The Top Four Contenders for the 2014 College Football Playoffs

The BCS is dead! Isn’t that nice? After years of howling from college football fans to ditch the BCS and implement a playoff system, those fans will finally get that satisfaction in the 2014 college football season. On January 1 every year now the top four teams, as selected by college football playoff selection committee, will face off in semifinal games that take place at neutral sites. The #1 team will face the #4 team and the #2 team will face the #3 team. The winners of these games will then face off in the national championship game about a week or so later, with the game always taking place on a Monday night (this season its January 12). According to the college football playoff website,”the selection committee will choose the four teams for the playoff based on strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, championships won and other factors.” To read more information about the playoff on the website, click here.

With the national championship now being decided more fairly, the big question is now going to be who will be those final four teams? Well this year there is certainly no shortage of candidates for those four spots, as there are several great teams scattered across the country who appear on paper to have a shot at the National Championship. As I was trying to predict who these final four teams will be, I weighed several factor when making my four choices (strength of schedule, returning starters, coaches, etc.). If I don’t pick your team as one of the final four teams in my predictions below, please don’t take it personally. It’s just college football. And besides I’m going to list honorable mentions, which should cover most of the top contenders. Let’s gaze into my crystal ball. (My list is in no particular order)


Why I Picked Them For The Final Four: Every year the Crimson Tide are in the national title conversation. Whether you love him or hate him, Nick Saban knows how to get the most out of his team every season and leading them to double-digit victories. They lose Heisman finalist and starting quarterback AJ McCarron, which will hurt them at first. But his replacement is pretty good, as he will be replaced by junior Florida State transfer Jake Coker, who battled Jameis Winston fiercely last summer for the starting quarterback position. With the schedule being easy early on, Coker will have plenty of time to prepare for the meat of their schedule. Running back TJ Sheldon and playmaking wide receiver Amari Cooper return to give him two deadly weapons. The defense loses several talented players, but their replacements look pretty good on paper. They get their bitter rival and biggest competition, Auburn, at home. The schedule isn’t that daunting, so I’ll be shocked if Alabama doesn’t at least win double-digit games this season. Saban will have his team right in the thick of the SEC race and national title playoffs.

Three Toughest Games: @ Ole Miss, @ LSU, Auburn

Ohio State

Why I Picked Them For The Final Four: Not because I’m a homer. I’ll give you logical reasons as to why. First, Braxton Miller returns at quarterback in his senior season and is the straw that stirs the drink in the Buckeye offense. If he hadn’t got hurt last season, he would’ve been a Heisman finalist. With the departure of Kenny Guiton, there is a lot less room for error this season. Miller is surrounded by great weapons in Dontre Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott, Corey Smith, Devin Smith and Jeff Heuerman. The offensive line loses four starters, but their replacements have looked good in practice and Urban has high hopes for them. It will be something to keep an eye on though. The defensive line is the biggest strength on the team and is arguably the best in the country. Noah Spence, Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett are all three capable of being first team All-Americans. The secondary is the other spot to watch on this team. The last time we saw this unit, it was getting torched in the Orange Bowl by Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. The new unit, headed by Doran Grant, has shown improvement in the offseason under new secondary coach Chris Ash and Urban promises it will improve. We’ll have to wait and see, but I believe the Buckeyes have a friendly enough schedule (drawing the three weakest B1G West teams) and enough weapons to reach the playoffs.

Three Toughest Games: Virginia Tech, @ Michigan State, Michigan

Florida State

Why I Picked Them For The Final Four: Jameis Winston, the freshman who set the college football world on fire last season, winning the Heisman trophy, going undefeated and leading the Seminoles to victory for the 2013 National Championship. He returns for his sophomore season, along with four of his six top receivers. Both the offensive line and defensive line return great talent and the starters that were lost are replaced with highly rated recruits. Linebackers and the secondary are less experienced areas on the team and are two of the weaker spots, but once again highly rated prospects waiting in the wings will be filling the losses. The Seminoles return 13 starters in total. This team isn’t expected to lose a beat from where they left off, however the chances of a championship hangover will threaten the team’s focus early on. Repeating success in college football is no easy task. Winston will also have to keep out of trouble, after having a problem involving crab legs in the offseason. If Winston were to get hurt or suspended this season, the Seminoles would be in deep trouble. I’m sure Jimbo Fisher will be keeping a keen eye on his star quarterback. With a favorable schedule and lots of weapons, Florida State is a top contender to win it all again.

Three Toughest Games: Oklahoma State (at Arlington), Clemson, Notre Dame


Why I Picked Them For The Final Four: The Ducks return a great quarterback of their own in Marcus Mariota, who had over 4,000 yards of total offense in 2013. Needless to say, Mariota is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and will be a contender for the Heisman. Oregon loses several players at running back and wide receiver, let’s be honest about this situation. The Ducks have plenty of talent replacing them, as every year Oregon has a three-headed monster of running backs and the wide receivers are athletic freaks. And did I mention that they only lose one starter on the offensive line and their line heading into this year has 108 combined career starts? In my eyes there are no concerns on the offensive side of the ball. Most of the defensive starters return too. With the Ducks high-powered offense, the defense just needs to be good for Oregon to wins lots of games. So why aren’t more people talking about Oregon as a national title contender? Their schedule is absolutely brutal. They face Michigan State, UCLA, Arizona and Stanford. They also have a trap game against Washington and have to face their bitter rival Oregon State in the Civil War on the road (the visitor is 4-13 in the last 17 games). I doubt the Ducks will escape this schedule without at least one loss, but I believe they can make the final four with a loss. Their strength of schedule is certainly a double-edged sword that will either push them in or out of the playoffs.

Three Toughest Games: Michigan State, @ UCLA, Stanford

Other Contenders That Could Be In The Playoff Conversation:
The following teams could also enter the conversation and easily make the playoffs under the right circumstances. I believe these teams all have a solid shot at undefeated or one loss seasons and at the very least have a great shot at making one of the marquee bowl games. Those 16 teams are the following:

SEC – Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss
B1G – Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa
Big 12 – Oklahoma & Baylor
PAC 12 – UCLA, USC, Stanford
Independents – Notre Dame
Mountain West – Boise State
MAC – Northern Illinois
Conference USA – Marshall

Let me know what you think of my predictions in the comments and feel free to share your own.

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