I know we haven’t finished the College Football Playoff this year, but it is always fun to speculate as to who might make the “Final 4” next year – at least for those of us who are done with our season. Here are my thoughts on the teams to watch for the 2016 season.
Let’s start with the two finalists, Clemson and Alabama. While we all know Bama rarely takes a step back, I don’t think any program can withstand the kind of staff turnover the Tide is going to see this year. We all know about Smart heading to Athens, but the latest rumors have him taking one or more current coaches with him. He has already stolen key defensive analyst Glenn Schumann and tried hard to take Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Scott Cochran too. I expect at least Mel Tucker or Tosh Lupoi to join after next Monday’s game and the fact is they might both come. At the very least, the defense will lose some continuity and Smart is sure to lure some recruits to Georgia that would have signed with the Tide. Transition takes a little time – even in Tuscaloosa. Expect Alabama to stumble and miss out in 2016.
Clemson is in the midst of a remarkable run and I expect things to continue. So far, no staff have been rumored to be leaving, which is usually the case when a team does this well. If a coordinator leaves after their season, I could change my mind. But for now, I can’t see the Tigers faltering in what is still a weak ACC with who they have returning (re: Dashaun Watson). FSU will be better and Miami will take a step forward too. Expect Clemson to again make the CFP and Watson to win the Heisman.
If Bama is out, who makes it from the SEC? Before you even ask, yes the SEC will have a representative in the Final 4. Count on it. It won’t be Auburn or Texas A&M and it will be too soon for UGA. Arkansas will find a way to blow it in the end and Florida has all sorts of problems at QB. The Ole Miss Rebels will actually lose to Bama in the regular season this time, but will survive and advance to the SEC Championship. They will either beat Tennessee or Georgia to make the CFP. Hugh Freeze will be Coach of the Year.
Joining Clemson and Ole Miss will be Ohio State and Baylor. Urban will lose to either MSU or UM, but will win the others and come out on top of a 3-way tie. The Buckeyes will be back in, but less dangerous than they have been in the past. Baylor will finally put it all together and play just enough defense to win the Big 12. Don’t look to the Pac12 as USC and UCLA aren’t exciting and Stanford loses too much talent. Oregon will still be searching for a QB and Utah will be about the same. The Pac12 teams will all devour each other, locking themselves out of the playoff for the second year in a row.
Clemson will be undefeated again and will get the top seed with Ole Miss coming in at #2. Ohio State will land the 3-seed with Baylor creeping in at 4. Baylor-Clemson will be an all-timer for scoring with the Bears having just a little more in the end. Ole Miss will drop The University of Urban setting up a National Championship of the Rebels and the Bears. Don’t count on any defense being played and Baylor will have more weapons in the end. Amazingly, they will make a defensive stop with the game on the line and deny the SEC back-to-back titles (yes, that means I think Bama wins next Monday night).
Just remember you heard it here first. But know 2016 will be the last year for a while where offense reins supreme. Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama will sport some of the best defenses we’ve ever seen in 2017 and the DC’s will finally catch up to the high-powered offenses. The SEC will be back on top in 2017 and they will do it with defense, not scoring.