Yesterday, we predicted how the college football standings would look at the end of the season. For the first time ever, let’s find out what happens when that translates to in a four-team playoff.
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First, let’s predict the actual winners of the power five conferences:
- ACC: Florida State vs Miami (FL)
- Big Ten: Michigan State vs Nebraska
- Big 12: Baylor
- Pac-12: Oregon vs UCLA
- SEC: Georgia vs Alabama
Remember, whether we like it or not (and we all shouldn’t), preseason polls dictate how we position teams before they play any games. Nearly unanimously, your top four teams are (in order): Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, and Oklahoma.
Of that list, the easiest pick is Florida State. If they get past Oklahoma State, a two-game stretch against Notre Dame and Louisville in late October look like the only challenges this team will have to stay undefeated. They do have a date at Miami (FL) in mid-November before a projected rematch in the ACC Championship.
Alabama has a weird schedule, but it favors them. Two straight road trips to Tennessee and LSU is their biggest test, otherwise their regular season finale against Auburn will probably always provide a challenge as long as Gus Malzhan is there.
Oregon will also lock up a spot. I think this is finally the year that Marcus Mariota makes a strong case for the Heisman and the Ducks get over the hex that Stanford has on them.
Apr 12, 2014; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterbackJameis Winston
(5) looks to throw the ball during the spring game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
So there’s three teams already: FSU, Alabama, and Oregon. Our biggest search will be the fourth team.
Let’s take a look at 5-10 in the AP preseason poll: Ohio State, Auburn, UCLA, Michigan State, South Carolina, and Baylor. Let’s eliminate the Buckeyes without Braxton Miller — I think they will lose at least twice and most importantly to MSU. I will tag Auburn with a loss to Alabama, UCLA and MSU with a loss to Oregon, and I think USC and Baylor will have two losses or more.
Because Auburn has a tough schedule, I think they will have two or more losses as well. This leaves the Bruins and Spartans with at least one loss to the Ducks. Michigan State has the schedule to go 11-1 in the regular season, but I believe Nebraska will nick them in the Big Ten championship. UCLA has a tough schedule, but if they only lose to Oregon twice, they have the much better resume in comparison to MSU.
Trust me, the Pac-12 >>>>>>>>> Big Ten in terms of depth in football. The conference could have the deepest array of talented starting quarterbacks while the Big Ten got worse by adding Maryland and Rutgers. Oregon and UCLA aren’t heavy favorites because the rest of the conference is sub-par — they’re just that good.
So, if all those scenarios above play out, UCLA will get that fourth spot. There could be a huge debate between UCLA and Baylor — especially if the Bears only have two losses and win the conference — but I think the Big 12 winner needs to have just one loss to beat UCLA’s two losses to Oregon. Remember, the Big 12 didn’t have a strong showing as a conference last year, and they’ll have to win a lot of the big games in non-conference play this year to get some respect.
Here’s the final four:
- Florida State
That sets up the following semifinals: Alabama vs. Oregon and Florida State vs. UCLA. I’ll take the Ducks and the Seminoles to set up the national championship stage.
Finally, our first champion in the new College Football Playoff: the Oregon Ducks. Mariota will solidify himself as one of the best quarterbacks in college football. This team has been on the verge of being the best in the nation and with how the landscape is evolving into a fast-paced nature, the Ducks will finally thrive and break through to a national title.