Georgia coach Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs entered their bye week with the knowledge they've already done a lot of the heavy lifting for the 2021 season.
The Bulldogs are the nation's consensus No. 1 team, riding a stingy defense that has allowed a Division I-best 6.6 points per game to a 7-0 record that includes victories over four teams that were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 at the time.
The season's initial College Football Playoff rankings will be released Nov. 2, and Georgia is a lock to be atop that list if it defeats Florida on Oct. 30 in Jacksonville. Smart, however, isn't thinking that far ahead — and especially not as far as any playoff scenarios at the end of the season.
"It doesn't get mentioned much," Smart said of his team's No. 1 ranking, during his weekly video news conference. "… What are our threats? Complacency. Good being the enemy of great is something we talk about a lot. We don't want those things to affect us."
Still, a quick glance at the Bulldogs' remaining schedule shows a clear path to Atlanta for the SEC championship game. Their three remaining SEC opponents — Florida, Missouri and Tennessee — are a combined 11-10. If Georgia enters the SEC title game undefeated, it will have a solid chance of making the playoff even if it lost that game.
Georgia might not be the only SEC team to make the playoff. Defending national champion Alabama (6-1) could get there if it runs the table and wins the SEC title game. One-loss Ole Miss and Kentucky are on the wrong end of tiebreakers vs. Alabama and Georgia, respectively.
What about Cincinnati?
When the first playoff rankings are released, the most intriguing question will be where the committee slots Cincinnati. The second-ranked Bearcats (6-0) own a 38-24 victory over Indiana and a 24-13 win at then-No. 9 Notre Dame, but their schedule the rest of the way features only one ranked team, No. 21 SMU. Will that schedule be hefty enough for a Group of Five team to earn its first playoff berth?
Big Ten battles ahead
The Big Ten's chances at one or possibly two playoff teams will start to come into focus Oct. 30, when Michigan (6-0) visits Michigan State (7-0), Penn State (5-1) travels to Ohio State (5-1), and Iowa (6-1) plays at Wisconsin (3-3). The four East Division teams all still play each other, so that race should go down to the final regular-season weekend. For Iowa, the lone route to the playoff would be winning out, including the Big Ten title game.
Bedlam in the Big 12
Led by freshman quarterback Caleb Williams, Oklahoma (7-0) survived that thrilling 55-48 victory over Texas and is a strong contender to make the playoff for the fifth time. To get there, the Sooners must successfully navigate a tough finishing stretch of games at No. 20 Baylor, home vs. Iowa State and at No. 8 Oklahoma State. That Bedlam showdown vs. the Cowboys could be a preview of the Big 12 title game a week later.
Oklahoma State (6-0) could be a playoff factor but faces tricky road games against Iowa State on Saturday and Texas Tech on Nov. 20.
Ducks are Pac-12's hope
Oregon (5-1) must carry the Pac-12's playoff banner the rest of the season because every other team has at least two losses. Saturday's trip to UCLA might be the Ducks' biggest remaining challenge before the conference championship game. In Oregon's favor is its 35-28 win at Ohio State.
ACC might be shut out
With Clemson already with two losses, the ACC's best remaining hope for the playoff appears to be Wake Forest (6-0). Key for the Demon Deacons are back-to-back games against North Carolina State and Clemson in November.