With the Playoff Committee releasing their rankings for the first time this season tomorrow, let’s take a look ahead and make some predictions about who gets into the playoffs and at which spots.
First seed: No surprises here, Alabama will be the No. 1 seed this year. It is as close to a guarantee as there is in sports.
Currently undefeated, Bama’s biggest test of the season is LSU, currently ranked No. 4. Alabama comes into that game off their bye week, doubling their preparation time for this game. It does not matter that the Crimson Tide will be on the road; they will find a way to win.
It is worth mentioning that every other team Alabama plays this year is unranked. However, if the past is any indication, that is irrelevant for Nick Saban’s team.
The SEC championship game is far from decided. Kentucky, Florida and Georgia are all tied for first place in the East. Regardless, Tua Tagovailoa is incredible and will beat whoever he is put up against.
Second seed: Who else? Clemson.
The Tigers have had a few close calls this season but have found ways to come out on top. They squashed a ranked N.C. State team last week and came away with a close victory on the road against Texas A&M, now-ranked No. 16.
Some analysts might put Notre Dame in this spot, but as an independent team, the Fighting Irish cannot win a conference. Clemson can and probably will. Right now Virginia Tech narrowly leads the Coastal Division, but there is enough time left for Virginia or Miami to finish strong and take that spot.
Just like Alabama, whoever Clemson plays in the conference championship will lose.
Clemson’s defense is currently fourth in the nation in yards allowed per game to go along with a nice run game and breakout year for the true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Fans around the nation may be tired of seeing these two teams, but don’t expect anything to change anytime soon.
Third seed: Now that the perennials are out of the way we can get some fresh blood in the playoff. Notre Dame takes the third spot.
The Fighting Irish have had an impressive season, beating Michigan, Stanford, ranked No. 7 at the time, and then-ranked No. 24 Virginia Tech. Their toughest upcoming opponent is Syracuse, who nearly beat Clemson and can probably finish the season ranked if they stack a few wins together.
Not having a conference championship keeps the Irish out of the No. 2 spot, but it provides a certain advantage as well. Assuming they win out their schedule, they cannot get knocked out by losing a championship.
Undefeated season plus several wins over ranked teams equals a playoff appearance.
Fourth seed: The most interesting choice every year. With so many good teams, and five winners of good conferences, the fourth seed is always the most competitive and scrutinized pick. This year it will be Michigan.
Now hang on, I can hear you screaming at me through the computer. Just hear me out.
The SEC has had too many internal complications to put up two teams this year. Georgia lost to LSU. LSU lost to Florida. Florida lost to Kentucky. Kentucky lost to Texas A&M. There are two many teams with one loss, particularly in the East. Whoever loses to Alabama in the conference championship will have two losses, and I don’t think anyone except Alabama can get in without going to that championship game.
Even if Texas wins out and takes the Big 12, they lost early in the season to Maryland, and the Committee has not been known to be forgiving. If West Virginia comes back to win the division, their loss to Iowa State negates them. If Oklahoma finds a way to win they have a shot at it with their only loss of the season coming at the hands of Texas, but their only wins against ranked teams would be against West Virginia and Texas in the championship. Not a very strong schedule.
The Pac-12 is weak this year. The only one-loss team remaining is Washington State, with that one loss coming at the hands of USC, who is having a rough year to say the least. I expect the Cougars to drop another game somewhere down the line, maybe against Stanford or Washington. Nobody on the West Coast even threatens the playoffs.
“But Michigan?” you say. “They can never win the big game.”
Michigan’s only loss of the year was to Notre Dame, who I have in the No. 3 spot. A respectable loss to say the least. Their defense gives up the fewest yards per game in the nation and only allows 14.4 points per game. Shea Patterson has injected new life into a stagnant offense and looks better in each game he plays.
It will not be easy. Michigan does have a history of dropping big games and still has to play Penn State at home and Ohio State in the Horseshoe. The Buckeyes just lost to Purdue and Penn State is on a two-game losing streak. They are both vulnerable.
Last week the Wolverines beat No. 24 Michigan State for their first road win against a ranked team since 2006.
They have some work to do, but if they win the East the odds are in their favor to win the conference. They will likely play Wisconsin, who they blew out earlier in the year, or Iowa, who is not as good as their record may show.
National Champion: Just for kicks, why not say who will win it all right now? The Nebraska fan in me wants to give it to Michigan and the Big Ten. If we’re being honest, it will be Bama once again and we will all sarcastically say “Roll Tide” again this year.