In 18 days, the College Football Playoff will get underway. Alabama comes in as the consensus favorite, while three one-loss teams look to dethrone them. All four teams boast top 20 offenses AND defenses (in the FBS). The best drama on TV this holiday season might just be on the gridiron. Here is how each team can pave their own title path.
Title Path for Playoff Teams
These guys make my job easy. There’s nothing left to say about the Crimson Tide that hasn’t already been said. Their title path is the most clear. They head into the College Football Playoff as the only undefeated Power Five team. Their roster features 11 All-SEC performers. They’re in the midst of a 25-game winning streak. Heck, some think they could beat the Cleveland Browns. In Playoff history, no team has been a bigger favorite than this year’s Alabama squad. This time around, all Alabama has to do is continue to play their brand of football, pairing a physical defense with a steady offense, and they won’t be beaten. The word out of Vegas is that they would open as at least a 14-point favorite against any team in the country. The Tide are a overwhelming favorite to repeat as champions of college football.
The Tigers put on their best Houdini act this season, narrowly escaping with a victory in multiple games. Then they got hot down the stretch. They roll into the Playoff with their offense scoring at a blistering rate (at least 35 points in six straight games). That offense did to bail out the defense in the ACC Championship Game. Clemson has the edge in experience over Ohio State, as the Tigers are playing in their second consecutive Playoff. Deshaun Watson is going to be the key for them, as he has been all season long. He’s the best quarterback in the Playoff, and he’s been playing his best ball down the stretch.
The Buckeyes have cracked the Playoff code. They’re heading to Phoenix without even suiting up for a conference title game. Their regular season resumé is solid, don’t get me wrong. However, one less big game played means one less shot at losing. I’m all for Ohio State getting in. They’re clearly one of the nation’s four best teams. The Buckeyes have an underrated defense (3rd in FBS) that’s stacked with NFL talent. The burning question for the Buckeyes is at QB. J.T. Barrett has had a solid season, but is his run-oriented attack going to fly against elite defenses?
This wasn’t expected to be a playoff season for the Huskies. It’s just that simple. The Washington program was seen by many as a team on the rise, just one year away. That’s not the case. They’ve paired a quick-strike offense with a stout defense, bullying the Pac-12 on their way to the fourth spot in the Playoff. All eyes will be on them on New Year’s Eve, waiting to see if they’re worthy of that coveted final spot. Michigan and Penn State will be watching closely in particular. No one’s giving the Huskies a chance against Alabama, but I expect them to at least give the Tide a run for their money.
Alabama may be the clear favorite this winter, but each team does have a title path. However, the Tide won’t be able to just run away with the hardware after two easy wins. Still, even with the strength of their competition, it’s hard to pick against the Tide. A dynasty is taking form in Tuscaloosa.