With another week of the college football season now behind us, there can be no denying LSU is for real.

We finally had a marquee game for 2019 and this one lived up to the pre-game hype.

While I am not sure I would call the Saturday, Nov. 9 matchup between the Tigers and Alabama the Game of the Century as some have, it certainly was must-see TV. You had two heavyweights slugging it out the entire way with LSU making the plays it had to at the time they had to be made.

With all the points the teams combined for, it is probably overlooked how big that turnover by Alabama was on the first series of the game. The Crimson Tide zipped down the field and was inside the Tiger 10 before an unforced fumble. Those missed points, even if only a field goal, turned out huge.

Of course, many Alabama haters will contend the Tide has been eliminated from the playoff chase. That is not necessarily true but Alabama will have to get some help now.

Let’s make one point clear. You may be able to score points on LSU but I have not seen a team that can stop the Tigers’ offense effectively.

At this point LSU has to be No. 1 While only one poll really matters now no one has more of a claim to the top spot than the Tigers.

Ohio State dismantled another opponent on Saturday and is second on my list. The Buckeyes have been impressive all season and show no signs of having a letdown.

Clemson is third on my list even though the Tigers are undefeated and the defending national champions. Typically, that combination would have a team ranked No. 1. It’s a wise rule to follow that until you are dethroned as king of the mountain, then you are still king.

And regardless of what some people try to convince you, an undefeated Clemson is not going to be left out of the playoffs. It is not going to happen so that is no need to hope for it or to rationalize it in your mind.

So that leaves us with the fourth spot. Penn State plummeted after losing to a still undefeated Minnesota team. Suddenly Golden Gophers head coach PJ Fleck is the hottest name on the coaching circuit. Yes, he recently signed an extension. No, it does not mean he cannot and would not leave.

Minnesota is being pushed as a playoff team now, and don’t overlook this team if it does finish undefeated.

Oregon has been a strong team in 2019, but a loss to Auburn, a team which may only be the third best in its division, may prove too costly for the Ducks to overcome.

Baylor remained undefeated (barely) and this is a story of a program which has risen from the ashes. The Bears have the potential to steadily move up in the playoff rankings but it will take a perfect season to be in contention for the fourth spot. It also needs to stop having trouble with teams it should not have trouble with.

What brings us to the number four playoff team, at least at this point in the season. If the playoffs began today, one would have to say Alabama deserves to be in. In looking at this long-range, the Tide would have to win out and then hope LSU wins the SEC title.

A loss by the Tigers in the SEC title game would end any chance of Alabama getting in. In that scenario, it would be LSU as the non-conference champion all but certainly qualifying, and no matter how strong the SEC is (or is perceived to be) it is never getting three teams into a four-team playoff.

Utah, Oklahoma and Georgia are still in contention but none can afford another loss. And no matter what Bulldog fans say, you cannot overlook that ugly loss to South Carolina which became even uglier after the Gamecocks lost to Appalachian State on Saturday.

Georgia needs to worry about Auburn and Texas A&M. Neither game is automatic. Many thought the South Carolina game was automatic (and it should have been) but you see how that one turned out.

There’s still a good bit to be determined and, as always, it will be fun to watch it all unfold.

Winder resident Chris Bridges is a former sports editor for the Barrow News-Journal. He is a multi-time winner for sports and column writing from the Georgia Press Association, National Newspaper Association and the Georgia Sports Writers Association. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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