Forde's Fab Four: How Michigan's botched punt disrupted the playoff picture

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Every week, I will play Selection Committee member, take a look at the College Football Playoff picture and offer what I believe the bracket should be if the season ended today. Call it Forde's Fab Four, and feel free to disagree.

The big question this week: How much should a botched punt alter the national landscape? What Michigan gave away in 10 surreal seconds Saturday could reverberate for weeks to come. Yes, it takes the Wolverines out of the Fab Four, but what is the impact on Utah's résumé? And is winning in gift-miracle fashion enough to boost Michigan State back into the bracket?

Answers below:

COTTON BOWL: No. 1 Utah vs. No. 4 Clemson.

The Utes (6-0, 3-0 in the Pac-12) maintain the top spot for a third straight week after dispatching Arizona State 34-18. Opportunistic Utah hit the Sun Devils with a 20-0 fourth quarter, retaking the lead and then pulling away late. And to answer the above question: Beating Michigan in the opener still should count as a quality win – the punter's epic failure isn't enough to wipe out everything the Wolverines have done since that opening loss to Utah. In terms of other schedule dynamics, teams the Utes have previously beaten won three games: Utah State shockingly romped past Boise State and may be poised to win the Mountain West; Oregon stopped the bleeding by beating Washington; and Fresno State got its second win of the season. Jeff Sagarin says Utah has the No. 6 schedule in the country to date, toughest of any team currently in his top 20. Next: at USC Saturday, in a game that has lost luster in the past two weeks as the Trojans have slumped to 3-3.

Clemson (6-0, 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) makes its debut in the Fab Four after a second straight authoritative victory, this time over Boston College, 34-17 – by far the most points the Eagles have allowed this season. That followed a 19-point victory over Georgia Tech, which followed the monsoon thriller against Notre Dame. Instead of peaking against the Fighting Irish and suffering a letdown, Clemson has upgraded its level of play. Quarterback Deshaun Watson in particular is making strides, throwing for a season-high 420 yards against a Boston College defense that was leading the nation in fewest yards and points allowed. Meanwhile, the Notre Dame win continues to gain currency as the Fighting Irish moved to 6-1 with a victory over USC. Next: at Miami, in a potentially tricky game.

ORANGE BOWL: No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 Baylor.

LSU's Leonard Fournette ran for 180 yards against Florida. (AP)
LSU's Leonard Fournette ran for 180 yards against Florida. (AP)

The Tigers (6-0, 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference) took down the only unbeaten in the SEC East, Florida, in a close and compelling game Saturday night. It was at home and it wasn't easy, and the Gators were playing their backup quarterback, and LSU needed a fake field goal to score the winning touchdown – but don't let all that scuttle the importance of the victory. Florida backup QB Treon Harris was no slouch, Florida's defense is elite, and LSU showcased a passing game that had been dormant all season. Five of the Tigers' six wins are over Power 5 opponents, and two of those are true road games. Next: Western Kentucky at home Saturday. If Florida could test the LSU secondary, so can explosive WKU. But the Hilltoppers wouldn't appear to have the men who can stop Leonard Fournette. (Then again, neither does anyone else so far this year.)

[ThePostGame: Crazy Spartans-Wolverines finish catches TV reporter unaware]

Baylor (6-0, 3-0 in the Big 12) has now scored at least 60 points in three straight conference games, which is pretty crazy. The 62 the Bears dropped on West Virginia Saturday was the most points the Mountaineers have allowed in a loss since 1973 (they gave up one more point to Baylor in a silly 70-63 victory in 2012). Bears quarterback Seth Russell showcased a new element to his game, running for 160 yards on 14 carries to go with 380 yards passing. Baylor's strength of schedule continues to lag behind every other prime playoff contender, but you cannot ignore the numbers Art Briles' team is putting up. The Bears remain on course for national season records in points per game (63.8), yards per game (719.7) and yards per play (8.94). Next: Iowa State at home Saturday. The Cyclones are an extreme long shot to derail the Baylor express train.

Dropped out: Florida, Michigan.

Also considered: Ohio State, Michigan State, TCU, Florida State, Stanford, Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Temple, Houston, Iowa.

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