So every time I sat down to try to put together my four teams in the College Football Playoff, someone threw a wrench in it. Granted, it’s officially rivalry week, and a lot can still happen. Lots of massive games are on deck, including a potentially-classic Ohio State vs. Michigan game, another edition of the Iron Bowl, and so on. I have run out of weeks to think about it. I have to lock my picks in.
- Alabama: Is there any reasoning necessary here?
- Clemson: Clemson’s loss to Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago looked bad, but I wasn’t ready to call it quits on their season. They still had the tie-breaker with Louisville which mattered. Then, as we all know, the Cardinals pissed away their chances by forgetting that they had a game in Houston. DeShaun Watson is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country when he decides to not throw interceptions. He’s surrounded by excellent playmakers, especially Mike Williams, who they missed last year. They’ve got an excellent defense, despite letting Pitt hang 43 on them. In my opinion, this is the best-equipped team to take down Alabama once and for all (emphasis on “for all”)
- Ohio State: This is interchangeable with Michigan, but I think they’re going to win on Saturday. Ohio State has been there before with their current roster and current head coach. Say what you will about JT Barrett, who seemingly is always a darkhorse Heisman candidate at the beginning of the year and never is in the conversation at the end of it, but he’s a winner. He makes big plays down the stretch of big games, and he’s the X-factor moving forward. Their defense isn’t as star-studded as Michigan’s is, but lead by Raekwon McMillan, they’re still a unit no one wants to face. I can’t reason them as ahead of Clemson because, if (and hopefully, when) they win Saturday, they will not be in a conference championship game, like the Tigers will be.
- Wisconsin: This may surprise people a little bit. When I first started thinking about my rankings, they were originally my darkhorse pick. Wisconsin isn’t the best team in the Big 10, but I think it’s likely they end up winning the conference. Frankly, that’s still not by accident. At times, Alex Hornibrook has looked like exactly what he is – a true freshman quarterback in a major, hard-hitting conference. At others, he looks like a stud. The Badgers have lost some players on their defense, but they’re still balling out. They’ve looked more consistent than Ohio State and they had a harder schedule than Michigan. They may lost on the road at Michigan and in overtime to Ohio State, but they were in a position to win both There’s no reason they shouldn’t be considered, especially if they do go win their conference.
DARK HORSE – Oklahoma State: We would be talking about the Cowboys a lot more if they didn’t lose a game in BS fashion against Central Michigan. I’ve always been the type to say, “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” in hypothetical situations like that, but they literally got screwed because CMU shouldn’t have gotten the last play that they won on. Anyways, they’ve played like the best team in the Big XII for much of the season. They don’t play defense, but they play more legitimate teams than both Michigan and Washington did. The loss to Baylor back in September looks ugly, but if I’m picking one team on the outside looking in, it’s Oklahoma State.
But I wasn’t alone in making picks. Three of our staff members have their own opinions…
- Alabama: A real no-brainer. Easily the best team in the country to date and I don’t see anyone challenging them, not even Auburn until the CFB Playoff.
- Michigan: I think the Wolverines will play spoiler to the Buckeyes season and beat them this weekend and that propel them to win the Big 10. The Wolverines have one of the best running games in the country and arguably the best defense. Even if Speight can’t go this week he should be available for the Big Ten Championship and into the playoffs.
- Clemson: Clemson should return to the CFB Playoff for the second straight year. The defense had an off day against Pitt but I don’t think Brent Venables will let that happen again. Deshaun Watson will be the player to watch as he tries to lead the Tigers to the National Championship.
- Ohio State: This spot is really up in the air for me. I think Washington is either going to lose to WSU or in the Pac-12 Championship game. Washington State and Colorado/USC are bad matchups and potential problems for Washington and I don’t see them surviving both of those weeks. It pretty much comes down to Ohio State, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. I think Wisconsin would have to win the Big Ten championship but I don’t see that happening. Ohio State already beat the Sooners earlier this year so I think they would get the edge.
