With the SEC West looking at tight as it does, and schools like Florida State and Oregon in transition periods roster wise, the second year of the College Football Playoff offers an interesting storyline as it pertains to which teams will make it in.
For an early prediction, I see these eight teams contending to make the postseason playoff.
Anticipated Record: 12-0 (8-0)
Key Returning Offensive Players: J.T. Barrett (QB), Cardale Jones (QB), Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Taylor Decker (OT)
Key Returning Defensive Players: Joey Bosa (DE), Joshua Perry (WLB)
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Strengths: Offensive speed and talent, defensive line/linebackers, easy schedule
Weaknesses: Easy schedule could hurt them in rankings
After winning the National Championship last year, Ohio State should return to the playoff again, potentially as the number one team in the nation.
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The only issue with the Buckeyes is their schedule, which features very few if any challenges. If there are two tricky games on their schedule, they are games at Virginia Tech (their only loss last year was at home to Virginia Tech), and at home against Michigan State.
Anticipated Record: 11-1 (8-1)
Key Returning Offensive Players: Trevone Boykin (QB), Joey Hunt (C), Jaden Oberkrom (K)
Key Returning Defensive Players: Davion Pierson (DT), Ranthony Texada (CB)
Strengths: Trevone Boykin as a playmaker, Heisman candidate
Weaknesses: Big 12 tough opponents like Texas, West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma
After a close but not quite season for the Horned Frogs last year, TCU returns and will attempt to make the College Football Playoff. So long as they win the games they are supposed to, and do so in an impressive fashion, TCU should make it in.
The one loss I am anticipating will come in one of two games, at Oklahoma, or at home to Baylor. I believe they will lose one of those games, but not both.
Anticipated Record: 11-1 (8-1) or 10-2 (8-1)
Key Returning Offensive Players: Royce Freeman (RB), Thomas Tyner (RB), Byron Marshall (WR), Bralon Addison (WR)
Key Returning Defensive Players: DeForest Buckner (DE), Alex Balducci (NG)
Strengths: Speed on offense, great talent at RB
Weaknesses: Heavy losses in defensive secondary, quarterback questions
The high paced Oregon Ducks look to return to the College Football Playoff after losing in the National Championship game to Ohio State last year. They’ll have to do so without Marcus Mariota, but getting wide receiver Bralon Addison back from injury will give support to whoever takes over at quarterback.
It appears as if this will be either Jeff Lockie, or Vernon Adams who is transferring from Eastern Washington. They have a tough schedule with games at Michigan State, Arizona State, Stanford, and home against USC, but I see them losing only two of these games max.
Anticipated Record: 11-1 (8-1) or 10-2 (8-2)
Key Returning Offensive Players: Cody Kessler (QB), Juju Smith (WR), Max Tuerk (C)
Key Returning Defensive Players: Su’a Cravens (OLB), Kevon Seymour (CB), Adoree’ Jackson (CB)
Strengths: Good play at quarterback, athleticism and a special teams talent in Adoree’ Jackson
Weaknesses: A lot of talent lost at wide receiver, and losing strength on defensive line
This could finally be the year that USC rises back into a place of national prominence, and back into the national championship discussion. Only they or Oregon will make it into the playoff barring phenomenal circumstances, so they need to beat Oregon to solidify a position.
They face a tough schedule with games at Arizona State, Notre Dame, and Oregon, but many people believe this is the year for USC to quite possibly make a run.
Anticipated Record: 9-3 (5-3), 10-2 (6-2), or 11-1 (7-1)
Key Returning Offensive Players: Derrick Henry (RB), Kenyan Drake (RB), Ryan Kelly (C), Cam Robinson (OT)
Key Returning Defensive Players: A’Shawn Robinson (NG), Reggie Ragland (WLB), Cyrus Jones (CB), J.K. Scott (P)
Strengths: Running backs should be very good, defense anticipated very good, J.K. Scott pivotal in flipping the field
Weaknesses: Yeldon and Cooper gone, no established experience at QB, toughest schedule in nation
As you can see by the anticipated record, this could be a very down year or a very good year for the Crimson Tide.
After losing key players on offense, Alabama faces the toughest schedule in college football, and will have to show a lot of skill, talent, and resilience to make the playoff. Games at Georgia, Texas A&M, Auburn, and at home to LSU present the biggest threats.
Anticipated Record: 11-1 (7-1) or 10-2 (6-2)
Key Returning Offensive Players: Anthony Jennings (QB), Leonard Fournette (RB), Travin Dural (WR), Vadal Alexander (OG)
Key Returning Defensive Players: Kendell Beckwith (MLB), Jalen Mills (FS)
Strengths: Amid all of the SEC strength, LSU may have a slightly easier schedule, always physical and Fournette in the backfield should be strong
Weaknesses: Losing Kwon Alexander, as well as still playing at Alabama and Ole Miss.
LSU hasn’t been relevant in the national championship conversation for a little while, but this could be their chance.
The SEC, especially the West division, should be extremely competitive, and as long as a team comes out with two or fewer losses and wins the SEC championship, denying them a position in the playoff would be ridiculous. LSU sets up well to be that team, but they still have to win at Alabama, and at Ole Miss.
Anticipated Record: 11-1 (7-1), 10-2 (6-1), 10-2 (6-2)
Key Returning Offensive Players: Nick Chubb (RB), Jon Theus (OT), Greg Pike (OG)
Key Returning Defensive Players: Leonard Floyd (OLB), Jordan Jenkins (OLB), Quincy Mauger (SS)
Strengths: Returning Nick Chubb, who could have a breakout season, with Theus on the line and playmakers on defense, fairly easy schedule
Weaknesses: Losing quarterback Hutson Mason, need to establish pass game
Georgia should win the SEC East easily, and there are four games on their schedule that should be circled, at Tennessee, Auburn, and Georgia Tech, and at home against Alabama. I don’t think they’d lose more than two of these, and quite possibly only one. If they can get through with one loss, then go on and win the SEC championship, they should be in the playoff.
Form your own opinion from this information, if I had to choose my four most likely teams to make the College Football Playoff right now, I’d say Ohio State, TCU, Oregon, and LSU.