How Week 7 upsets shook up the CFP race in each Power 5 conference

Huskies' loss affects more than just playoff (0:46)

Heather Dinich reacts to Washington's shocking loss to Arizona State and says that it affects not only their playoff chances but also the entire Pac-12's. (0:46)

This time, it wasn't just #Pac12AfterDark.

Upsets were contagious in Week 7, reminding everyone how difficult it is to finish the season undefeated and shaking up the College Football Playoff picture just two weeks before the selection committee announces its first ranking of the season on Oct. 31.

Four Associated Press top-10 teams and five unbeaten teams lost this week, and seven ranked teams lost to unranked teams. That was just one shy of the most in a single week in AP poll history (since 1936). So now what?

Here's a fresh look at where each conference stands:


Lead contenders: Clemson, NC State, Miami

Lesson learned in Week 7: Clemson can still finish in the top four as a one-loss conference champion, just as it did during last season's national championship run, but it's going to need some help along the way. Wins against beleaguered Florida State and Louisville aren't going to boost Clemson's résumé like they did a year ago, when the Tigers had to overcome a home loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 12.

There are different variables at work in the ACC this season, as the balance of power has shifted, and NC State and undefeated Miami are now leading their respective division races. After Clemson's shocking loss at Syracuse on Friday night, NC State is the only team left in the Atlantic Division that controls its own destiny. It also doesn't help Clemson that Auburn lost to LSU to drop to 5-2. (Clemson beat Auburn in Week 2.) Clemson needs to first get starting quarterback Kelly Bryant healthy, and he has a bye week to recover from a nagging ankle injury and concussion before facing Georgia Tech. For Clemson to win the ACC Atlantic, it has to win out and Syracuse has to lose again.

How concerned the league should be: As of this week, not very. The ACC was fortunate that Miami beat Georgia Tech and NC State defeated Pitt because the league still has three potential CFP contenders. Clemson travels to Raleigh to play the Wolfpack on Nov. 4 in what could be a matchup of top-10 teams. Clemson's win against Auburn took a hit after the Tigers lost to LSU, but it still carries more weight than any nonconference wins from Washington, Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Who can make a move: NC State. The Wolfpack head into a bye week and will begin preparing for a two-week stretch that could change the perception of the program. They head to Notre Dame on Oct. 28 before hosting Clemson the following week. Should the Wolfpack win both of those games against two CFP contenders, it would catapult them from afterthought to contender, and the season-opening loss to South Carolina could be forgiven. If NC State loses at Notre Dame, though, it also would lose its shot at the playoff. And if it were to go on to dethrone Clemson as the ACC champ, that would imperil the league's CFP chances.

Big 12

Lead contenders: TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

Lesson learned in Week 7: TCU is carrying the banner for the Big 12, but Oklahoma isn't done yet. The Horned Frogs should enter the top four of the AP poll this week at Clemson's expense, as they remain the only undefeated team in the Big 12 and now have Power 5 road wins at Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. They avoided a letdown after an emotional home win against West Virginia and have been one of the country's most complete teams. They still have to play Oklahoma, though, and the Sooners showed with their win over rival Texas that their shocking home loss to Iowa State on Oct. 7 wasn't the end of their CFP hopes.

How concerned the league should be: As long as TCU remains undefeated, the Big 12 doesn't have much cause for concern. It currently has three legitimate CFP contenders, and if it can pit a one-loss Oklahoma State against an undefeated TCU in the Big 12 title game, the resurrected conference championship game has a great chance to work in the league's favor.

Who can make a move: Oklahoma State. Don't forget the Cowboys. If they run the table, knocking off Oklahoma in Bedlam along the way, the Cowboys could wind up getting another shot at TCU, the only team that beat them during the regular season. As a one-loss Big 12 champ, Oklahoma State would certainly enter the debate, but its nonconference strength of schedule would be called into question, as its only win against a Power 5 opponent was at 2-5 Pittsburgh.

