What we've learned about the CFP race after Week 3

From ESPN - September 17, 2017

The first of six College Football Playoff rankings is not revealed until Oct. 31, giving the 13 members of the selection committee ample time to watch teams develop before attempting to decipher some form of a playoff pecking order. After just three weeks, however, conference play has begun, nonconference statements have been made, and there are a few lessons we at least think we have learned.

Here's a look at how September has shaped the CFP picture in each conference so far:

ACC: QB Kelly Bryant has what it takes to lead Clemson back to the CFP

One of the biggest questions this offseason was how the defending national champions would replace quarterback Deshaun Watson, and Kelly Bryant has done that remarkably smoothly in his first three games as a starter. He has been so impressive that Watson tweeted, "He will be better than me!" on Saturday night, as Bryant led No. 3 Clemson to a 47-21 road win against No. 14 Louisville. Bryant threw for a career-high 316 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 26 yards with two touchdowns in his first road start.

Clemson's defense again looked like one of the best in the country, as it flustered Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. It was the second straight top-15 team Clemson has defeated, giving the Tigers arguably the best playoff rsum to date. Clemson has a strong case for No. 1, as it has been one of the nation's most complete teams, and the win over Louisville puts it in the driver's seat in the ACC race.

SEC: It's Alabama and everyone else (again)

No. 12 LSU imploded at Mississippi State. No. 15 Auburn looked sloppy against ... Mercer?! And as impressive as No. 24 Florida's Hail Mary was to beat No. 23 Tennessee 26-20, neither team looked capable of matching up with No. 1 Alabama (again).

Mississippi State's defense is probably better than expected, and with their 37-7 victory, the Bulldogs emerged from Week 3 as a contender in the SEC West, but LSU's ineptitude on offense was glaring. The Tigers were also undisciplined, with nine penalties for 112 yards (including two touchdowns that were negated), while two defensive players were ejected for targeting. It was the largest margin of victory in what was the 111th meeting between the teams.

Auburn, meanwhile, looked like it had a hangover following its loss to Clemson, with four fumbles and an interception against an FCS team that resurrected its program just five years ago. If the SEC is going to reassert itself as the best conference in the country -- a title that belonged to the ACC last year -- LSU and Auburn have to live up to their rankings, and both have already failed their first real tests.

Pac-12: USC picked up where it left off in 2016 -- a CFP contender


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