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.

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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.

College Football Power Rankings: Rivalry Week

Photo source: Flickr

The insanity of Rivalry Week is over, but the CFP committee has more questions to answer as Alabama and Miami lost. The SEC and ACC Championships are play-ins, and Oklahoma and Wisconsin are win-and-in. What’s at stake for Championship Week? Read on.

1. Oklahoma

Capturing the top spot for the first time this year, Oklahoma will make the Playoff of the Sooners defeat TCU in the Big 12 Championship. A loss would send Oklahoma to a New Year’s Six bowl.

2. Clemson

The Tigers face a play-in game against Miami. The winner of the ACC Championship will make the Playoff, while the loser is relegated to the Orange Bowl.

3. Auburn

A wild win in the Iron Bowl ensured the Tigers of a chance to play what is essentially a Playoff quarterfinal against Georgia. Defeating Alabama by 12 is no small feat, and Auburn vaults to #3.

4. Wisconsin

The Badgers enter the Playoff picture because of Alabama and Miami’s losses. A shutout in Minneapolis won’t earn Wisconsin anything, as P.J. Fleck couldn’t make anything out of Minnesota’s weakest roster in years.

5. Georgia

The Bulldogs blew out Georgia Tech 38-7 to ensure the SEC of at least one team in the Playoff. The winner of Auburn vs. Georgia will make the Committee’s top four.

6. Alabama

The Crimson Tide need some help after losing a pivotal Iron Bowl to Auburn. Either Oklahoma or Wisconsin needs to lose to TCU or Ohio State. After that, Alabama will need the committee to pick the Tide over a two-loss conference champion.

7. Ohio State

The Buckeyes must beat Wisconsin to have a chance at the Playoff, and even then the committee might choose 11-1 Alabama. Escaping Michigan gave Ohio State another quality win, but quarterback J.T. Barrett is questionable for the Big 10 Championship.

8. Miami

Pittsburgh has done it again. The 4-7 Panthers knocked off a top four opponent for the second year in a row, meaning Miami will have to beat Clemson to earn a spot in the Playoff.

9. TCU

The Horned Frogs blew out ten-loss Baylor as expected, but have little hope of a Playoff appearance. A win over Oklahoma would be a massive boost to the program, and would earn TCU a trip to the New Year’s Six.

10. USC

The Trojans had an extra week to prepare for Stanford, and will need a win in the Pac-12 Championship to clinch a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.

11. UCF

What the Golden Knights have done this year is incredible. Rolling through the nation’s sixth best conference is a underestimated feat. UCF won’t make the Playoff, but the Knights could make their second New Year’s Six bowl in the Playoff era with a win over Memphis.

12. Washington 

Unlike many, I ranked the Huskies ahead of Washington State. That decision is justified after Washington’s 41-14 win in the Apple Cup, although Washington won’t go to the Pac-12 Championship. That honor goes to Stanford, who just knocked off Notre Dame.

13. Penn State

The Lions put up 66 on Maryland, pushing Penn Statebup three spots due to receiving some help. Saquon Barkley will need more to further his Heisman case in the New Year’s Six.

14. Stanford

The Cardinal were predicted to be destroyed against Notre Dame, but responded by winning by 18. Stanford will play for a New Year’s Six spot in the Pac-12 Championship against USC.

15. Memphis

For the second week in a row, the American Athletic has two teams in the top 15. Enough said for a New Year’s Six play-in game against UCF.

16. Notre Dame

The Irish eliminated themselves from a New Year’s Six bowl by virtue of losing by 18 to Stanford. Notre Dame’s lack of conference affiliation hurts as well.

17. Michigan State

The Spartans stay put after a 40-7 win over eight-loss Rutgers, and won’t move much after finishing second in the Big 10 East.

18. LSU

A blowout win over Texas A&M helps LSU’s case for a higher-quality bowl, and cost Kevin Sumlin his job. The Tigers move up, but won’t make a New Year’s Six bowl.

19. Oklahoma State

Kansas is not a difficult opponent, and the Pokes only move up one spot in relief of Washington State.

20. Northwestern

The Wildcats have a 30-70 shot at the Citrus Bowl, and will need a Michigan State opponent to trip up. A Wisconsin win would be particularly devastating for MSU.

21. Washington State

A chance to go to the Pac-12 Championship was squandered Saturday night, as a 41-14 blowout loss to rival Washington sends Stanford to play USC. Wazzou might be relegated to the Sun Bowl, televised by CBS against an ACC team.

22. Virginia Tech

VT is the last Power 5 team ranked this week, as Virginia Tech’s 9-3 record makes them the ACC’s third ranked team.

23. Fresno State

The Bulldogs enter the rankings after their upset of former #25 Boise State. Fresno State will have another shot at the Broncos in the Mountain West title game.

24. Toledo

The Rockets put the MAC’s only two-loss record on the line in the Mid-American title game. Surprise division winners Akron are heavy underdogs, but Toledo can’t afford to slip up.

25. Florida Atlantic

Lane Kiffin has turned this program around—from winless to unbeaten. FAU has a shot at a conference championship against North Texas.

 

New Year’s Six bowl projections

Playoff semifinal: Clemson vs. Ohio State

Playoff semifinal: Oklahoma vs. Auburn

Orange: Miami vs. Alabama

Fiesta: USC vs. Wisconsin

Cotton: TCU vs. Ohio State

Peach: UCF vs. Georgia

Next best team: Washington