Predicting the New Year’s Six: How College Football Concludes Its Season

Two nights before Christmas, football was on. The NFL rolled out Colts–Ravens and Vikings–Packers, leaving fans counting the minutes until the College Football Playoff. The sport could expand and move a week earlier. . .

Ohio State vs. USC

USC has a seven game win streak over the Buckeyes, and that looks to continue here. Ohio State lost by 31 to Iowa. (Update: Nope)

Pick: USC

Penn State vs. Washington

The Huskies haven’t looked the same since a crushing loss to Arizona State, but an Apple Cup victory rejuvenated an ailing team. It still won’t be enough to overcome Penn State in Saquon Barkley’s final game.

Pick: Penn State

Auburn vs. UCF

The electric Golden Knights offense will face a terrific Auburn defense, victors of the Iron Bowl. Don’t discount the Tiger offense either, as Jarrett Stidham leads a dual threat attack. However, UCF was, in my opinion, the fourth-best team in the country. Expect the Golden Knights to pull out a victory in their final game withcoach Scott Frost.

Pick: UCF

Wisconsin vs. Miami

A Miami team that destroyed Notre Dame by 33 faces a Wisconsin team unfamiliar with high-quality opposition. Malik Rosier will outduel his quarterback counterpart Alex Hornibrook to deliver Miami the victory.

Pick: Miami

Oklahoma vs. Georgia

The first of the Playoff matchups serves up an intriguing game, with Oklahoma’s top-ranked offense against Georgia’s SEC-leading defense. Unfortunately for the Sooners, a sluggish defense won’t be enough to slow down Georgia.

Pick: Georgia

Clemson vs. Alabama

This is not the Clemson–Alabama of old. The Crimson Tide had no business making the Playoff, and Clemson will outclass Nick Saban once again.

Advertisements

College Football Power Rankings: Championship Week

College football’s regular season is over and done with, and another four teams will go to the Playoff. For Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Alabama, the national title is at stake. For others, a bowl game. For Baylor. . . um. . .

1. Oklahoma

Every team’s season has been reevaluated, and Oklahoma emerges on top. The Sooners torched TCU in the Big 12 Championship to earn a trip to the Playoff.

2. Clemson

The Tigers ran Miami off the field in a 38-3 annihilation. Clemson booked a spot in the Playoff, and that Auburn win looks impressive.

3. Georgia

The Bulldogs erased a bad memory by winning the SEC. Auburn couldn’t beat the former #1 a second time, and Kirby Smart is heading to the Playoff.

4. UCF

I said I reevaluated everyone. The Knights put up 62 en route to beating Memphis in the AAC Championship, went undefeated, and boasts signature wins over the aforementioned Tigers (twice!) and South Florida. In a perfect world UCF would be in the Playoff, but will instead settle for the Peach Bowl. Opponent? Auburn.

5. Auburn

The Tigers’ losses to Clemson and Georgia can be excused, leaving Auburn with one unavoidable loss. The LSU game hurts, but running the SEC West gauntlet slots the Tigers in at fifth. Wins over Alabama and Georgia by a combined 35 points headline an incredible resume.

6. Alabama

The Tide were the only top 10 team not participating in a conference game, yet still made the Playoff. Despite undefeated AAC champ UCF’s similar strength of schedule, Alabama will have a shot at Clemson for the third straight year.

7. USC

The Pac-12 champions head to the Fiesta Bowl, which is the de facto Rose Bowl against Ohio State. USC led Stanford by double digits long into the fourth quarter, and vaults above Ohio State upon reevaluation.

8. Ohio State

If you want to make the Playoff, don’t lose to Iowa by 31. Fair?

9. Wisconsin

The Badgers lost a hard-fought Big 10 Championship, and head to the Orange Bowl to face Miami. The Hurricanes have made a habit of running teams off the field, (Notre Dame agrees) and could mock Wisconsin’s weak schedule.

10. Miami

The Hurricanes weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders in a 38-3 drubbing from Clemson. Miami should beat an overmatched Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl, and jump a few spots.