Big Ten

Lead contenders: Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Lesson learned in Week 7: The Big Ten is still a mystery. This is the conference that has revealed the least, as its top contenders have played some of the weakest schedules. Michigan, which has looked the least like a top-four team, has the best nonconference win, and it was against a mediocre Florida team. We'll find out more about Penn State over the next two weeks, as it hosts Michigan before heading to Ohio State in back-to-back games that will help define the Nittany Lions' place in the playoff. Ohio State's only loss was to Oklahoma, but the Buckeyes are lacking a marquee win. They've looked impressive, albeit against lesser competition, outscoring their five opponents since the loss to the Sooners by a combined score of 266-56.

How concerned the league should be: It certainly shouldn't assume its champion is in. Overall, ESPN's Football Power Index projects Penn State to play the 57th-ranked schedule in the FBS, and Wisconsin is projected to play the 61st-ranked schedule. Each of them would have the worst SOS rank of any playoff qualifier to date. (Washington ranked 55th last season.) If Penn State or Wisconsin wins the Big Ten, its strength of schedule might not stack up against those of the other Power 5 conference champs.

Who can make a move: Penn State. It has the biggest stage to impress the selection committee before the first ranking is revealed on Oct. 31. If the Nittany Lions can beat Michigan and Ohio State, a top-four spot should be theirs to lose.


Lead contenders: USC (6-1), Washington (6-1)

Lesson learned in Week 7: The Pac-12 collectively has zero margin for error, as it's the only Power 5 conference that doesn't have any undefeated teams remaining. #Pac12AfterDark is in full effect this season. Washington lost to unranked Arizona State, Washington State was stunned at Cal on Friday night, and USC already lost to Washington State -- and all of them have even more difficult tests remaining.

How concerned the league should be: Very. Washington State is a "pathetic front-runner," according to coach Mike Leach; USC has gone from top-five to background noise, and Washington's best nonconference win was against 2-4 Rutgers. USC deserves credit for finding a way to win against Utah, but now it has to travel to Notre Dame. The FPI gives the Trojans a 23.8 percent chance to win that game. The Pac-12 is now guaranteed to have at least a one-loss conference champ, and it should hope that it's USC because Washington and Washington State could be hurt by their weak nonconference schedules.

Who can make a move: USC. What separates USC from the Pac-12's contenders in the North is the opportunity it has against Notre Dame. Both USC and the Irish are projected by the FPI to have a regular-season schedule that ranks in the top 10 of the FBS. If either one of those teams can run the table, it would certainly be in the top-four debate.


Lead contenders: Alabama, Georgia

Lesson learned in Week 7: Auburn isn't ready for the CFP. There has yet to be a two-loss team in a CFP semifinal, and Auburn is unlikely to snap that trend after Saturday's second-half collapse against unranked LSU. There's something about Baton Rouge: When Auburn is ranked in the AP top 10, it's 0-4 at LSU, including three losses to unranked LSU teams. Auburn couldn't afford to lose Saturday, not with games against Georgia and Alabama looming.

How concerned the league should be: Not at all. Not with the way Alabama and Georgia are playing, two teams that could both appear in the selection committee's initial top four on Oct. 31. Georgia's win at Notre Dame is evolving into one of the better nonconference wins of the season, and Alabama's win over Florida State in the season opener is still a neutral-site win over a Power 5 team that had its starting quarterback for most of the game. Bottom line: The FPI favors the Tide to win each of their remaining games, and there's just no way the committee would leave out an undefeated Alabama team.

Who can make a move: Georgia. As dominant as Georgia has looked, the SEC remains Alabama and everyone else until proven otherwise. Georgia's most difficult remaining game is Nov. 11 at Auburn, but if the Bulldogs can win out and head into the SEC championship game undefeated, don't rule out the possibility of two SEC teams in the top four if there is chaos in the other Power 5 conference championship games.