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The Obstructed College Football Preview-2018 (Playoff, New Year’s Six, and More)

Over the past month I’ve done my previews.  If you want to go back and check them, read them here.  Now, if you’ve followed them, you will notice my picks for games (and the fact I’m so awesome ::rolls eyes:: at making them), you may notice if they come to fruition (which they probably won’t), you will have another major debate happen and more of a push for an expansion for the Playoff of 6 or 8 teams because, well, six teams by my view would all be playoff worthy.  Let’s sum up what I viewed so far:

SEC: I said Alabama and Georgia would meet in the SEC Championship game with both schools being 12-0.  I had Alabama winning again.

ACC: I said Clemson and Virginia Tech would meet in the ACC championship game with both schools being 12-0.  I had Clemson winning the ACC for the 4th straight season.

Oklahoma takes down TCU, but will be 9-3 and therefore doesn’t have an argument right now (OU fans, sorry but I’m not sold on Kyler Murray as I was on Baker Mayfield though you could run the table).

PAC-12: Washington brings down Arizona and would be 12-1.  No, the Huskies WON’T lose to Auburn to open the season.

BIG TEN: Penn State beats Nebraska and goes 12-1 (this may be my outrageous pick given many view the Nittany Lions will be down, but I think Trace McSorley will be one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy this year-just saying).

Playoff

So by my calculations, I believe Alabama and Clemson are locks (as always it seems).  But 3, 4, 5, and 6 will be a toss-up.  I said to start my previews that if Georgia goes 12-0 and loses in the SEC Championship, they would be a lock.  But then when I see the likes of what possibly could happen with Penn State and the Big Ten, Washington in the unpredictable PAC-12, and Virginia Tech running the table, I admit I have second thoughts of seeing two SEC teams again in the Playoff.

So, the suspects would be Penn State, Washington, Georgia, and Virginia Tech to me.  Of course, thinking of what the Selection Committee says, it is about the body of work.  But I also view the Committee values losses greatly and that is what gets people talking.  Ohio State was the benefactor in 2016 and then got the short end of the stick last year with this.  Obviously in 2016, the 11-1 Buckeyes stayed ahead of 11-2 Penn State who won the Big Ten.  Then last year they stayed behind 11-1 Alabama while going 11-2 and winning the Big Ten.  But in this case, all 4 teams would net one loss.  (But Auburn was ranked near the top and had two losses!  Yes, but Auburn played two #1 teams in a 3 week span and beat those two teams while played a 3rd playoff team on their schedule and fought them tough-that was an exception to the rule).

So obviously, it would be resumes.  Now this is all by my assumptions (which means that come in 2-3 weeks, it goes out the window knowing my picks).  Penn State may have the best shot as they could see on their schedule of Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State, all of whom could be top ten opponents for the Nittany Lions when they face off.  And if they take care of business at home against Ohio State and Michigan State, then that propels them near the top of the nation even if they play a Big Ten West that isn’t that great. Now, the Lions hopes would be solidified if Wisconsin remains Wisconsin, dominating (but I don’t see them doing so) and they beat the Badgers as well.  So I think Penn State gets in alone by that.

Now comes Washington, Georgia, and Virginia Tech.  Here’s where things get intriguing.  Washington and Georgia aren’t fully in strong divisions right now (Huskies have the likes of Cal & Oregon State and Georgia has Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt on theirs).  Virginia Tech has Miami in theirs and has the Canes coming to Blacksburg late in the year and the ACC Coastal, which isn’t exactly a world beater themselves, at least has competitive squads around.  So would that mean Virginia Tech get the 4th spot and two ACC teams get in?

The Hokies have a benefit of seeing Notre Dame this year in Blacksburg, the same year as they see Miami at home.  Notre Dame could net 10 wins with their schedule and that is key.  Two wins against the Irish and Miami may do it.  But really aside from that, Virginia Tech’s schedule is very weak.

The other games out of the division is where it may kill off Georgia.  No powers that be really (Bulldogs have Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, and UMass before their rivalry game with a far less-talented Georgia Tech squad, who Virginia Tech also plays-more on that).  The Bulldogs do have two SEC match-ups with LSU and Auburn that could help, but the Tigers have a bit of a rough schedule this year, notably away from the Plains, so saying they beat a top-10 Auburn team this year may not happen.  And LSU, is not LSU.  Georgia’s best bet is to really rally behind their hated rivals of South Carolina and Florida to make major strides in 2018 where they are ranked or they are having monster years even after the match-ups.  It’s been on the local Atlanta sports radio station that a loss this year in the regular season outside the SEC championship dooms Georgia’s chances of getting back to the playoff assuming they don’t win the SEC.   “But you said they lose to Alabama.”  Yes, but in a year where you could have a lot of teams with similar records and strong resumes, they desperately need Florida and South Carolina to do well this season and try to get 9-10 wins each.

