Since the inception of the College Football Playoff, there has been one constant when deciphering the selection committee’s rankings: Forget power ratings, strengths of schedules, wins against AP Top 25 opponents, success in road games and margin of victory.
It’s all noise and nonsense. Choosing the College Football Playoff field is very simple and always has been: It’s a beauty pageant. Nothing more, nothing less.
One committee member may emphasize an explosive offense, another a stifling defense. The TV talking heads scream that it’s about the “eye” test. The “eye” test, that’s what’s really important. The so-called “eye” test can be simplified like this: who do “I” think are the best four teams?
Well, here’s my “I” test. Who do “I” like to advance to this year’s College Football Playoff? Glad you asked. With Week Zero in our rear-view mirror – like you, I’m still trying to forget the combined 40 penalties and 13 turnovers in those two games – it’s onto a five-day stretch of games, starting Thursday, as college football’s regular season fully gets underway.
My college football playoff field:
Clemson. Alabama. Georgia.
Those three are shoo-ins – or at least should be shoo-ins. The Tigers, Tide and Bulldogs are projected to be prohibitive favorites in every regular-season game and are clearly the most talented teams in 2019. College football is notorious for providing incredible upsets, but these three seem to be a cut above and should survive unscathed through the regular season.
My fourth team? In each of the past four years, at least one team that started outside the AP preseason top 10 ended up the playoff. I’ll look for that streak to continue as Utah is my fourth pick to make the playoff. Yes, the Pac (12) is back in the playoff for the first time since 2016!
My predictions (surely to be wrong):
College Football Playoff:
Peach Bowl: 1-Clemson vs. 4-Utah
Fiesta Bowl: 2-Georgia vs. 3-Alabama
Clemson defeats Georgia
New Year’s 6 Bowls:
Rose: Bowl: Michigan vs. Washington
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. LSU
Orange Bowl: Virginia vs. Ohio State
Cotton Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis
With QB Brady White, the Tigers have proven they can score a ton of points, and this year will be no different. Can they make enough stops? Saturday’s home opener vs. Ole Miss is huge for the conference. Memphis won’t be tested in-league until November when it visits Houston and USF in consecutive weeks. They close the regular season at home vs. Cincinnati.
I liked a different brand of Tigers in the AAC, I lovvvve these Tigers in the ACC. The defense lost a load of talent to the NFL from the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, but any regression by the defense will be offset by potentially the nation’s best offense, featuring QB Trevor Lawrence, RB Travis Etienne and WRs Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins.
Big Ten: Michigan
This is finally the year that Jim Harbaugh delivers in Ann Arbor … right? The Wolverines return eight starters on offense – including QB Shea Patterson – and have an updated offensive philosophy with new OC Josh Gattis. In what should determine the Big Ten East representative in the Big Ten title game, Michigan gets rival Ohio State in Ann Arbor, looking to end a seven-game losing streak to the Buckeyes.
Big 12: Oklahoma
In Norman, it’s another transfer quarterback, another Heisman winner and another Big 12 title. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. QB Jalen Hurts won’t win the Heisman, but he should guide the Sooners to another Big 12 championship. While Hurts’ transfer from Alabama grabbed all the headlines, the biggest key will be OU’s defense, where the Sooners should make massive improvements under new DC Alex Grinch.
C-USA: North Texas
After consecutive nine-win seasons, coach Seth Littrell had opportunities to move to the Power 5 level last season but decided to remain in Denton for another year. A big reason was the talent returning, most notably QB Mason Fine. The Mean Green have improved their offensive numbers in each of Littrell’s three seasons and should do so again this year, winning their first C-USA title.
Each year, Ohio coach Frank Solich just keeps piling up wins. However, this season will be different. Solich will still pile up the wins – he hasn’t had a losing record in 10 consecutive seasons – but this season Solich will finally capture his elusive first MAC crown. Led by QB Nathan Rourke, the Bobcats get Solich his first MAC title (he’s 0-4 in the title game) in 15 years in Athens.
Mountain West: Utah State
Gary Andersen is back. The former Utah State coach (from 2009-12) is the current Utah State coach. He said this was the “only place” he would resume his head coaching career. Andersen replaces Matt Wells, who went to Texas Tech after last year’s school-record-tying 11-win season – the Aggies’ other 11-win season was with Andersen in 2012. QB Jordan Love is the league’s best, but must operate behind an inexperienced offensive line. The defense returns seven starters.
The last time the Utes won a conference championship, they went 13-0 in 2008, winning the Mountain West. An undefeated season this year is a long shot for Utah, but it’s not a long shot for the Utes to win the Pac-12. QB Tyler Huntley and RB Zack Moss are back healthy and should prosper under new OC Andy Ludwig. The defense is stocked with six linemen with starting experience.
Despite an 0-2 record against Alabama the past two years, the Bulldogs have actually won as many SEC championships as Alabama during that time. This fall, Georgia will make it two SEC titles in three years behind an offensive line that is among the nation’s best paving the way for RB D’Andre Swift and QB Jake Fromm. The defense is solid as well, returning six starters from the SEC’s No. 2 unit last year.
Sun Belt: Appalachian State
Different head coach this fall, but same result for the Mountaineers. Eliah Drinkwitz takes over for Scott Satterfield, who won three consecutive Sun Belt titles but departed, leaving an abundance of talent in Boone. QB Zac Thomas is among 16 returning starters, 10 of which are on offense. In the past three seasons, ASU nearly knocked off Penn State (45-38), Wake Forest (20-19) and Tennessee (20-13). ASU will get shots to upend UNC and South Carolina this year. Whether or not it’s successful, ASU will win a fourth straight Sun Belt title.