After all the years of begging for a playoff, our prayers have finally been answered!
Now with the College Football Playoff, the national championship hunt is open to the nation’s top four teams. At year’s end, the selection committee will try to sort through all the ups and downs and inexplicable upsets and try to pick the four teams who are left standing.
Who will survive the gauntlet that is the college football season and be named one of the nation’s four best teams? Check out our playoff projections!
1. Florida State
The defending national champs may have lost a lot of talent, but Jameis Winston still has enough weapons around him to win the ACC. Could the perception of a weak conference hurt the Seminoles in their quest to repeat? Possibly, but as members of the Atlantic Division, Florida State will have to go through Clemson, Louisville and whoever finally emerges as the Coastal champion. Plus, as everyone’s consensus number one, the Seminoles would have to fall pretty far to miss the playoffs. Upsets are always possible in college football, but Florida State looks too good to lose enough times to find themselves on the outside looking in.
While at least one of the five power conferences is going to be excluded by the four team playoff, you can bet the SEC is going to have at least one representative in. With Nick Saban at the helm, Alabama has won three of the last five National Championships. This season, the Crimson Tide once again look like one of the nation’s top teams. With the field extended to four teams, it seems unlikely that Saban won’t be able to lay claim to one of those spots.
Marcus Mariota is one of the best players in the nation and with a clean bill of health, he’s going to finally lead the Ducks past Stanford. The Pac-12 is considered by many to be the equal of the SEC this season and the committee will definitely give them a seat at the playoff table. If the Ducks can make it through the conference and non-conference opponent Michigan State, they will certainly be welcomed into the playoffs.
There are some questions about whether the Big-12’s lack of a championship game will cost the conference and that’s certainly possible, but a nine-game conference schedule could just as easily help. While some teams avoid some of their conference’s best opponents based on cross-divisional schedules, Oklahoma won’t be able to dodge anyone. In recent years, the Big-12 didn’t have the strength to compete with many of the other conferences and it didn't look like they would this season until Braxton Miller went down. I think his injury brings the whole conference down. With no one inside the conference Michigan State can use as a resume booster, that leaves the door wide open for the Big-12. The emergence of Baylor and Oklahoma’s return to national prominence could be enough to get the Sooners to the playoffs.