The 4 Teams That Will be in the College Football Playoffs in 2015
The eventual college football national champion will have to navigate through a new and improved path to the championship - a four team elimination playoff system where the elite and worthy teams are selected by a 13 member committee. I discussed this new College Football Playoffs(CFP) in this overview. Last year's system, the Bowl Championship Series(BCS) selected the top 2 teams to compete for the national championship, but this year's four team format gives hope to bringing home the elusive national title and trophy. The CFP will not be perfect since humans with their internal biases will make the selections. However, this change to this new format is popular and fixes/tweaks should be expected in the evolution of this selection system. In this article, I will break down the four teams who will make the playoffs for 2015.
My Top 4 Teams
After much deliberation and reviewing all of the big conferences, injuries, and returning QBs, my final four teams to make the first inaugural playoff are Michigan State, Alabama, Stanford, and Baylor. I have the Alabama Crimson Tide as the #1 seed, playing the #4 Michigan State Spartans. The other playoff game will feature the #2 Baylor Bears against the #3 Stanford Cardinals.
The eventual national champion will be Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide defeating the Baylor Bears.
"First 2 Out"
The "first 2 out" teams that were close to making it to my selections were the Florida State Seminoles and Georgia Bulldogs. I am a believer that teams must have a hunger to win to have any edge to win a championship. The Florida State Seminoles will not have that hunger and will be upset for at least 2 losses. They will have trouble against Clemson, Notre Dame, and Florida. I have them losing to Notre Dame and Florida, and those 2 losses combined with FSU's weak strength of schedule will hurt them. Heisman Trophy Jameis Winston will struggle like Johnny Manziel before him. The pressure to repeat will be too great for him to overcome.
The Georgia Bulldogs will eventually lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship game, but their strength of schedule will get them some votes, but not enough to make the final four. The Oklahoma Sooners are currently ranked high, but their sophomore quarterback has some question marks and Oklahoma is prone to one or two upsets every year. I have Baylor beating them in Norman, OK on November 8th.
The PAC-12 has the best conference from top to bottom in the country with 6 teams in the AP Top 25. They will beat each other up, and the top teams Oregon and UCLA will not emerge from the rubble to make it to the final four. Let's breakdown each of the four final teams.
Alabama - AP Rank #2
Nick Saban lost in the Iron Bowl to Auburn on a fluke Alabama missed field goal where Auburn returned the missed kicked all the way downfield for the game winning touchdown in the final few seconds. Weeks later, the Crimson Tide lost to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl, giving Nick Saban a rare 2 game losing streak to carry into the offseason. Even though Alabama loses starting QB AJ McCarron, stud running back TJ Yeldon returns.
The offensive and defensive lines will be reloaded with the top recruits every year, and the talented Florida State transfer QB Jacob Coker will be expected to lead the Crimson Tide. Alabama will beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl, and also beat the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game. Saban's team will go undefeated, and will be given the #1 seed with their strength of schedule and the strength of the SEC.
Michigan State - AP Rank #8
The tough,blue-collar Spartans finished the 2013 season by beating Urban Meyer's #2 ranked and undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big 10 championship game, then headed to the elusive Rose Bowl to beat the PAC-12 champion, Stanford Cardinals. Even though the Spartans lose 6 starters on the defense, the #2 defense in the country has the talent to reload to continue its dominance on defense. What was once an embarrassing weakness in 2012, the Spartan offense will be the ones leading the charge to the playoffs with Rose Bowl MVP QB Connor Cook, RB Jeremy Langford, and a deep wide receiving core. The Spartans also return all tight ends from last year.
The lone question mark will be the offensive line, which lost 3 starters. Michigan State will have its biggest challenge playing at Oregon on September 6th, but even with a loss, they should roll through the Big 10(due to the devastating injury loss of Braxton Miller at Ohio State) to be selected to the 4th seed.
Stanford - AP Rank #11
The PAC-12 is the toughest conference this year but Stanford will come on top with a 12-1 record with its only loss to UCLA in the last game of the season. They will beat UCLA in a rematch in the PAC-12 championship at a neutral site. Oregon has not proven that they could beat a smash-mouth, power running team, as Stanford has beaten the high flying Ducks 2 years in a row. Stanford continues the streak this year by beating the Ducks in Eugene, OR on November 1st.
The Cardinals return starting QB Kevin Hogan, as well as his top WR, the talented and athletic Ty Montgomery. The offensive will have to find a replacement for starting running back Tyler Gaffney as well as four starting offensive lineman. The Cardinal defense has to find replacements for starters linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, as well as defensive end Josh Mauro. David Shaw, like his predecessor Jim Harbaugh, preaches and teaches hard nose defense, and his defensive scheme should continue to be dominant and effective as it has in the past 2 years.
Baylor - AP Rank #10
The Baylor Bears are my sleeper pick to make it to the College Football Playoff. The Big 12 is weak in terms of power teams, and the Big 12 Champion will either be Baylor or the Oklahoma Sooners. The two teams will meet in Norman, OK on November 8th, where I will predict the Bears to beat the overrated and underachieving Sooners who have been prone to upsets the past few years. The only other ranked team that Baylor will play is #20 Kansas State at home.
Since the Big 12 only has 10 teams(that doesn't sound right), they do not qualify to have divisions nor a conference championship. However, each Big 12 team will play each conference team. The Big 12 conference champion needs to win all nine games as they will not have that Big 12 championship game to help them sway the CFP committee members one way or another for the final four. However, as many of the College Football pundits on ESPN have been saying, if the Big 12 champion beats all 9 of its conference members, than that is stronger than other conferences who may only play 8 of the 12 total teams. I predict Baylor to go undefeated with an easy schedule, beating Oklahoma in Norman. The Bears return Heisman Candidate QB Bryce Petty, who passed for 32 touchdowns and 4200 yards. Baylor had the best defense in the Big 12 last year, but has lost 7 starters from its 11-2 Big 12 championship team.
The first year of the College Football Playoff will be exciting and surely controversial as the 13 member committee will have to pick the final four teams to make it into the playoffs. The CFP committee will generate its first rankings on October 28th. Incumbent national champions Florida State will lose a few games and miss the playoffs. Nick Saban will have this Alabama team hungry and recharged to obtain the #1 seed in the playoffs. Look for Michigan State to continue to roll after last year's Big 10 championship and Rose Bowl, coupled with Ohio State's loss of Braxton Miller to injury. My sleeper pick Baylor will pick apart the Big 12 and be ranked #2 in the playoff. Stanford will survive the competitively brutal PAC-12.