Forde's Fab Four: Here's who looks good early for the College Football Playoff

Each week of the season, I will be a one-man College Football Playoff selection committee, picking the four teams that should be in the bracket if Selection Sunday were today. Call it Forde’s Fab Four, and call it an invitation to debate and discuss.

The key thing to know this week: If a team has not yet played an opponent that is at least theoretically in its same weight class, it’s not in the Fab Four. For instance, Michigan and Ohio State have two dominant victories apiece, but who have they played? The Wolverines beat Hawaii and Central Florida, both outside the Power 5 conferences and with a combined record of 3-22 last year. The Buckeyes beat Bowling Green and Tulsa, also non-Power 5 programs.

PEACH BOWL: No. 1 seed Alabama vs. No. 4 Texas
There isn’t much question which team looks best so far – the same team that won it all last year. The Crimson Tide was utterly dominant in the opener against USC, making the Trojans look like a mid-major program in the trenches. When USC bounced back to pummel Utah State, that only made Alabama look better. In Week 2 the Tide made plenty of mistakes – 12 penalties, a fumble, and Nick Saban had to administer an “ass-chewing” to offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin – but still beat a solid Western Kentucky team by four touchdowns. Next: at Mississippi, a team that has upset Alabama the past two years.

Texas is the fastest riser, shooting into the bracket by virtue of a thrilling victory over Notre Dame in Week 1 and a thorough beating of UTEP in Week 2. That triumph in the opener was solidified when the Fighting Irish dominated Nevada Saturday. Energized by improved tempo and quarterback play, the Longhorns are averaging 467 yards of offense (highest since 2008) and 45.5 points per game (highest since 2005). If it continues, Texas might do a lot more than merely save Charlie Strong’s job. Next: at California Saturday, the rematch of a game Texas lost last year by missing an extra point.

The Cougars have looked like national title contenders in their first two games. (Getty)
The Cougars have looked like national title contenders in their first two games. (Getty)

FIESTA BOWL: No. 2 seed Houston vs. No. 3 Florida State
Houston will face strength-of-schedule critics in the weeks to come if it keeps winning, but for now that season-opening triumph over Oklahoma carries a lot of weight. (It will carry even more if the Sooners can beat Ohio State Saturday.) The Cougars beat FCS Lamar Saturday, which is an empty-calorie victory, but they did it with their backup quarterback, Kyle Postma. Starter Greg Ward Jr. missed the game with a shoulder injury suffered against the Sooners – and if there were any game to miss, Lamar was it. Houston’s defense has surrendered just six points in the last six quarters. Next: at Cincinnati (2-0) Thursday in a very interesting game. Houston likely will need Ward to win it.

Florida State had a workmanlike 52-8 victory Saturday over the remains of Charleston Southern, an FCS team that had a ton of players sitting out for a violation of NCAA rules. The Seminoles’ résumé-builder came on Labor Day, when they scored 33 straight points to rally from a 22-point deficit and beat Mississippi. The good news for Florida State is that its offense has been productive even without Dalvin Cook putting up huge rushing statistics (174 yards in two games). The bad news is that the Seminoles lost star safety Derwin James to a knee injury late against Charleston Southern (why was he still playing?) and his status going forward is unclear. Next: at Louisville (2-0) Saturday, in what suddenly has become a huge game that has attracted ESPN’s “College GameDay.”

Also considered: Stanford, Wisconsin, Clemson, Louisville, Washington, Texas A&M.

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