11. TCU

The Horned Frogs got smoked—again—by Oklahoma. Kenny Hill played well in the first half, but TCU imploded on both sides of the ball. Baker Mayfield is going to win the Heisman, while TCU falls out of New Year’s Six consideration.

12. Washington 

13. Penn State

I’m not sold on a team that lost every challenge. The Lions aren’t cut out for high-quality opposition.

14. Notre Dame

15. Michigan State

MSU enjoyed a nice rebound season, but a blowout loss to Notre Dame early in the season hurts.

16. Stanford

The Cardinal were never really close in a blowout loss to USC, and will compete in a medium-quality bowl. Bryce Love is a finalist for the Heisman, but the trophy appears to have Baker Mayfield’s name written on it.

17. Memphis

The Tigers played an incredibly fun AAC Championship, a 55-62 2OT loss to UCF, and Memphis doesn’t fall far, as both of their losses are to #4 UCF.

18. LSU

This was a terrific rebound season for Ed Orgeron, and the Tigers will face Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.

19. Oklahoma State

20. Northwestern

21. Toledo

The Rockets destroyed Akron 45-28 to become the MAC champion. Be aware of flying missiles.

22. Florida Atlantic

Lane Kiffin has turned FAU into a conference champion, as the Owls blew out North Texas by 24. Florida Atlantic will face Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl, and it shouldn’t be close.

23. Virginia Tech

24. Washington State

25. Tennessee’s coaching search

The Vols finally found a coach, as Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is thrust into the spotlight. Pruitt has a talented roster, but very few recruits as of yet. Expect that to change, and Tennessee might be a force in the SEC East once again.

Alabama Doesn’t Deserve a Playoff Spot

Sunday morning, the CFP Committee had a decision to make. Did Alabama deserve a spot in the 2017-18 College Football Playoff? The answer from the Committee was yes. The Committee is wrong.

Alabama vs. Ohio State

Let’s first discount the primary “challenger,” Ohio State. If you want to earn a spot in the Playoff, don’t lose to Iowa by 31. Fair?

 

Alabama vs. Auburn

Auburn’s best wins: Georgia, Alabama

Auburn’s worst loss: LSU

Alabama’s best wins: LSU, Mississippi State

Alabama’s only loss: Auburn

Three-loss Auburn is more deserving than the Tide. To the tune of 26-14, the Tigers dominated Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Auburn made the SEC Championship, unlike Alabama. Considering two of Auburn’s losses were to Playoff teams, (Clemson, Georgia) why not the Tigers? Consider the quality wins listed above.

 

Alabama vs. UCF

Alabama’s best wins: LSU, Mississippi State

Alabama’s only loss: Auburn

UCF’s best wins: Memphis (twice), USF

When comparing Alabama to unbeaten UCF, the Tide look bad. The AAC champions beat Memphis twice by a combined score of 102-68. Add on a dramatic Rivalry Week win at South Florida, and ‘Bama’s resume pales in comparison. Please never forget that LSU (the Tide’s best win) lost to Troy.

Alabama vs. USC

Alabama’s best wins: Troy, LSU, Mississippi State

Alabama’s only loss: Auburn

USC’s best wins: Stanford (twice), Arizona

USC’s losses: Notre Dame, Washington State

Although this one seems a bit out there, USC is at least on par with Alabama. The Trojans destroyed Arizona, whose quarterback (Khalil Tate) had run for 840(!!!) yards in the past four weeks, snapping the Wildcats’ four-game win streak. Add on beating Stanford twice, and USC’s 11 wins outweigh Alabama’s 11. USC is also a conference champion. Alabama isn’t even a division champion.

 

Through these comparisons, it’s easy to see Alabama doesn’t deserve to be in the Playoff. UCF, USC, and Auburn all have better cases for the exclusive field of four. The Committee is facing questions that need answering, and are not setting a good precedent. Alabama could get blown out against Clemson, leading to 2015 comparisons. TCU and Baylor are not amused.

