at LSU a year ago.

Falling: The Pac-12 — Playing a six-game schedule was already seen as a disadvantage when it comes to the CFP. Oregon was the league's highest-ranked team at No. 15 before a 41-38 loss to Oregon State. The Ducks were widely considered the conference's best shot at returning to the CFP for the first time since 2016 (Washington). No. 18 USC is the conference's only other ranked team and was unable to move the needle as it had to cancel its Week 13 game against Colorado.

Rising: Indiana — Northwestern was arguably the talk of the Big Ten on Tuesday night. But after the No. 8 Wildcats were upset by Michigan State in Week 13, the No. 12 Hoosiers could once again be a top-10 team. IU beat Maryland 27-11 to move into sole possession of second place in the Big Ten East, though a leg injury to quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is definitely something to monitor moving forward. With Ohio State needing to remain eligible for the Big Ten Championship, the 5-1 Hoosiers are waiting in the wings should the Buckeyes miss out.

Falling: Group of Five teams — Cincinnati's No. 7 ranking is a Group of Five record for any CFP poll while BYU checked in at No. 14. Both could take a hit this weekend for not playing. The Bearcats' game with Temple was canceled due to COVID-19 while the Cougars were unable to get an opponent scheduled. A head-to-head matchup would be fun. BYU's only game left on the schedule is Dec. 12 vs. San Diego State; Cincinnati travels to Tulsa the same day.

The next CFP rankings will be released at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 1 on ESPN.

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