Washington will be the hotly contested one in my mind.  IF they face off against Auburn and win, I think it really propels them and it propels Jake Browning.  With what I feel is the PAC-12 South being very down, their schedule isn’t exactly a gauntlet either.  Auburn would be a feather in the cap, but as I said with Georgia, if the Tigers falter down the stretch, it won’t mean as much (or will it? Alabama took down Florida State at the time when they were supposed to be in the hunt for a Playoff and then the season went off the rails for the Noles).

Will Auburn and Georgia Tech be decisive factors?  Georgia shares a common opponent with both.  Of course Georgia wants both to do well to help the resume as would Washington (with Auburn) and Virginia Tech (with Georgia Tech).  It may be a comparison game of “well, if Washington handles Auburn on a neutral site game really leaning Auburn’s way while Georgia struggles with Auburn at home” then it may hurt.  And the same can be said either way for Virginia Tech & Georgia for Georgia Tech.  But would that be enough to put one in the Playoff?  Honestly, probably not.

The big question would be, the 1-loss factor and who they lose to or would it be resorting back to a conference championship?  Washington would get in that way.  But the one-loss factor (assuming again my predictions hold, which they won’t) could come first, which means the Huskies one loss would be a road game at Oregon while Virginia Tech & Georgia’s loss would have been to undefeated Clemson and Alabama respectively.

One thing I do think the committee MAY look at and it may be my own conspiracy theory is for ratings on television and if these playoff teams travel well.  We know Georgia will.  Both Washington and Virginia Tech have solid fan bases but I have never seen the Huskies or Hokies travel incredibly well outside their homes like Georgia can.  I could be wrong on that, but it may play into the decision of money & ratings.  Or choose what team is the best out of the three.  And in that case, it probably is Georgia and the Alabama loss won’t be stinging.

So my College Football Playoff will be:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Penn State
  4. Georgia

 

Sorry Huskies fans.  As much as I would love to see you there, I think the committee snubs you.  Better win against Auburn and Oregon and that will solidify your chances I believe but Jake Browning BETTER have a Heisman quality year.

Before we analyze the playoff games, I’ll look at the New Year’s Six tilts.

BEST OF THE GROUP OF 5:  It’s going to be intriguing every year as you will have the usual suspects hanging around (Boise State, Houston, etc.) but I’m going with somewhat of a sleeper and picking Florida Atlantic.  Say what you want on Lane Kiffin, but he shredded Conference USA last year and seeing that schedule he has in front of him, he could easily have the Owls at 11-1 (Oklahoma being their lone loss).  If Kiffin holds true to his word he will dominate the conference for years to come and may make the conference back to being somewhat respectable after it has taken a lot of licks over the years with teams exiting the conference (Houston, Memphis, etc.) and bringing retreads of Sun Belt schools.

The New Year’s Six participants: Virginia Tech, Washington, Ohio State, Michigan State, Miami, Florida Atlantic, Oklahoma, Notre Dame

Kiffin

CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL:  FLORIDA ATLANTIC VS. MIAMI:  Remember that the Orange Bowl will be a Playoff tilt.  But it would be a fun one to see as there would be some storylines, notably for the coaches.  Mark Richt coached up the road at Georgia (and he does come back every other year to play Georgia Tech with Miami, but still), and Kiffin brings his boys to Atlanta, the city of his final game with Alabama as coordinator in 2016 and there has been history there with both during Kiffin’s season at Tennessee and Richt’s time at Georgia.  The offense Kiffin has would be lights out and going against Richt’s defense would be interesting given that they are opportunistic in the turnover department.  But it would be Miami’s offense against FAU’s defense as neither side was great last year but both look to improve.  My view would be that Kiffin’s offense would just be too much and if they avoid the turnovers while getting to inconsistent quarterback Malik Rosier, I think the Owls could stun the Hurricanes.  MY PREDICTION: FLORIDA ATLANTIC 38, MIAMI 31

