By Joe Scibelli, Esq.
The CFP committee is going to release its third rankings on December 8, so before that let’s make some predictions. The CFP committee has its hands full trying to establish a team’s ranking while schedules have been inconsistent throughout the Power 5 conferences. Here are the top 4 teams as of December 1, 2020:
- Notre Dame
- Ohio State
As the committee’s final decision to determine the college playoffs approaches on December 20, fans around the nation are concerned not only what to get friends and family for the holidays, but also if their team has the resumé to make it to the dance.
- Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0)
Alabama is the one team I am 100% confident will be in the CFP. With three Heisman candidates on the offensive side of the ball, their trio has been rolling through teams in arguably the toughest conference in all of college football. Bama has Arkansas in the last game of the regular season and is expected to play Florida in the SEC Championship game. Arkansas should not give the number one team in the nation any problem, but the Gators have the potential to upset Alabama in the SEC Championship game.
Alabama has been a terror to teams on both sides of the ball. Their offense has been averaging 49.2 points per game and 548.3 yards per game, even while playing some of the toughest opponents in the SEC. Mac Jones is on his way to lead Bama to its sixth playoff appearance since the playoffs started in 2014. Both of Mac’s weapons, Najee Harris and Devonta Smith, are also being considered for the Heisman because how well Bama can throw and run the ball. Also, the Tide’s defense is containing opponents’ offenses, holding teams to 18.3 points per game. The defense, however, having been giving up 357 yards per game, but yards don’t win games, points do. Their resumé has been impressive to say the least. Here are some notable matchups:
- Texas A&M (ranked 13 at the time, currently 5), Win 52-24;
- Georgia (ranked 3 at the time, currently 8), Win 41-24; and
- Auburn (ranked 22 at the time, currently not ranked), Win 42-13.
I don’t see a world where Alabama does not make the playoffs. For Bama not to make the playoffs, they would need to lose to both Arkansas and Florida. Arkansas will need a miracle to ruin Alabama’s playoff hope. However, if Bama was to lose to just Florida in the SEC Championship game, I still believe Alabama will be invited to the big dance by the committee. Therefore, Bama is in at either the 1 seed or the 4 seed.
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-0)
Notre Dame is a team that could end up missing the opportunity of a title. The Fighting Irish have been able to maintain an undefeated record in a competitive ACC. They been averaging 37.7 points per game with 474.4 yards per game. Ian Book has been under center for Notre Dame this season, leading their offensive attack with 2,382 yards, 15 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. Book’s name has been mentioned as a possible Heisman candidate, however, I believe, there’s a slim to no chance he will win the individual honor.
Nevertheless, Book and Notre Dame have bigger goals in mind: winning the ACC, getting into the playoffs, and winning the CFP championship. Their resumé is competitive and if they continue to win, the committee will have no problem giving them a bid. Here’s some important wins:
- Clemson (ranked 1 at the time, currently 4), Win 47-40 (2OT);
- @ North Carolina (ranked 19 at the time, currently 17), Win 31-17; and
- @ Boston College (not ranked ever), Win 45-31.
Notre Dame’s playoff hopes come down to the expected ACC Championship game against Clemson. With a win, they’re in. However, with a loss the committee is going to have a head scratcher. With teams like Texas A&M, Florida and Cincinnati trying to squeeze into the dance, Notre Dame needs to assure their spot by beating a Trevor Lawrence-ran Clemson. When the Irish beat the Tigers on November 11, in double overtime, Lawrence was unable to play due to Covid-19. With Trevor back, the Fighting Irish have a lot to focus on if they want to make the trip to Miami.
- Clemson Tigers (9-1)
Similar to the Fighting Irish, the Clemson Tigers win and they’re in. Clemson, this year, suffered a major blow to their CFP resumé when the Tigers lost Trevor Lawrence (pre-season Heisman favorite) to COVID-19 during the weeks where they beat Boston College, but then lost to Notre Dame. The Tigers, however, have been dominating this season. Their offense has been averaging 46 points per game, and 504.3 total yards per game. Even without Lawrence in their only loss, Clemson manage to put up 40 points with 473 total yards. As much as I despise Clemson because of the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry, the Tigers are legit, and it would be shocking to not see them in the playoffs.
Dabo and the Tigers have been in this situation before. Not the strongest resumé, but making the playoffs, nonetheless. Here are some highlights from their schedule:
- @ Notre Dame (ranked 4 at the time, currently 2), Loss 40-47 (2OT);
- Miami (ranked 7 at the time, currently 10), Win 42-17; and
- @ Boston College (not ranked ever), Win 34-28.
The Tigers have one path to the playoffs and its through Notre Dame. If the Tigers can get revenge against the Irish, Clemson will make their way to a sixth playoff appearance, keeping up with Alabama,who as well is currently at 5 appearances, the most all-time.
- Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0)
The COVID-19 pandemic may have cost Ohio State the opportunity to win another CFP championship. Due to cancellations and a shortened schedule, the Buckeyes only have 6 games, plus a conference championship game, which might not cut it even if they go undefeated. Also, the schedule that they have is not as challenging as what was expected. Some of the expected tough opponents are not appearing to be as competitive: Penn State 2-5; Nebraska 2-4; Michigan State 2-4; and Michigan 2-4. All these Big 10 rivals had higher expectations going into the season, but have been flat moving forward. It also does not help the Buckeyes that two of their games were cancelled. With their matchups against Maryland and Illinois being cancelled, Ohio State will need compelling evidence why they deserve a shot at a national championship.
Ohio State, however, is still putting up numbers and had a big win against a surprisingly great Indiana team. Justin Fields, another Heisman favorite whose chances were ruined by COVID-19, and Ohio State average 46.6 points per game with 532.4 yards per game. Their defense has not been as dominant; the Buckeyes having been giving up an average of 23.2 points per game with giving up 35 points against #9 Indiana, now ranked 8 in the nation.
For the Buckeyes to make the playoffs, they need to crush Michigan like they did against Michigan State, and Northwestern needs to make emerge as the winner of the Big Ten West. The Buckeyes are hoping whoever emerges as the representative of the West, is the best team with the best record then annihilate them. The bigger the win, the better. Because of their lack of schedule, Ohio State has not built a resumé compared to other CFP hopefuls like Texas A&M, Florida, and Cincinnati. All in all, I want a diverse college football playoff, not just SEC. Ohio State needs to put up big numbers in their final two games if they want the committee to keep them in the top 4.
- Texas A&M Aggies (7-1)
Texas A&M has emerged as a very surprising team in the SEC. Senior quarterback, Kellen Mond, has been leading the Aggies with 31.6 points per game and 429.8 yards per game. The Aggies started off the year flat when they barely beat Vanderbilt, 17-12, and lost to Alabama, 52-14. However, Mond and Texas A&M have been on a roll after handing Florida their only loss of the season, 41-38. Here’s some noteworthy wins by the Aggies this year:
- Florida (ranked 4 at the time, currently 6), Win 41-38;
- LSU (not ranked), Win 20-7; and
- @ Auburn (not ranked), Win 31-20.
The Aggies need a lot of help to make the playoffs. With their only loss being to Bama, even winning out the season might not be enough. If I was an Aggies fan, I would be hoping that Notre Dame beats Clemson, Alabama to beat Florida in the SEC Championship game, and that Ohio State loses against Michigan or the winner of the Big 10 West. The more chaos the better for the Aggies. However, I don’t see all this happening. Therefore, unfortunately, I don’t see A&M making the playoffs.
- Florida Gators (8-1)
Even at number 6, Florida has a very good chance to make it to the dance, well if you consider beating Bama a “good chance.” Florida and Heisman candidate, Kyle Trask, have put together a championship contender. Florida is averaging 42 points per game and 502.9 total yards. Trask is lighting up college football throwing over 3,200 yards with 38 touchdown and only three interceptions. Trask is building his draft stock this season, but his focus is on winning a national championship. The Gators’ resumé is good with their win over Number 5 Georgia, 44-28, but if they can beat LSU then Alabama in the SEC championship game, Florida will be in the college football playoffs.
- Cincinnati Bearcats (8-0)
As the only undefeated team in the top 10 that played 8 games other than Alabama and Notre Dame, I had to mention how the American Athletic Conference leader will make the college football playoffs. The Bearcats have been averaging 40.9 points per game 473.1 yards per game and only giving up an average of 15 points per game. Cincinnati’s resumé highlights are the following:
- Army (ranked 22 at the time, currently not ranked), Win 24-10;
- @ SMU (ranked 16 at the time, currently not ranked), Win 42-13; and
- @ Tulsa (Postponed on 10/17, rescheduled for 12/12, currently ranked 24)
Unfortunately for the Bearcats, a win against conference rival Tulsa will not be enough for a bid. A LOT needs to happen for the Bearcats to show the world what a non-power 5 team can do in the college football playoff. First, they need Bama to win out to prevent Florida from taking a spot. Also, Clemson needs to lose, but the committee still might take a two-loss Clemson over an undefeated Cincinnati. Ohio State needs to loss either against Michigan or in the Big 10 Championship. Last, A&M needs to lose to either Ole Miss or Tennessee. If all this happens, the Bearcats have an argument why they deserve a shot at a national championship.
My Prediction: Clemson Will Miss the Playoffs.
I know a lot of people are going to hate this take, and probably call me biased against Clemson, but so be it. Nevertheless, I predict Florida pulling the upset against Bama in the SEC Championship game. Trask is my Heisman favorite and tight end Kyle Pitts is healthy; the two are a deadly duo. Next, Notre Dame holds off Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers, kicking them out of the top 4. Last, (probably my hottest take) the CFP committee grants an undefeated Buckeyes a bid into the playoff. I want a diverse playoff; the playoffs were established to allow conference champions an opportunity to win a title. Even with the short schedule, Ohio State is probably the third/fourth best team if my prediction come to reality. Final picks: 1. Notre Dame 2. Florida 3. Ohio State 4. Alabama.