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Oct 10, 2015 11:45 PM

Playoff Pulse: Michigan moving toward playoff contention

The Associated Press

The rebuilding project at Michigan appears to be in overdrive while Georgia has been downgraded from College Football Playoff contender to promising team with a season slipping away.

The 18th-ranked Wolverines pitched a third straight shutout, hammering previously unbeaten and No. 13 Northwestern 38-0 Saturday to set up a huge rivalry game next week in Ann Arbor against No. 4 Michigan State.

The Spartans have owned Michigan in recent years, winning six of seven meetings. But this is Jim Harbaugh's Michigan. This looks like a very different bunch of Wolverines. Meanwhile, the Spartans (6-0) are unbeaten but laboring. For the second straight week, they slipped by a team at the bottom of the Big Ten, winning 31-24 at Rutgers.

Michigan (5-1) has outscored its last three opponents 97-0 and 160-14 during a five-game winning streak since losing the opener at No. 5 Utah.

"The fellas really came out ballin' right from the start," Harbaugh said Saturday after the latest rout.

Harbaugh's arrival at his alma mater was the story of the offseason, but conventional wisdom was it would take the former Michigan quarterback at least a year to get the Wolverines back into the national championship conversation.

Well, now Michigan is a win away from barging into the thick of the playoff race seven games into the Harbaugh era.

While the Wolverines are trending up, No. 19 Georgia is sliding fast.

A week after getting crushed at home by Alabama, the Bulldogs let a 21-point lead get away at Tennessee, losing 38-31. Georgia also lost Heisman Trophy contender Nick Chubb to a knee injury on the game's first snap. The severity is still unknown, but coach Mark Richt was hopeful after the game that his star won't need surgery.

A bright spot, yes, but the last two weeks have been crushing for Georgia. So much was expected of Richt's team and the SEC East looked ripe for the taking this season, with Tennessee still growing up, Florida in its first season under a new head coach and Missouri doing some retooling after consecutive division titles.

With two SEC losses already, that division crown could already be out of reach for the Bulldogs.

"I feel like we're a resilient team and we'll be able to come back and move forward from this," quarterback Greyson Lambert said.

Home games against Missouri and Florida in the next three weeks will determine how the Bulldogs move forward.



No. 10 Oklahoma is not out of the College Football Playoff race after being upset 24-17 by Texas at the Cotton Bowl, but the Sooners simply don't look like a team that is a real threat to run the table in a very competitive Big 12.

Oklahoma got pushed around on both lines by the Longhorns, which does not bode well for next week's trip to Kansas State, not to mention November games at No. 3 Baylor and No. 2 TCU. The Horned Frogs needed late-game heroics from the best quarterback-receiver duo in the nation, Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson, to win 52-45 at K-State.

Sooners fans have been beyond frustrated with coach Bob Stoops' program in recent years. Oklahoma, which owned the Big 12 for so long, has slipped into the pack.

Stoops revamped his staff in the offseason, bringing in offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to rev up the Air Raid offense, but the Sooners are still stuck outside the elite programs in the country.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP


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