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Mazurek: Never too soon for a playoff prediction

| Thursday, September 1, 2016

Time is sneaky. It seemed like a only a few days ago I was watching Notre Dame let Stanford drive all the way down the field in 30 seconds. Surely it was just last week that Alabama won its fourth championship in seven seasons?

What’s that you say? It was actually six months ago? Oh … well in that case, we might as well jump into the 2016 season.

And most columns like this start with playoff predictions, because, you know, people care about who makes the playoff, apparently.

And in my most humble opinion, the four teams that will make the 2016 College Football Playoff are: TCU, Alabama, Clemson and Michigan.

Let’s start with TCU, probably the most surprising team on my list. The Big 12 was left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff (CFP) and you’d have thought that every citizen in Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska had forcibly been given a root canal. There was much belly-aching and talk of adding a championship game to the Big 12 schedule with the goal of giving the conference a better chance to send a representative to make the conference lots of money — er, I mean, to represent the conference on college football’s most prestigious stage.

But then last year, Oklahoma made it in without a championship game, no problem. So Big 12, you don’t need a championship game, but you do need a better nonconference schedule.

Anyway, I got distracted, sorry. This season, TCU has the perfect schedule to make the CFP, which is to say, they have the right mix of tough opponents in winnable games. Now what do I mean by that?

TCU plays three teams ranked in the AP preseason Top 25: No. 23 Baylor, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 21 Oklahoma State. Three ranked opponents is a pretty good schedule. It shows some challenges, but the kicker is that the Horned Frogs play both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at home. If TCU can find a way to sneak by Oklahoma on Oct. 1, it’s smooth sailing the rest of the way for Gary Patterson and company.

I think Baylor will fade — partly due to its sexual abuse scandal — and Oklahoma State at home shouldn’t be too hard. Plus, the Horned Frogs do go into Darrell K. Royal Stadium to face what will be an improved Texas team. That will boost their strength of schedule in the eyes of the committee as well. They’re a dark horse for sure, but then again, so is Katy Perry.

Alabama is pretty self-explanatory. They’re just simply a great team and honestly, I’d bet money on a middle school team making the CFP if Nick Saban was coaching it. Besides, the SEC is so tough, the Crimson Tide can afford to lose two games and still make the CFP, provided they win the conference.

For the ACC representative, I went back and forth between Clemson and Florida State, but ultimately, I feel Florida State’s schedule is too tough. The Seminoles have five ranked opponents on their slate right now, while the Tigers only have two. And I don’t quite believe in Sean Maguire. Maybe because his name just sounds too much like Mark McGwire. Don’t get me wrong, the Seminoles will be a good team, they just won’t make the playoff.

And lastly, Michigan. It truly pains me to compliment the school up north, but Jim Harbaugh is a heck of a coach. Michigan would have been right in the middle of the playoff hunt last year if they hadn’t, you know, had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown in the final two seconds of the Michigan State game. That play is still on the minds of Wolverine players and fans alike, and that’s going to drive them to a playoff berth, taking down Ohio State along the way.

I have predictions for 2017 as well, but let’s just wait on those, shall we?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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