Take Iowa, who played Michigan State to the brink, or Stanford, who dominated the Pac 12 and beat Notre Dame. Then there's Ohio State, who as much as it pains me to say it, lost once and then whooped buzzworthy Michigan. Or even Notre Dame, who had a sick schedule and lost two games by two points each, to the #1 and #6 team in the playoff rankings! You can't tell me any of these four teams couldn't beat any of the top four. We need an 8-team playoff now!
But, I digress. We have a four team playoff, and that's better than the Big Cowards System, or the BCS. In the end, we have four very good football teams, who should give us plenty of excitement and competition on New Year's Eve (Yes, not New Year's Day! Why, oh why?). Here's my breakdown of the final four, and my predictions!
People need to put the Clemsoning and the Clemson choking persona to rest. Clemson is 13-0, has three top 10 wins, a very good, if not elite D, and the best dual-threat QB in the land. People want to knock their conference, but FSU and UNC are 9 and 10 in the rankings respectively, and they beat them both.
This team is incredibly balanced, well-coached with Dabo and has a fanbase ready to lose their minds. Did you see the 20,000 that packed the stands for Dabo's free pizza day during their playoff announcement? The fans are ready, and this team is ready to fight for it all!
The SEC was pretty bad this year. And, as an SEC guy by default (a team I won't name who used to be in the Big 12), it does pain me to admit this. You have a bunch of underperforming teams, and then you have Bama.
It's hard to evaluate Bama because they didn't schedule a big out-of-conference game (Wisconsin no longer counts). But, let's try! They certainly have the O line and the RB in Henry. No shocker there, and I think he gets the Heisman, although I'd love to see a co-Heisman with McCaffrey. You have a good Bama D, but not great. And, you have a pretty weak QB in Coker.
It's a recipe for mixed results in a playoff format. More to come, but this isn't your typical Bama team. Saban "the devil" can only do so much.
Aside from Connor Cook pushing aside Archie Griffin, there's a lot to love about this Sparty squad. Cook stuck around for his senior year and is very clutch, their D singlehandedly won them the Ohio State game and kept them in the Iowa game, and Dantonio is a whale of a coach.
I love that Sparty was put at 3, and OU was 4. This will be the most debated part of the playoff, which is much better than the debate over snubbing a team like last year. Michigan State played in by far the best conference this year, and won it. Their only blemish was a one-point loss in Nebraska, but more than made up for it with the miraculous victory in the big house and a win at Ohio State without Cook, perhaps the most impressive feat in the entire college football season. Hats off to you Sparty!
This team was the dark horse of some analysts. After the bad loss to Texas, things looked bleak. But, in college football, everything is about timing and results. OU's loss to Texas came nearly two months ago, giving them time to play their way back in the mix, with their three toughest tests coming at the end of the season.
That said, the big 12 was stricken with QB injuries like I've never seen before. So, how do we evaluate this OU team?
Let's start with the QB. If there was one thing I was most shocked about to start the season, it was OU's choice to bench Trevor Knight and start Baker Mayfield. We're talking about benching a guy who defeated Bama in the Sugar Bowl as a redshirt freshman. And, we're also talking about a walk-on in Mayfield! To even have a QB battle for the starting spot is gutsy by Stoops. At first, I thought it was just politics. Then, I couldn't believe it!
So, you have a warrior in Mayfield, a very good running back and a solid D. Top to bottom, I think OU is the second-best team in the final 4, but I think their ranking is appropriate. It just so happens that I think Clemson is the best team at the moment, and they're OU's opponent in the final four.
Let's start with Clemson-OU. As I mentioned, I'm higher on Clemson overall. This should be a heck of a game. I definitely don't see a blowout. I see Clemson taking it 30-27.
In the other semifinal, it's Bama-MSU. You may be surprised by my pick, but I'm going MSU. Bama's biggest strength is their running game, but that won't come easy against Michigan State. MSU's defense is for real. This game should be somewhat close, and it comes down to one thing for me: Cook is light years better and more experienced than Coker. Game on the line, one guy is making plays and the other isn't. Also, MSU might just have the better D. Give me Sparty 26-17.
Now, to the final. This one is tough as nails. You have two of the most balanced, well-coached teams in the country. Dabo vs. Dantonio for all the marbles!
Can Sparty come out of nowhere and take the ship like Ohio State did last playoffs? Or will smooth and steady Clemson win it all? Rankings are subjective, but do I go chalk or do I go out on a limb? I'm going to pull a George W. Bush and take Clemson. I've been high on them most of the season, and there's no reason to back off now. Give me Clemson 30-22.