Cast as underdogs, Auburn’s scenarios are set

via Daily Prompt: Underdog

Written off after a loss to LSU, the Auburn Tigers are back. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham and Co. have paths to every high-quality bowl game. After the Whistle breaks down where coach Gus Malzahn’s team could play in postseason.

If Auburn wins out. . .

The Tigers would have wins over Alabama and Georgia, and would be the CFP’s first two-loss Playoff team. QB Jarrett Stidham has a chance to lead Auburn to their first-ever Playoff.

With ATW’s projections for this scenario, the playoff is:

1. Clemson

2. Oklahoma

3. Auburn

4. Ohio State

If Auburn wins the Iron Bowl, but loses to Georgia. . .

The Tigers would almost certainly make a New Year’s Six bowl with a win over Alabama. After the Whistle projects Auburn to finish ranked #8 under this scenario, which would send the Tigers to a New Year’s Six bowl. Pending Big Ten Championship, that bowl will either be the Orange Bowl against the ACC Championshop loser. . .  or the Peach Bowl against the American Athletic winner.

With ATW’s current projections for this scenario, the Playoff is:

1. Clemson

2. Oklahoma

3. Georgia

4. Ohio State

If Auburn loses to Alabama. . .

The Tigers likely drop to the 10-13 range, and fall another spot after the American Athletic Championship. Every Power 5 conference champion is guaranteed a NY6 bowl, so any Pac-12 winner besides USC drops Auburn out of the New Year’s Six and into the Citrus Bowl, probably against Michigan State.

With ATW’s projections for this scenario, the Playoff is:

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Oklahoma

4. Ohio State

Projections for Power 5 conference champions (besides the SEC) are Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and USC.

College Football Power Rankings Week 12

Thanksgiving is nearly here, and with it comes Rivalry Week. This week’s rankings provide a blueprint for what every team needs to happen in matchups such as Auburn-Alabama, USF-UCF, and Notre Dame-Stanford. High-powered matchups that could change the Playoff picture. New Year’s Six hopes on the line. This is Rivalry Week.

1. Alabama

The top seven are unchanged in a drama-less week of blowouts. Alabama faces a crucial game in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. If the Tide win, they’re probably in even if Alabama loses to Georgia. And a loss? That forces the committee to think, and we can’t have that.

2. Miami

The Hurricanes won’t face a quality opponent until the ACC Championship against Clemson. Even if Miami loses to Pittsburgh, the ‘Canes would get into the top four with an ACC Championship Game victory. On the other hand, if Miami beats Pitt and loses to Clemson, would they get in ahead of Ohio State, Wisconsin, or a second SEC team?

3. Oklahoma

The Sooners will face West Virginia with a Big 12 Championship spot already locked up. Oklahoma will probably face TCU, and can’t afford to lose.

4. Clemson

A tricky game against now-ranked South Carolina affords Clemson no room for error looking ahead to the ACC Championship against Miami.

5. Auburn

The Tigers will have a chance to win the SEC West for the first time since the Kick Six  against #1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Nick Marshall and Cam Newton are the last two quarterbacks to beat Alabama. Can Jarrett Stidham add his name to the list?

6. Wisconsin

The Badgers are looking ahead to a must-win Big Ten Championship against Ohio State, but Minnesota is always tricky for Wisconsin to deal with. The Badgers still need to win out.

7. Georgia

The Bulldogs will be in the top four if they win out. Georgia will have beaten Alabama or Auburn, Clemson or Miami will have lost, and either Alabama will have lost the Iron Bowl or Auburn would have three losses. However, Georgia Tech and its  triple-option offense has won two of the last three against Georgia.

8. Ohio State

That Team Up North comes down to attempt to ruin the Buckeyes’ Playoff hopes. Ohio State must win out and receive some help to make it in as the two-loss B1G champion.

9. Notre Dame

An underwhelming performance against Navy causes Notre Dame to fall a spot, but the Irish can assure themselves of a New Year’s Six Bowl with a win over Stanford. Pending chaos, Clemson could meet Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. What a matchup that would be!

