About ten days ago, I stated my thoughts for who will be in next year’s College Football Playoff. Ten days is a long time, so with the benefit of now knowing who will be leaving early for the NFL draft, I present a “New and Improved” version of next season’s CFP.
My first version of this included Clemson, Ole Miss, Ohio State and Baylor, with the Bears winning it all. A little has changed in the NCAA football landscape and in my mind. Ohio State will watch what seems like 20 underclassmen head to the NFL early, thereby depleting what was a very nice returning roster. Clemson’s performance this past Monday got me thinking about a couple of things which affect what will happen one year from now. I no longer think Ole Miss will be the best team in the SEC (lose too much talent) and I am concerned about how Baylor will fair in their first appearance in the CFP. Experience is key in these type of games and the Bears will need some before they can hoist a trophy.
Here is my new next-year CFP lineup: 1) Clemson, 2) LSU, 3) Stanford, 4) Baylor. In short, Clemson learned some very valuable lessons on Monday night. Dabo Swinney and his Tigers will be better prepared and more poised this time next year. Watson and Gallman return as well as some decent playmakers at receiver. The defensive line will lose Dodd and Lawson, but they’ve got more in the fold ready to step up. The Tigers will again go undefeated and claim the CFP’s top spot.
LSU will be nasty next year and have the defense to shut down the Tide and the Rebels. Brandon Harris will be better and it really isn’t fair that Fournette gets to come back for another year. The Tigers also get the strongest teams in the West at home as Bama and Ole Miss must come to Death Valley. LSU might have a loss, but they’ll make it to Atlanta and defeat whoever comes from the SEC East where Tennessee, Georgia and Florida aren’t quite ready yet. However, look for the East to rule the SEC in 2017 with the Dawgs taking the title.
Stanford loses a solid QB, but they are the best of the PAC-12 and I can’t see them getting left out two years in a row. Christian McCaffery will lead them to the conference title and the CFP, but will once again lose the Heisman trophy due to east coast bias. The Cardinal do have a tough schedule, with road trips to Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame. They won’t win them all, but they’ll win enough to make the Final Four.
Baylor will also lose a game, but will emerge with just enough defense to fill the final spot. Art Briles showed his team can throw and run the ball at will on just about anyone and will play just enough defense to get it done. We don’t who the quarterback will be, Russell or Stidham, but the defense will be better than it was in 2015 and that will finally enable the Bears to punch a ticket to the playoff.
The Big-10 will miss out next year as OSU, MSU, Iowa and UM will all beat up on each other – leaving each with 2 losses and on the outside looking in. But Michigan will be one of the CFP participants in 2017 – book it now.
As for what will transpire once we start the playoff games, Clemson and Baylor will be an offensive explosion, but Clemson’s stout defensive front seven will be enough to advance. Experience and Heisman Trophy winner Dashaun Watson will be the difference.
LSU will survive Stanford in what will be a physical bloodbath. The game will go by quickly as both teams will run the ball 30-40 times and it will take a 4th-down stand in the final minutes for the Tigers to reach the final. Once again the deep south will own the college football landscape.
So it will be Tigers versus Tigers and the coaches press conferences will be epic, considering Dabo and Les will be running point. The week leading up to the final will be an all-timer for media outlets as the stories will write themselves.
The game will again live up to the hype, with an SEC defense trying once again to withstand the Clemson offensive onslaught. Offense will win and Dashaun will show the world he is a once-in-a-lifetime college player on the same level as Vince Young and Mike Vick. Just imagine what Dabo might do during the on-field, post-game celebration. Set your DVR’s now.