If the first year of the College Football Playoff system last year taught us anything, it is that we need to be patient. There is no point in panicking and reading too much into one week or even one month. It is a very long season, and a whole lot will change between now and when the four playoff teams are known to us.
That being said, it is never too early to speculate. Here's a look at the most prominent playoff contenders right now and their chances of making the promised land (odds to win the National Championship are from BetOnline):
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Ohio State (+275): There are a lot of people who aren't happy about it, but the Buckeyes are heading back to the playoff. Or, at the very least, it would be a major upset if they didn't. They looked very good at Virginia Tech in their opener, and that was despite them not being at full strength - they were missing players like Joey Bosa, and the QB situation is only going to get better as the players get comfortable.
The talent is incredible. More strikingly, their schedule is a gift. They don't have a real test again until the last two weeks of the season. Then they host Michigan State and then travel to Michigan. Both of those teams will give it their best, and Michigan State is the second-best team in the conference by a wide margin, but Ohio State will have a solid edge. Their depth and talent combined with their experience and a soft schedule makes them real favorites to return to the playoffs. The biggest thing working against them, though, is that the lack of respect for their schedule means that if they falter even slightly they will be punished by the committee. Small margin of error, but they will still be there.
Alabama (+850): I have a lot fewer concerns about this team than I did a week ago. I was worried about the lack of quarterback clarity and what it meant for the offense. Against Wisconsin - and especially in the second half - they showed that that wasn't a real concern. Unlike Ohio State, though, they face a real schedule, and that is going to make things very tough. They play at Georgia, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn - all ranked teams. They host four more ranked squads in Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU, too. Very, very tough. The good news is that if they get through all of that with one loss or less they would be very tough to exclude from the playoff. The bad news is that their division is as tough as it has ever been, and they are inevitably going to beat each other up along the way. I wouldn't bet on Alabama making the playoff given all they face, but I wouldn't be even a little bit surprised if I was wrong.
TCU (+850): I did not like that opening game. Not at all. They beat Minnesota, but they struggled to do so. Minnesota is better than they get credit for, but if TCU wants to accomplish all their preseason No. 2 ranking said they were capable of then they needed to be better than they were. The biggest issue for this team is that we won't have another sense of how good they really are for a long time. Like Ohio State, they shouldn't be significantly tested until their last two weeks when they play at Oklahoma and then host Baylor. Until then there could be some challenges - like a trip to Oklahoma State - but nothing that TCU shouldn't be capable of. They have some work to do, and the attrition of the roster on the defensive line is a massive concern, but I think they are the class of their conference, and still expect them at this point to be in the playoff.
Auburn (+1800): Like TCU, I wish they had beaten their opening opponent - Louisville in this case - more convincingly than they did. Like Alabama, I am concerned by their schedule. The value is better than Alabama arguably because the price is higher, but I would rather take the Tide if it came down to it.
Baylor (+1800): I like TCU more overall, and the Bears have to travel to play at the Horned Frogs. Baylor gets Oklahoma at home, though, and doesn't face another huge test. Like last year they likely can't afford a single misstep to get to the promised land. I wouldn't bet on them.
Michigan State (+2200): They lack statement games - just Oregon this week and Ohio State in their second-to-last game. That means that their margin for error is non-existent. They need to not only win both games but win them in style. It's hard to bet on that happening.
UCLA (+3500): I feel much more confident about this team than many above them. The injury fairy has already been cruel, but they are still deep and very talented. Freshman QB Josh Rosen was brilliant in his opener and is capable of doing what needs to be done. The Pac-12 isn't inspiring this year, and this team is capable of winning it all in that group. They play a tough enough schedule that they could perhaps afford a loss, too. I like this team heads and shoulders above the rest of the Pac-12. There is relative value here.
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