Ohio State.jpg

ROSE BOWL: OHIO STATE VS. WASHINGTON: While I think Michigan State would be ahead of Ohio State via standings, the Rose Bowl knows they would get top pick and Ohio State would be more of a viable pick than Michigan State due to name brand.  The Buckeyes vs. the Huskies would be intriguing as you have the speeds on both sides go at it.  While I think Chris Petersen has done a great job and is a top 5 coach in the nation and making the Huskies into a national contender once more, I think the talent level on Ohio State is too much.  I do think Washington plays a physical game that sometimes roughs up Ohio State in games (see Michigan State and Iowa in past years against the Buckeyes), I don’t know if they have any answers for JK Dobbins (not many do).  If Washington wants to win, Jake Browning needs to be a Heisman candidate and not what he was last year.  But I think the Buckeyes will show they are still one of the major blue-bloods in college football.  OHIO STATE 27, WASHINGTON 24

Oklahoma.jpg

SUGAR BOWL: OKLAHOMA VS. VIRGINIA TECH: In the past it was reserved for an SEC school, but with the SEC sending two again and perhaps only two teams into the round (not sure how it works).  Now they could come back and send either Florida or Mississippi State (who I both have at 9-3) against Oklahoma, moving Virginia Tech to the Fiesta and bumping Michigan State into the Citrus Bowl against the one not chosen for the Sugar Bowl…..but I’m going with this.  It would be an offensive minded game for sure.  But as we’ve seen in the past, the teams that normally feel hosed from a Playoff are the ones who suffer the hangovers.  And Virginia Tech may feel that way while Oklahoma will feel like they still belong in the upper echelon of the college football world and I think the Sooners would capitalize on Tech’s depression.  OKLAHOMA 45, VIRGINIA TECH 17

Michigan State.jpg

FIESTA BOWL: NOTRE DAME VS. MICHIGAN STATE:  The reason that there may be chaos with the New Year’s Six is because of Notre Dame having a good enough year to get into the New Year’s Six.  The debate would be related to the playoff selection.  If Washington gets in the playoff, you could see a different domino effect (Georgia would have their rematch with Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl if that happens; Ohio State would face off with Miami perhaps while Virginia Tech sees FAU and this game still happens).  But let’s say this game does happen.  It would be more of a rivalry New Year’s Six game since Notre Dame and Michigan State have a long-standing history with one another and have been yearly rivals up through 2013 (they did have a home & home in 2016-2017 too).  Notre Dame would have a bevvy of weapons on offense to go with, but Michigan State’s defense rivals anybody in the nation.  Both teams travel outside their comfort zones so I don’t think a west coast swing for either of them (Michigan State has done fine out west over the recent years and has a tilt at Arizona State this year) so I think that is neutralized.  But I think Michigan State and Mark Dantonio always play for that “we will beat the respect out of you” mentality as it has served the Spartans well over the past 6 years.  I think Michigan State would be able to make some key stops on the Irish and exact revenge after last season.  MICHIGAN STATE 24, NOTRE DAME 20.

Georgia.jpg

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF: COTTON BOWL: (4) GEORGIA VS. (1) ALABAMA:  I think one reason why it would be a tough debate would be the hesitancy on the committee’s part to have a rematch of a regular season game (albeit a conference championship game).  There may be a feel of “well, if Alabama beat Georgia, why do they have to play them again in what would be back-to-back games?”  Of course LSU fans would object to that theory so I don’t think that would matter here.  Of course we would see the Saban vs. Smart 3 which would mean 3 times they would meet in less than a year.  Of course a few tidbits would be that : 1. No #1 seed has ever won the national title and has been bounced out in the semis in two of the four years (Alabama in 2014, Clemson last year).  2. Assuming Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC Championship game, Saban would still continue his streak against assistants.  However, of all the assistants Saban has faced off against, Smart has been the obvious closest one to beating him.  And it is worth mentioning Smart has been around Saban the longest so I don’t think he would be fazed too much.  He wasn’t last year.  My take if the game happens, I believe sometimes the best thing for a college football team is to face a college football team that had already beaten them earlier in the season.  Georgia would fit that bill AND Saban has never been in a position of beating a team twice in a season.  I think that is a key thing to think of as how to prepare against a team who will play with more drive the second time around.  And I think it would be a game where Georgia really gets after Alabama more than last year, more than the SEC Championship, etc. So I think Bama gets Georgia in the SEC Championship, but not in the Playoff and Smart becomes the first Saban assistant to beat Saban.  MY PREDICTION: GEORGIA 24, ALABAMA 17