10. TCU

An easy matchup against 10-loss(!) Baylor should pose no problems for the Horned Frogs. TCU is win-and-in to the Big 12 Championship vs. Oklahoma.

11. UCF

The Golden Knights won’t make the Playoff unless historic chaos ensues, but UCF has the chance to cement a NY6 bowl and a top 10 ranking if they beat USF and Memphis to win the American Athletic.

12. USC

In their infinite wisdom, the Trojans waited until this week to schedule their bye. USC won’t know who they face in the Pac-12 Championship until after the Apple Cup. Excellent use of your bye.

13. Washington

With Stanford’s win, the Huskies can’t win the Pac-12 North, but Washington could lock up a NY6 spot with a win in the Apple Cup.

14. Memphis

After a blowout of a solid SMU team, Memphis awaits the winner of USF-UCF in the AAC title game. The third Tigers in the rankings will need to beat three-win East Carolina first, though.

15. Washington State

If the Cougars win the Apple Cup, Wazzou will head to the Pac-12 Championship against USC to play for a crack at a New Year’s Six bowl. If the Cougars lose, Stanford wins the North.

16. Penn State

The Lions are tenth in the CFP committee’s rankings, meaning Penn State is win-and-in for a New Year’s Six bowl. Just beat Maryland!

17. Michigan State

Head-to-head is only used as a tiebreaker if two or more teams’ resumes are comparable. MSU lacks quality wins outside of Penn State and now-unranked Michigan, and is a long shot for a New Year’s Six bowl. If the Spartans beat Rutgers, Michigan State is headed to the Citrus Bowl.

18. Stanford

The Cardinal are playing #9 Notre Dame, but Stanford’s focus is the Apple Cup. A Washington win sends Stanford to the Pac-12 Championship, but a Wazzou win eliminates Stanford.

19. Mississippi State

All three of the Bulldogs’ losses are to top 10 teams. Ole Miss will attempt to change that in the Thanksgiving Egg Bowl, but MSU needs a win.

20. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys’ slim hopes of a Big 12 Championship appearance vanished with a shootout loss to Kansas State. Even if TCU loses to ten-loss Baylor, Oklahoma State would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Iowa State and/or Texas and/or West Virginia wins in that scenario, the Cowboys would lose out due to losing to the next-best team, Kansas State. Iowa State has the head-to-head tiebreaker over TCU.

21. LSU

What feels like the tenth Tigers in these rankings, LSU will attempt to further their cause for a decent quality bowl game in Ed Orgeron’s first full season. Texas A&M is always an issue on Rivalry Week, so it’s not a given.

22. Northwestern

Someone needs to get a Northwestern vs. Harvard rivalry established, because that would be funny. It would be a good game—in basketball.

23. USF

The third of four Group of 5 teams in the rankings, USF has to beat UCF and Memphis to earn a New Year’s Six spot. On the other hand, Boise State might be picked ahead of the Bulls even if this unlikely scenario takes place.

24. South Carolina

Facing a game against Clemson, South Carolina might be in the rankings for this week, but don’t expect them to be in next week’s top 25.

25. Boise State

A three-point loss to Washington State is nothing to scoff at, but a blowout loss to Virginia has kept the Broncos out of the rankings until now. Running the table in the Mountain West buoys them.

 

New Year’s Six Projections

  • Based on my picks for important games, here is who I think will be in the top six bowls come New Year’s.
  • This blueprint will change drastically after Rivalry Week.
  • Please note that every Power 5 champion and the highest ranked Group of 5 champion are guaranteed NY6 spots.
  • The last three are decided based on geographical location while avoiding rematches.
  • The predicted higher-ranked team is listed first.

CFP semifinal: Miami vs. Alabama

CFP semifinal: Oklahoma vs. Auburn

Orange: Clemson vs. Ohio State

Cotton: Notre Dame vs. TCU

Fiesta: USC vs. Wisconsin

Peach: UCF vs. Georgia

College Football Power Rankings Week 9

The CFB Playoff Comittee has released their first rankings, with many surprises. As a result of that, I have re-analyzed the teams. Prepare for chaos and controversy!

