College Football Playoff: Breaking down 18 contenders in four tiers heading into October

Ohio State's Miyan Williams races to the end zone for a touchdown on the Buckeyes' first drive. Joseph Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

September Saturdays are in the books.

After a month of football, Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State enter October as early front-runners to finish in the College Football Playoff top four. All three have wins against respectable nonconference opponents and those wins will continue to give them some wiggle room as conference play gets more difficult.

But they aren't the only ones to emerge. As many as 18 teams across four tiers are competing for the four playoff spots.

Teams now have an entire month to build their résumés before the first CFP ranking is revealed Nov. 1, but a playoff pecking order has begun. Here's a look at those four tiers, from the clear-cut top three to a group of one-loss teams that can still make a run. What are their toughest remaining tests and what will the committee be looking for?

TIER 1: The clear front-runners

Georgia (4-0)

Saturday result: Georgia 39, Kent State 22

Best September win: Georgia 49, Oregon 3

Toughest test ahead: Nov. 5 vs. Tennessee. This game has upset potential, given how improved the Vols have looked, further evidenced by the win Saturday against Florida.

What the selection committee will consider: Undefeated Georgia is in. One-loss SEC champ Georgia is in. One-loss Georgia that loses to Bama in the SEC championship game is probably in (again). But what happens if Georgia slips up and loses to Tennessee or Kentucky and doesn't win the East? Here's where it gets interesting, and what happened Saturday (ugly win against Kent State, plus Tennessee win), opens the door to at least consider the debate. If Georgia doesn't win the East, it won't have an opportunity to face Alabama -- which could be a problem. Wins against Florida, Mississippi State, Oregon and Kentucky or the Vols would have to be enough.