Clemson.jpg

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF: ORANGE BOWL: (2) CLEMSON VS. (3) PENN STATE:  While talking about my stupid predictions/conspiracy theories, the Committee should they decide to choose Georgia, may sneak the Bulldogs at #3 to avoid the title or move Alabama to #2 to avoid an Alabama/Georgia semifinal.  Anyway…Clemson is Clemson as they just dominate the lines now on both sides of the ball.  I think notably on defense for Clemson they will frustrate McSorley and would use whatever strategies on him like Michigan may do in the game earlier (where I think Penn State’s lone blemish comes to).  And if Travis Etienne has a big year, he may gash Penn State on the ground.  On the other hand, questions are abound with the senior Bryant or prized recruit Trevor Lawrence to win the job at quarterback as he is more of the prototypical quarterback with a million dollar arm.  I’m going to make the safe assumption unless Bryant falls off the rails at some point during the season where he struggles immensely, it is still his job.  I don’t know if Clemson’s offense will be as stout with Bryant, but at least in this match, he would do enough to take down Penn State as the defense isn’t as strong and can do things to them.  So I think the Tigers will get to their third national championship appearance in four years.  MY PREDICTION: CLEMSON 31, PENN STATE 14

Clemson Georgia

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: SANTA CLARA, CA: (4) GEORGIA VS. (2) CLEMSON:  Ironically, no #3 seed has ever won the national title nor the #1 seed either.  Ohio State (14) and Alabama (17) won it as #4 seeds and Bama (15) & Clemson (16) won it as #2 seeds so that trend will continue.  I think after last year what Alabama showed with Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovaiola and Saban not afraid of switching quarterbacks, then everybody else will follow suit.  And both Clemson and Georgia have incumbent QB’s but have incoming freshmen that have both fan bases excited.  Many feel that Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) and Justin Fields (Georgia) at some point will take over this season.  So it is VERY hard to really figure out who will do what.  But regardless, the match to see will be Clemson’s defensive line against Georgia’s offensive line. If the Tigers are able to get to Georgia’s line, whether it is Fromm or Fields, it can be a major problem all game for Georgia.  On the other side, Clemson has to figure out how to beat Georgia’s top defense.  They will key in on the run (typical Smart defense), but if Clemson has Bryant in that game, it will be major advantage Georgia.  If the Tigers have in Lawrence, things are different.  And with Smart and his defenses, the knock has always been of his inability to stop dual threat guys a la Tebow, Cam, Manziel, and Watson.  But I think it is more of the gun-slingers that give him fits over time.  Even last year with Missouri and Auburn (first time), Georgia had issues and had issues again when Bama put Tua in the game.  So how I view it is: if Clemson plays Bryant against Georgia, Georgia wins.  If Clemson plays Lawrence, Clemson wins.  But the question will be, would Dabo do what Saban did last year and change things up?  My take is he would, but there way too many hypotheticals.  So, my ultimate prediction, I would say the national title goes up from I-20/I-59 in Tuscaloosa to I-20 up to I-85, passing the exit to Athens up to Clemson.  But again, too many factors.  MY PREDICTION: CLEMSON 27, GEORGIA 24

I can see Georgia, Alabama, and Clemson winning the whole thing this year.  Those are three schools I think it really boils down to.  There are too many questions surrounding Ohio State that will linger I think through the season and enough to take a couple of hits.  Washington I would want to see Jake Browning show more than what he did last year.  I get the injuries plagued his receivers but still.  But overall I think we will have a very competitive year in college football but I also think we will see more chaos with the playoff picks.  There will be more of a push for an 8-team playoff I think and that will be the rage of debate as the bowl season begins and all through the off-season next year.

OTHER STUFF:

Buckeyes.jpg

Heisman Pick:  Last year I picked Sam Darnold.  Boy I was way off (shows how my picks pan out!).  It’s hard to choose as there are plenty of candidates early on and sleepers.  Being in the South, you hear the favorites of Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, D’Andre Swift at Georgia, and Jarrett Stidham at Auburn.  As much as I like Tua, he’s not a guy to amass huge numbers, largely in part because in a good chunk of games, he may be sitting to rest if Alabama holds a 35-point lead in the 2nd half.  Same may go for Swift plus with him, he is in a group of running backs at Georgia that will be competing for carries.  Stidham will be an obvious choice for Auburn, but an 8-4 record may sting his chances.  So I am not 100% sure an SEC player is a finalist largely because you need a stout winning record and big numbers.  I think you’ll see a couple from the Big Ten, notably Trace McSorley (Penn State) and JK Dobbins (Ohio State).  I think Khalil Tate, if Arizona sees the PAC-12 Championship Game, will be there.  I also think Ryan Finley at NC State stands a good chance to be a finalist as a sleeper pick will be Josh Jackson at Virginia Tech.  But my pick will be the non-QB of the group: JK Dobbins.  I think he stands a strong chance to net 2,000 yards, even if he’s going to sit some 4th quarters of games and if Ohio State at least wins 10, I think it’s a lock.  MY PREDICTION: JK DOBBINS, OHIO STATE (RUNNER UP: TRACE MCSORLEY)

Key questions:

Oklahoma

ARE WE GOING TO SEE ANY REALIGNMENT SOON?  Right now, no.  Many still look at Oklahoma as being that team with one foot out the door in the Big 12 and either joining the PAC-12 or SEC.  But since 2014, all’s quiet on the conference fronts of the Power 5.  There’ve been rumblings about Florida State eyeing the SEC too, but the rumor is that the rival Gators and LSU are dead set against the Seminoles.  IF there is a move, it would be the PAC-12.  Boise State would be the obvious choice and then comes the second team, whether it is BYU or San Diego State, or even Fresno State.  But I think that’s what keeps the PAC-12 from jumping to 14 is because there isn’t a clear choice after Boise State and there are cons to having BYU or San Diego State joining.

Huskies

IF THERE IS CHAOS FOR THE PLAYOFF SELECTION, WILL THERE BE MAJOR DISCUSSIONS TO EXPAND THE PLAYOFF TO 6 OR 8?  Yes, but the way I have it, would have to be the only way.  If two SEC teams get in, shutting out the PAC-12 again, and if a 12-1 non-conference champion Georgia gets in over 12-1 conference champion Washington there will be people screaming bloody murder like they did with Ohio State last year and Penn State the year before.  But this one would be legit as the conference champion won their conference while Georgia did not and both had the same record.  It was understandable with Alabama over Ohio State and to a degree understandable with Ohio State over Penn State.  It may be harder for Georgia over Washington though with the same record but Washington holds the conference championship and Georgia doesn’t.  So it may take 2 or 3 years before it would be implemented, but it has the feel that the committee doesn’t want an 8-team playoff and pushing for six would be the final “no-ifs-ands-or-buts-about-it-anymore” meaning all conference champs would be in plus one at-large.  But again, I really believe there will be chaos and controversy this year for the Playoff.  It’s bound to happen.

Fuente.jpeg

WHO IS COACH OF THE YEAR PICK?  Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech with honorable mentions to Scott Frost and Kevin Sumlin for turning those programs around.  If Fuente nabs a 12-0 or 11-1 record in 2018, then he really has Virginia Tech back in the forefront of college football and will be a major threat to Clemson for years to come.

Georgia

ARE PEOPLE RUSHING TOO MUCH TO JUDGEMENT ON PRIZED PICK FRESHMEN, NOTABLY AT QUARTERBACK AND THINKING THEY WILL LEAD THEIR TEAMS TO A NATIONAL TITLE RIGHT AWAY?  Yes!  And I may be guilty of it with Lawrence at Clemson.  But I’m also thinking he won’t necessarily take over the Tigers by storm.  I think most people just assume when the major colleges have these young quarterbacks (Manziel, Hurts, Tua, Barrett, Winston, etc.) that they will take over and just dominate from the first snap.  It’s not going to be that way.  Even DeShaun Watson’s first year at Clemson he was starting as backup and then got in and did well, but not Heisman caliber.  In these schools a lot of the freshman QB’s who play well line up with talent all over the field.  2 years ago Georgia fans were ready to build statues and monuments of Jacob Eason as being the quarterback to take them to the promised land as a freshman.  However, he struggled tremendously and Smart was not fond of his play.  Two years later he’s sitting out the season so he can play for Washington to replace Browning in 2019.  So I think the concern should be is the pressure these kids have and some will do well and some will struggle.  But fans at these top tier programs, the brains are wired to “win now” and if they don’t, the season is lost and the recruit is a flop.  For every one of the guys I mentioned that started as a redshirt freshman or a true freshman and had great success, there are about 20 of the same class that are in way over their heads.

 

That is it.  Cannot wait until kickoff!

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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