- Alabama: The Crimson Tide are a lock for the postseason, Saban and his team will need to lose the next weeks in a row in order to miss out on the playoffs. Although I could see Bama losing in the Iron Bowl with Auburn. I’m not saying that they will because I don’t think that but Auburn and Alabama always play great games against one another. And even if they do, the odds of Bama losing two weeks in a row are slim.
- Michigan: Michigan dropped a tough game to Iowa last weekend, in a matchup that Michigan had absolutely every opportunity to defeat Iowa but they couldn’t put themselves into the endzone often enough. I have Michigan as my #2 seed entering the College Football Playoff because I think they will beat Ohio State, if the Wolverines do beat Ohio State they will be in the playoffs no matter what happens. Michigan will then have to play in the Big 10 Championship game which will most likely be against Wisconsin or Nebraska, and they’ve already defeated the Badgers.
- Ohio State: If Ohio State loses to Michigan, which I think will happen, they’ll need some help in order to get into the playoffs. The Buckeyes will be at a bit of a disadvantage because they won’t have a conference championship game, but Clemson will, and this is where their help starts. I think that Clemson will lose to the Coastal Champion of the ACC, which will most likely be the University of North Carolina. If Ohio State loses to Michigan and Clemson loses in the ACC Championship, then I think the College Football Committee will give them a chance. If Michigan against Ohio State is the game everybody pictures it to be, a potential rematch in the NCAA Championship is a prospect that will skyrocket television ratings.
- Clemson: Now that Louisville is out of the picture, a spot in the College Football Playoffs is Clemson’s to lose. Literally they will have to lose to North Carolina and/or South Carolina. I think that the Tigers have saved their best football for last and they’ll roll into the College Football Playoff. I don’t believe that I was alone when hoping Lamar Jackson and Louisville would find a place in the postseason but they need too much to happen.
DARK HORSE: Penn State: This year in college football is dominated by the Big 10. Normally, the SEC is the conference that is at the top, but the Wolverines, Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, Badgers and Cornhuskers all had themselves strong seasons. I think Penn State could squeak into the playoffs because they have looked impressive as of late. The Nittany Lions lost a shootout to Pitt and lost in a blowout to Michigan (can you blame them). The team from Happy Valley did defeat Ohio State, which as of right now, no other team can say. Penn State are my darkhorse because of how well they’ve played down the stretch.
- Ohio State
DARK HORSE: Oklahoma
- Alabama: This one’s a no-brainer; they are far and away the best team in the country, and this defense is going to go down as one of the greatest ever. The only relevant undefeated team left, the Tide are my pick to win it all and finish the year without a loss, further adding toward Saban’s legacy as arguably the best ever.
- Ohio State: The only team maybe remotely close to Alabama on both sides of the ball, Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes have looked good for most of this season outside of that hiccup against Penn State. JT Barrett doesn’t have a tendency to play well in big games, but if OSU gets in like they should, he will need to step it up big time against elite competition.
- Clemson: Thanks to Louisville’s stumble against Houston, Clemson now has a clear path to the Playoff so long as they win the ACC. They aren’t nearly as good as last season, but Watson knows how to play up to the level of competition he faces, and Dabo Swinney consistently makes sure his team is well-prepared.
- Oklahoma: This last spot was tough to decide, but due to Washington’s loss to USC and their weak strength of schedule, I think the committee lets the Sooners have a chance at redemption. As long as they remain a two-loss team and take care of the Big XII, their difficult early-season schedule will be taken into account and they will sneak into the Playoff.
DARK HORSE – Penn State: I never thought I would be saying this, but Penn State has a legitimate chance to win the Big 10. If they do so with a win over Ohio State, who looks like a clear-cut choice to make it, then I don’t see how the committee ignores the Nittany Lions success this season.
Cover photo courtesy of Big Ten Network