Each weekend during the regular season, USA TODAY Sports will be highlighting the race for the College Football Playoff. Here are three teams moving up and three teams moving down in the sprint for the four-team field after Week 6 of the regular season:
TEAMS THAT PLAYED THEIR WAY IN
Texas A&M. A perfect 6-0 for the first time since 1994, Texas A&M looks every bit the national championship contender. The quarterback position has been steadied by the addition of Trevor Knight, even if he can improve. The running game has been fantastic. The defensive line is a behemoth. And beating Tennessee at Kyle Field is another good sign, as the Aggies had struggled at home against ranked competition under Kevin Sumlin.
Boise State. The odds of Boise making the four-team Playoff field are infinitesimal. Still, the Broncos are a huge beneficiary of Houston’s loss at Navy. Now 5-0, Boise might have the best shot of any team in the country at going unbeaten through the regular season; the toughest remaining tests are Brigham Young, Air Force and the Mountain West title game.
Washington. The Huskies were already in. Let’s just give them a little love: UW has ripped through Stanford and Oregon in back-to-back weeks to storm to the front of the race in the Pac-12. After 12 years of frustration, Saturday’s win against the Ducks — scoring 70 points in Autzen Stadium — won’t soon be forgotten.
TEAMS THAT PLAYED THEIR WAY OUT
Houston. Unlike a contender from the Power Five ranks, Houston’s hopes for the Playoff won’t survive Saturday’s loss to Navy. That’s life among the Group of Five. But the Cougars still have much to play for, most notably another American Athletic Conference championship and a return to a New Year’s Six bowl. They should get there by running the table through the regular season.
Tennessee. Losing to Texas A&M isn’t a death knell for the Volunteers’ Playoff chances by any means — it makes things more difficult, removing the margin for error, but Tennessee is still in the mix. The loss simply makes things a little dicey leading into this weekend’s date with Alabama, which after the Tide’s recent run of dominance stands as a rivalry in name alone. So, to put it simply: Tennessee is still a contender even with a single loss, since a one-loss SEC champion will make the Playoff. But after dropping one to A&M, the Volunteers need to win out.
Stanford. This much we know is true: Stanford was overrated in the preseason and overrated through September. Sometimes great programs and great coaching staffs have average seasons. That looks to be the case with the Cardinal in 2016. It’s happened before. After losing five games in 2014, Stanford bounced back to win the Rose Bowl a year ago.