Week 7 of the college football season was tame by 2021's standards. We merely saw the No. 2 team (Iowa) go down to an upset, while two other top-10 teams (Oregon and Michigan State) won by only one score each and two other unbeatens (Oklahoma State and San Diego State) needed late clutch plays to remain blemish-free. Meanwhile, another potential contender (Ole Miss) kept its minuscule title hopes alive only after dealing with a mini-riot from Tennessee fans and watching what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass glance off of Volunteers fingertips.
Pretty dull stuff, really.
For most, it was a survive-and-advance kind of week. There weren't many résumé-building opportunities, but quite a few contenders dealt with stiff tests, and a few saw their bubbles either deflate or burst outright. Iowa indeed fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, as did Kentucky. Any hopes Arizona State had disintegrated in a second-half collapse at Utah. Ditto Texas vs. Oklahoma State.
On we go. Week 8 won't feature many marquee matchups, either: There are no matchups of ranked teams on the docket, though five top-10 teams do play on the road. Things begin to pick up again in Week 9, but let's take the opportunity to look at the big picture.
Last week, we looked at each primary College Football Playoff contender's fatal flaws, the traits that would likely derail hopes of an unbeaten or CFP run. These flaws indeed played roles in contenders' losses over the weekend: Iowa couldn't move the ball effectively enough to keep up with Purdue; negative plays put Kentucky behind the eight ball against Georgia; and Texas' defensive inefficiency reared its ugly head against Oklahoma State when the offensive production dried up late.
This week, let's take a more optimistic stance by looking at the strengths that make each contender a contender. If last week's piece was a cold splash of reality, this week's is for dreaming. Your team is beautiful, and it absolutely has a shot, my friend.
It's almost certain that four of the 14 contenders below will reach the CFP. (We'll loosely define "contender" as any unbeaten power-conference team and/or any team with at least a 3% chance of reaching the CFP, per ESPN's FPI.) Let's talk about each team's greatest strength -- that is, the primary reason they'll make it, if they make it.