Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Year One of the College Football Playoff brought a new energy to the sport of college football, begging many to ask after each week of games just where teams stood in the playoff hunt. Sure, the conversation and debate over playoff position may have been forced or manufactured at times, but there was no escaping the idea that playoff hopes could be dashed in almost any given week. Then, as the season drew to a close we were left wondering just how the selection committee, a group of characters from all walks of life brought together and locked into one single meeting room, would emerge with the final say.
Alabama. Oregon. Florida State. Ohio State. (Sorry Baylor and TCU).
That was last year. We learned a few things along the way as we watched the selection committee dive head first into this brand new playoff format. We learned that conference championship games matter more than some were led to believe. We learned it is still OK to lose early, as it once was under the BCS system. We learned that going undefeated may not necessarily make you a lock for one of the four golden tickets. And we learned that being left out leads to some bitterness and resentment. Of course, we also learned that predicting how this whole thing will play out can be a difficult task, with rankings changing week by week using a logic that seems to change just often enough to throw you off your game once you think you figured it out. And guess what. We haven’t even learned everything yet.
This season will see a brand new set of scenarios brought to the table for discussing inside those closed doors. How will the selection committee handle things not yet seen? That is anybody’s guess, just as it is anybody’s guess which four teams will finally reach the playoff on New Years Eve.
Ohio State and TCU look like strong contenders out of the gate, locking down the top two spots in the national polls that have been rendered even more meaningless than they already were. The SEC and Pac-12 feel like conferences strong enough to send a team back to the playoff even if the conference champion wears a crown with one loss or two. The ACC has some potential candidates as well with Clemson and Florida State, although the margin for error may not be as wide as it is for whichever team comes out of the SEC, be it Alabama or Auburn or Georgia. Oh, and let’s not forget about Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish always seem to wiggle into this conversation with some serious merits in the preseason.
Below are the College Football Playoff predictions from the College Football Talk crew, as well as a few extra special guests.
John Taylor: Orange Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State over No. 4 Clemson (Orange Bowl), No. 2 TCU over No. 3 Auburn (Cotton Bowl). Ohio State over TCU in CFP championship game.
Zach Barnett: Baylor, Ohio State, Michigan State and Auburn – not necessarily in that order.
The four teams that reach the College Football Playoff will be great in two areas: quarterback and defensive line. Sure, you want your offensive line stout and your defensive backfield deep, but no positions hold sway over a game, a team, and a season like those two. Those four teams will allow their quarterbacks to make plays while making their counterparts miserable, and they’ll be the ones playing on New Year’s Eve.
Kevin McGuire: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Oregon (Orange Bowl), No. 2 TCU vs. No. 3 Auburn (Cotton Bowl)
I have gone on record saying I believe Ohio State and TCU will each run their respective tables in the regular season, and I’ll throw Ohio State a 13th win with a Big Ten championship game victory over Nebraska. TCU will not be left on the outside looking in this season if they manage to avoid a trip along the way. A 12-0 record gets the Big 12 in this season. Oregon manages to sneak in at the end of the season, and Auburn pulls down the other spot despite having a pair of losses. That’s right, we’ll have a 2-loss SEC champion in the fun while the ACC champ gets left out.
Vinnie Duber (CSN Chicago, Big Ten Talk): 1. Ohio State, 2. TCU, 3. Auburn, 4. USC
The Buckeyes seem like a lock for the CFP with all their returning talent at nearly every position on the field, plus they seem like they should be even better than last year’s team, which obviously won it all. TCU boasts maybe the nation’s best quarterback in Trevone Boykin, who has the experience to beat out Baylor in what should be a Big 12 dogfight. Auburn should pile up points behind quarterback Jeremy Johnson and could be snuffing out opposing offenses behind new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, though the SEC West is always a gauntlet. And finally, USC has the Pac-12’s best QB in Cody Kessler, allowing the Trojans to edge out an Oregon team replacing Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.
Ben Kercheval (Bleacher Report, former CFT contributor): TCU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Auburn