Zwiller: WTE College Football Playoff predictions
Thomas Zwiller | Monday, September 27, 2021
My typical complaint about college football is that it is too repetitive, and it typically feels like the order is Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
Alabama boasts the most playoff appearances at six in the College Football era, with the most playoff wins at eight and the most championships at three. Clemson is tied in playoff appearances, with Alabama also sitting at six. The Tigers have appeared in every iteration of the CFP since 2014.
That streak would appear to have ended after last weekend, courtesy of a 21-27 2OT loss to North Carolina State.
Clemson losing a second game of the season and losing to an unranked team for the first time since 2017 was not the only crazy result of the weekend.
Oklahoma needed a game-winning chip shot field goal to beat West Virginia. Arkansas upset top-10 Texas A&M (not to brag, but I called it). Notre Dame steamrolled Wisconsin in the Shamrock Series 41-13, giving ND its best win of the season by far. Iowa State lost on the road to unranked Baylor by two.
There was a lot of chaos this weekend, and you better believe it will have significant College Football Playoff implications. So I’m here to offer my predictions on who makes it to the CFP (and for the ND faithful, I have good news for you).
Barring an unforeseen bad loss, there is no reason the Crimson Tide will not make the CFP, and realistically, no reason they should not be the first seed.
’Bama already has two top-15 wins, and as they play Ole Miss and Texas A&M, they should be able to add to that total. They then play Mississippi State, Tennesse, LSU and New Mexico State, no worries there.
My only concern as of right now is Arkansas. I think they have a solid defense and a run game that could cause Alabama fits, much like Florida.
But as of right now, Alabama is a lock for the CFP and the No. 1 seed.
This one certainly has the feel of a hot take. Oregon may be ranked third right now, but assuming the number two Bulldogs encounter Alabama, I think Oregon can overtake them.
Oregon won their big game of the year, going on the road and beating Ohio State 35-28, and besides No. 20 UCLA, Oregon is unlikely to play another ranked team.
I think Oregon has a great chance to make it to the CFP in the number two spot as an undefeated PAC-12 champion.
The Big 10 is complicated. Ohio State lost early on to Oregon, which could legitimately turn into a good loss. My only problem with picking the Buckeyes is they have a lesser margin of error. That’s problematic because they play at Rutgers, home to PSU and MSU and then go on the road against the Wolverines. They should drop at least one of those games.
Much like Ohio State, Penn State has a similarly demanding schedule. They play Iowa on the road, then at Ohio St, home to Michigan and then at MSU. The main difference here is that Penn State has two ranked opponent wins and remains undefeated.
However, my pick to win the Big 10 is the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa boasts a win over then-ranked IU as well as a win on the road against Iowa State. Except for Penn State at home, Iowa does not play a ranked opponent for the remainder of the season, and there is no other ranked team in the Big 10 West, so Iowa should have a clear path to the Conference Championship. Assuming Iowa can win the Conference Championship, even as a one-loss team, they should make the CFP.
The Fourth Seed
The Fourth Seed is a lot less clear to me. The way I see it, multiple teams have a claim to it: Oklahoma, Georgia, Notre Dame and before last weekend Clemson.
In the AP poll, Clemson dropped down to No. 25, but I think they should not be ranked. What have they actually done this season? The only reason I am bothering to talk about them is that I believe it is simply spectacular how far they have fallen. The ACC has essentially played itself out of the CFP.
I am very skeptical of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is 1-3 against the spread and 0-3 against the spread while playing FBS teams. The Sooners seem to have severe problems on offense, and Spencer Rattler does not appear to be as advertised. Last weekend, his performance was so poor against WVU that his student section wanted him pulled from the game.
Based on their No. 6 ranking, I think Oklahoma has the worst odds of making it to the CFP of these three teams. They MUST go undefeated to make the playoffs and considering they play Kansas St, Texas, Baylor and Iowa St, that no longer feels like a certainty.
I would sooner take Georgia and Notre Dame than the Sooners. (I will see myself out.)
The Bulldogs, like Alabama, feel like a certainty to make the playoffs, but the question is more where they make it. If Georgia can win out their regular season and lose a close SEC Championship game, they should make it. If the Bulldogs make it to the SEC Championship game and win it, they and Alabama would make it in, likely at the one and the two.
My only worry with Georgia is Florida, who was able to keep it close against Alabama. Arkansas is also a problem, but I think Georgia can shut down their run game and beat them.
I will come out and say it, until last weekend, I had thought ND was overrated. But their 41-13 win against Wisconsin was the game I was looking for from the Irish. They have now earned their top-10 ranking.
Looking ahead at the schedule, ND fans should be pretty optimistic about their chances at the CFP. ND plays only one currently ranked opponent, and that is next week against No. 7 Cincinnati.
If ND beats Cincinnati, they are not out of the woods yet, but through the thickest part. They travel on the road against Virginia Tech and then back home to both USC and UNC. If they can win out, there is no reason ND can not make the CFP over Georgia or Oklahoma.