THE BCS IS FINALLY DEAD!
As we move into the first year of this new system here are the four teams I think will be playing for the title come January.
Florida State returns the biggest difference maker in college football in quarterback Jameis Winston. Assuming Winston can stay out of trouble off the field Florida State will be playing in the four team playoff come January. Winston is an extremely talented athlete surrounded by a ton of talent at a Florida State program that has really flourished under Jimbo Fisher.
Winston has a great offensive protecting. The line has made a combined 114 starts, giving them the experience to open holes for the running backs and protect Winston. Winston also has his favorite target in WR Rashad Greene back.
This bodes very well for an offense that ranked 2nd in scoring last year.
The defense was ranked 1st in points against allowing just 12.1 points per game last season. They have six returning starters on defense and a ton of capable talent ready to step up.
They play in the ACC and should really only face three potentially challenging games. They open against Oklahoma State and play on the road at Miami and at Louisville. All of those games are winnable and even losing one should give the defending national champions a chance to defend their title.
Michigan State is definitely not one of the first teams that come to mind in the national championship discussion. However other than extremely tough road game against Oregon in week two, the schedule is not too challenging. Assuming Michigan State can run the table in the Big Ten and win the Big Ten Championship game, a loss against Oregon will not keep them from making the four team playoff.
The Big Ten schedule sets up extremely well for them. They play Big Ten road games against Purdue, Indiana, Maryland and Penn State. All of those games are winnable and sets Michigan State up to play the toughest games on the Big Ten schedule at home. They play Nebraska, Michigan, Rutgers and Ohio State at home. The toughest of those games will be against Ohio State. However they catch a huge break, with a bye week leading up to the Ohio State game, while Ohio State has a conference game the week before the showdown with Michigan State.
Michigan State is returning a lot of offensive weapons which should help them take some of the pressure off the defense which has a few holes to fill after losing some key starters. Even with some defensive losses, this will still be a very good defense and I don’t see them taking a big step back from the 13.2 points they allowed last season, which was good for third best in the nation.
As much as I hate Nick Saban and Alabama I feel they are the best team in the SEC. Nick Saban runs his program like a machine. He continues to recruit extremely well and has great athletes to plug in when he loses a player to the draft.
And of course given the SEC track record of winning national titles you can’t have a playoff list that does not include at least one SEC team.
The only real spot for a potential loss is at LSU, but they are already listed as a favorite for that game.
They play Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but the game is in Tuscaloosa this year and Alabama will have revenge on their mind after Auburn ended their national title hopes last season.
Even if they were to lose at LSU, I think they would make the playoff based on reputation alone, even if they did not play in the SEC Championship game. Remember in the SEC West a one loss team could miss the SEC Championship Game and still make the playoffs, the division is that strong and gets that much respect from everyone, including the selection committee.
I think Oklahoma has the ability to run the table. They finished 11-2 last season and have 14 returning starters. Nine of those starters return on the defensive side of the ball, so we can expect some improvement from a defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed per game last season.
While they lose quite a few starters on offense QB Trevor Knight returns and has enough playmakers around him to make up for the losses.
The schedule is not that tough and I am not high on many teams from the Big 12 this year.
The Big 12 does not play a conference championship game, so the Sooners will probably need to go undefeated to make it to the playoff. They are a great team in a down conference and I like the odds of that happening.
Should they slip up a one loss PAC-12 team could be waiting to take their place.