It is way too early to make any reliable predictions for the College Football Playoff. The committee will not even release a poll until November. Speculation, however, is quite fun. So, without further ado, here are my top four predictions (in no particular order):
University of Alabama
Nick Saban’s squad looked really good in their 24-7 win against Florida State on Saturday night. With only two real road tests (at Texas A&M and at Auburn) in their schedule coupled with avoiding strong SEC East teams like the University of Florida, the Crimson Tide has a very favorable schedule. They also have a ton of returning talent and have characteristically recruited well to fill holes in their roster.
The Buckeyes return senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who led them to the semi-finals last year. With the University of Oklahoma this week, Penn State on Oct. 28 and a trip to Ann Arbor to round out the season against the University of Michigan, they have a less favorable schedule. A win against Oklahoma on Saturday night would go a long way toward solidifying their spot in this top four, but a loss would not eliminate them. They need to improve quickly after an opener against Indiana University that was too close for too long.
University of Southern California
The Trojans’ schedule is not favorable; they have to survive Stanford and the University of Utah at home as well as trips to Washington State and Notre Dame. They also have wild cards on their schedule, namely the University of Texas and the University of California, Los Angeles. If they emerge from that minefield with only one loss, they should be safely in the playoff.
University of Oklahoma
Though a loss to Ohio State University on Saturday night would make their path to the playoff tough, it’s early enough in the season for them to recover. With big road tests against K-State and Oklahoma State and a possible trap game against Texas Tech sandwiched between, they have a difficult schedule ahead. Their head coach, Lincoln Riley, is also a major question mark. He’s never been a head coach before at any level.
And now, on the outside looking in:
The defending champs lost their Heisman candidate quarterback, Deshaun Watson, and are starting a freshman in the position. Though head coach Dabo Swinney is an excellent head coach, there are too many question marks on their two-deep to be in this early Top Four.
Heisman hopeful Mason Rudolph is leading the Cowboys into the season with high hopes. They travel to the University of Pittsburgh next week for a road test, and the nation will get a chance to see if they are for real. They also play the University of Oklahoma and Kansas State at home in Stillwater, Oklahoma, meaning they get the benefit of a favorable schedule.
A loss to Alabama shouldn’t hurt them all that much, but they also lost their starting quarterback, Deondre Francois, for the season. Freshman quarterback James Blackman should have a chance to get used to things with a game against the University of Louisiana at Monroe this weekend. Florida State isn’t out of it yet, but there is a lot of weight on a freshman’s shoulders.