Football is back! Starting tomorrow when Nebraska and Illinois kick-off, starting what seems to be the beginning of the end of college football as we know it. Yes, Texas and Oklahoma probably won’t be in the SEC for a few more years, but nothing is certain at this time. Speaking of the SEC, Tennessee opens up football for the conference on Thursday, September 2nd, against Bowling Green. Top-ranked team Alabama opens up against 14th rank Miami and 5th rank Georgia playing 3rd rank Clemson. The one thing I noticed about college football is that it has recency bias, so a loss in week 1 likely won’t ruin the chances of any of these teams making the college football playoffs, but it definitely will hurt them.
Let’s look at the top few teams in the country and evaluate who will be left standing in the final four at the end of the season.
Against ranked opponents: vs. 14 Miami, at 13 Florida, at 6 Texas A&M, vs. 16 LSU.
Trap game: at 6 Texas A&M
Where I think they finish: #5
Analysis: I’m no a football expert, but Alabama will be punished for playing a tough schedule and being Alabama. Texas A&M has every reason to win that game in College Station, and I think they finally get that win. If they can pull it off, that would likely give the playoff committee a reason to take Bama out of the top four. The rest of the schedule doesn’t really concern me for a team that steamrolls everyone. My pick of 5 is with Bama losing one game, but if they beat A&M, they will probably win out and be a 1 seed again.
Against ranked opponents: vs. 21 Texas, vs. 7 Iowa State
Trap game: vs. 21 Texas
Where I think they finish: #2
Analysis: Oklahoma put a target on its back by telling the Big 12 to shove it, and that could come back to bite them over the next few years. However, it’s more likely that Oklahoma will play up to the adversity and kick ass. They play Texas in a red river showdown game which they have won the past three. Last year was an absolute thriller, with the game going into four overtimes and Oklahoma prevailing. Iowa State might be more trouble, but I have a tough time thinking that tiny ole Iowa State upsets Oklahoma in one of the last games of the season. Oklahoma stays the number two seed all year.
Against ranked opponents: vs. 5 Georgia
Trap game: None
Where I think they finish: #1
Analysis: I’m sorry, but Clemson doesn’t deserve to be a playoff team. They play one very tough school in Georgia but then have a bunch of soft teams after that. Boston College is ok this year, and they play Syracuse on the road, but that’s really about it. Florida State isn’t very good right now; either is Louisville. UConn is my hometown school, so I would have to say that is a trap game, but in reality, if they score, it’ll be a win in my book.
#4 Ohio State
Against ranked opponents: vs. 11 Oregon, at 17 Indiana, vs. 19 Michigan
Trap games: at 17 Indiana, at Michigan
Where I think they finish: #3
Analysis: At least they play some decent teams, unlike Clemson. They play a P.J Fleck-led Minnesota team, Maryland, and a pissed-off Michigan team on the road. That’s not even including the ranked teams. At the end of the day, though, I think Ohio State will prevail, as they have a deep team with good coaching. If every team in the top four wins out, I would have them ranked second overall, but that’s probably not going to happen, so they will happen to slide up one spot.
Against ranked opponents: vs. 3 Clemson, vs. 13 Florida
Trap game: at Auburn
Where I think they finish: #6 or lower
Analysis: I really like Georgia, but they tend to let me down year after year. They probably will lose week 1 and have to deal with an uphill battle all season. If they do beat Clemson, all of a sudden, their outlook changes, but I think they lose two games this year and finish somewhere between eight and twelve. That seems pretty par for the course for how they have performed the past few years.
#6 Texas A&M
Against ranked opponents: vs. 1 Alabama
Trap game: at 16 LSU
Where I think they finish: #4
Analysis: One of these years just has to be their year, right? They have a great coach in Jimbo Fisher, always recruit well, and just keep getting disappointed year after year. I really think this is the year that they knock off the Tide and replace them as the SEC representative in the playoffs. However, if they don’t, they probably will finish as a six through eight seed and have to wait for the playoffs to expand to twelve to taste the playoffs. I really wish they played Georgia this year because I would love to see one of the two be able to propel the other.
Upsets, however, are a beautiful thing in college football. Alabama plays Miami, Florida, LSU, and Auburn, with the rest of the SEC teams pissed off that the Tide reigns national champions once again. If Texas A&M can upset them, all of a sudden, they might be the 5th or 6th seed looking from the outside in. Oklahoma only takes a pissed-off Texas team to drop it from the top, same with Penn State over Ohio State and more.
The one thing that I’m excited to see is if Cincinnati can finally make the top four. I highly doubt it, and even if they did, they would be absolutely demolished in the playoffs, but they deserve it. UCF really paved the way for this, going 25-1 over two years and being left disrespected. Cincinnati has now gone 31-6 over the past three seasons, and they will have to be perfect this year, but starting at number eight, they have a real chance.
Football is back with no lack of exciting storylines. With the Big 12 probably on its deathbed, The SEC turning into a mega-conference, and the ACC, Big 10, and Pac-12 likely combining somehow, it looks like NCAA football is going to die as we know it. In its ashes will rise something new. Better? I guess we will find out like it or not.