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Five Dark Horse College Football Playoff Contenders

MADISON, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 28:  Jonathan Taylor #23 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs with the ball while being tackled by Travis Whillock #7 of the Northwestern Wildcats in the first quarter at Camp Randall Stadium on September 28, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Throughout this college football season, there have only been two sure things: dominance in the top rungs of the SEC, and the top two slots shared by Clemson and Alabama. Even that second thing may be in jeopardy, as Alabama leapfrogged Clemson to take the top slot last week after the Tigers nearly threw away a sure win against North Carolina.

Meanwhile, below the top two, it's been utter chaos in the polls. Down there are a few teams that could steal a shot at this year's national championship.

No. 22 Wake Forest
This one-time college football doormat has come from practically nowhere to win its first five games. Quarterback Jamie Newman has taken the conference by storm, ranking in the top-10 in the nation in every meaningful passing statistic and even outdoing Clemson's presumed Heisman contender, Trevor Lawrence, who has underperformed as of late. The two teams will meet for real on November 16th at Memorial Stadium, and despite the home-field advantage, the Deacons may have a fighting chance.

No. 14 Iowa
Kirk Ferentz may not have brought Iowa a national title...at least not yet...but he's rarely coached a loser. Sometimes he can pull a special season out of his team, and this looks like one of those. Quarterback Nate Stanley has played mistake-free football, going 136 straight attempts without an interception, and the defense has allowed the third-fewest points in the Big Ten. This week, they face their toughest test of the season, on the road in the Big House against Jim Harbaugh's Michigan Wolverines.

No. 12 Penn State
The Nittany Lions come into this week fresh off of a 59-0 thumping of conference "rival" (we use that term in the loosest possible sense) Maryland that had to have raised some eyebrows around the country. Through four games, Penn State have outscored their opponents 200 to 30, an average of 50 to 8.5 per game, while quarterback Sean Clifford has quietly put up terrific numbers.

No. 10 Florida
It says something of the power of the SEC when the nation's 10th-best team might not even get into the Sugar Bowl at this stage, much less the Playoff. More wins would change that, of course, and the Gators have the defense to get them. Florida leads the conference in sacks and in tackles for loss.

This week, the Gators will have the attention of the whole nation - and ESPN's College GameDay - as they take on similarly-undefeated Auburn. If Florida can take down Gus Malzahn's team in the Swamp, it'll send a powerful message not just to the rest of the SEC, but to the rest of the nation.

No. 8 Wisconsin
The success of the Badgers comes down to more than just running back Jonathan Taylor, although Taylor is certainly a key part of that success. Through four games, the Badgers have the No. 1 defense in the nation, having allowed merely 29 points all season and a measly 3.15 yards per play on average. Their dominance shone through against conference rival Michigan two weeks ago, as they planted Jim Harbaugh firmly on the hot seat with a 35-14 win that sent shockwaves through the Big Ten.