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College Football Playoff breakdown: Who are the 'way-too-early' top contenders?

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The Way-Too-Early 2021 college football rankings (2:23)

Mark Schlabach looks at the Way-Too-Early college football rankings with Alabama and Clemson seemingly poised to make another run at a CFP opportunity. (2:23)

Blockbuster nonconference games were sorely missed in 2020 -- not just by fans, but also by the College Football Playoff selection committee members, who typically rely on those results to help them compare teams and overall strength of schedule.

This year, Clemson and Georgia open the season in Charlotte, North Carolina, a game that will have immediate and lasting implications on the CFP race. The questions surrounding the playoff field run deeper, though, than who wins in September. Here's a look at how the top 10 teams in Mark Schlabach's Way-Too-Early Top 25 can finish in the top four -- and what might hold them back in 2021.

1. Clemson Tigers

Statement game: Sept. 4 vs. Georgia. It's one of two games against SEC opponents, along with rival South Carolina, that could help cement a top-four finish for Clemson. Going 2-0 against the SEC could also give the Tigers some wiggle room if they were to slip up along the way in the ACC. Of course, that assumes Georgia wins the East and first-year South Carolina coach Shane Beamer has a respectable debut.