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Ohio State, Alabama, USC, FSU. Alabama beats FSU in Week 1, but the ‘Noles do enough over the next three months to win their way back into the top four. The biggest wildcard: Auburn. If Jarrett Stidham plays as well as Gus Malzahn believes he will (where have we heard this before, Jeremy Johnson?), the Tigers could win the SEC and one-loss Alabama (to Auburn) might just edge out ACC champion FSU.
Alabama, Ohio State, USC and Oklahoma. I’m most hesitant with USC due to some lingering questions outside of Sam Darnold and Washington’s favorable schedule, but Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma should each finish 11-1 or 12-0. They all boast an experienced quarterback and, relative to their conference, an excellent defense.
I’ll take Alabama, USC, Ohio State and Clemson. I’ve felt pretty strongly about the first three for much of the offseason—well, as strongly as one can feel for a prediction that will go up in flames. Clemson, however, came on late. The more I see, read and process, the more I like.
Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and USC. I know, I know. I’m going out on a limb here. But there’s a reason these are the four teams that received first-place votes in the preseason AP poll. (And this makes up for my long-shot Heisman pick.) One team I could see crashing the party is Oklahoma State, but the three-week stretch of at Texas, at West Virginia and versus Oklahoma will likely be the end of the Cowboys.
It’s going to be Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and USC. I think in the Pac-12, the winner of the Washington-USC conference championship game is in, and Stanford is a sleeper there, for sure. But those two teams are the best. Ohio State will outlast Penn State to get where it needs to be, and nobody is beating Alabama in the SEC. Oklahoma is going to surprise some folks even without Dede Westbrook, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.
The fourth College Football Playoff team will be full of brand names. No interlopers here, no surprises. Alabama will lead the way, followed by Ohio State, Florida State and Southern California. ESPN will love this field, and so should college football fans—it’ll have plenty of star power and intrigue.