1. Georgia

A new #1 has presented themselves! The Bulldogs take the top spot from Alabama due to a massive win over surging Notre Dame. Speaking of the Irish. . .

2. Notre Dame

This is even more controversial! Notre Dame boasts marquee wins over USC, NC State, and to a lesser extent Michigan State. Despite their one point loss to the top team in the nation, the Irish claim #2.

3. Alabama

i have pulled a Florida State! Alabama has destroyed their opponents, but doesn’t have the marquee wins Georgia and Notre Dame have. As a result, the Crimson Tide fall.

4. Oklahoma

That loss to Iowa State doesn’t look too bad anymore, does it? The Sooners are one of the main beneficiaries of my choosing to re-evaluate every game of every notable team.

5. Ohio State

The Buckeyes came back from 15 down in the fourth quarter against Penn State to claim a top five spot. Their loss to Oklahoma keeps them out of a playoff slot, but Championship Week should help Ohio State.

6. Clemson

The Tigers continue to take care of all challengers save one. Clemson’s narrow loss to Syracuse keeps them out of the top four, and they will need to run the table.

7. Penn State

I have only dropped Penn State four spots for the OSU loss, because they seem better than the teams below them. Saquon Barkley has flown into superstardom at this point.

8. Miami

9. Wisconsin 

Both the Hurricanes and Badgers continue to win ugly games against unranked opposition. Who would’ve expected that Miami’s win over Toledo would be better than any of Wisconsin’s?

10. TCU

Iowa State has turned into a really good team, knocking off the Horned Frogs this past week 14-7. TCU won’t drop far, but they need some help.

11. Virginia Tech

Miami would clinch the ACC Coastal with a win over the Hokies on Saturday, and eliminate Virginia Tech from playoff consideration. If VT wins, November 11th in Bobby Dodd Stadium against Georgia Tech could be the de facto ACC semifinal.

12. Oklahoma State

Mason Rudolph is back in the Heisman conversation after a terrific performance in a  50-39 victory over West Virginia. The Cowboys don’t mind, but they need to win Bedlam to stay alive in the Playoff race.

13. UCF

The fifth and final undefeated team, UCF will need a lot of help to become the first Group of 5 team in the Playoff. McKenzie Milton’s offense also needs some help from an average defense looking ahead to South Florida. Rivalry Week is going to be special this year.

14. Washington

The Huskies are the last team with a chance at the Playoff in my eyes. Jake Browning has led the offense, and coach Chris Peterson has built a solid defense. But the Arizona State loss still hurts.

15. Iowa State

What a month for the Cyclones. Iowa State is riding a four game winning streak which includes touchdown wins over Oklahoma and TCU. Their two losses eliminate them from Playoff contention, but Iowa State has an outside chance at a New Year’s Six bowl.

16. Arizona

The Wildcats are on fire. Destroying Washington State by three touchdowns sent a message around the nation. USC is up next, and it should be a fun one!

Stat of the day: Quarterback Khalil Tate rushed for more yards (840) in the month of October than any other player in the last ten years.

17. USC

18. NC State

19. Memphis

20. Auburn

21. Stanford

22. Mississippi State

There’s very little movement in 17-21, so we’ll skip them. Mississippi State enters the rankings with some quality wins, including last week’s 35-14 dismantling of Texas A&M.

23. Toledo

Another new entry is Toledo! The Rockets are 7-1, the loss coming to Miami. Toledo actually led Miami at the half!

24. USF

The higher they jump, the harder they fall. The Bulls fall seven spots after a disastrous loss to Houston that means South Florida can’t lose again. Otherwise UCF can claim the division before the two sides meet during Rivalry Week.

25. Washington State

Wazzou is hanging on by a thread. I kept them here because LSU lost to Troy. Arizona is a good football team though.