The college football season is 2 days away, and as the College Football Playoff enters it's second year, the excitement for this season is as high as it has ever been.
Going back-to-back in any sport is incredibly hard, but the 2015 Ohio State team seems to be one of the strongest preseason favorites to repeat as National Champion as college football has seen in recent memory. The Buckeyes are the first unanimous preseason #1 in AP history. Seriously, ever.
But, the Buckeyes are not the first team to be under consideration for "Greatest Team Ever" - and they have a lot of history to overcome to not fall victim to the fate of other recent "Greatest Team Ever" candidates. Here are a few recent teams that were being hailed as potentially the best ever on September 1 of the football season...only to come up short in their bid for a National Championship.
2013 Alabama - lost to Auburn in season finale
2009 Florida - lost to Alabama in SEC Championship Game
2005 USC - lost to Texas in BCS Championship Game
2002 Miami - lost to Ohio State in BCS Championship Game
2000 Florida State - lost to Oklahoma in BCS Championship Game
So....if the Buckeyes are able to repeat, they will be doing something that only 2 teams (2012 Alabama, 1995 Nebraska) have done in since 1979 - win an undisputed repeat championship (not including 2004 USC since they technicallu didn't win the recognized national title in 2003, just the unofficial 'voted' AP title).
Our staff picked the following: 1. Where we thought the top 4 would be ranked at the end of the regular season 2. Who will be in the championship game 3. Who will be the champion
Below are the Official Chat Sports Staff Predictions for this season's College Football Playoff:
Al King @AlKing906
2. Ohio State
4. Michigan State
Title match up: TCU vs. Ohio State
The TCU Horned Frogs have an excellent shot to run the table and finish the season undefeated behind QB Trevone Boykin. Boykin is my early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. TCU has the easiest schedule of the four teams that I selected, according to FBSchedules.com the Horned Frogs have the 93rd toughest schedule for the upcoming season. Alabama and Michigan State each have two of the toughest schedules in the nation, with the Crimson Tide coming in at four and the Spartans at nine. The Buckeyes check in at 42.
If TCU gets through their first ten games unscaved, they will be primed to take on their two toughest challenges of the season. With victories in back-to-back contests against Oklahoma on Nov. 21 and Baylor in their final game of the season on Nov. 27, the Horned Frogs will be in the driver’s seat of the College Football Playoff. It will take a victory over a very experienced, very tough Michigan State team before knocking off the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes. I feel the confidence of an undefeated season will be enough to carry this team through the four team playoff.
Tom Downey @WhatGoingDowney
1. Ohio State
Title match up: Ohio State vs. Auburn
Champion: Ohio State
Ohio State is an obvious choice to make the College Football Playoff. The defending champions are loaded on both sides of the ball. The should make it through the Big Ten with relative ease. They are the best team in college football by a clear margin.
TCU has the inside track in the Big 12. Aside from a game against Baylor that closes the season and certainly have CFP implications, TCU’s schedule is pretty easy. They should go undefeated this season. If they drawn a SEC team in the first round, they could have issues though.
Auburn won’t get through the SEC without a loss, but winning the SEC is enough to get them in the CFP. Jeremy Johnson will have a big season and will be in the Heisman discussion. New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will help fix the defense.
Arizona is my surprise pick this season. They avoid Oregon in crossover PAC-12 play and have a budding superstar in sophomore QB Anu Solomon. Road games against USC and Stanford will be difficult, but Arizona has the offense to compete with anyone. Don’t be surprised when the season-ending game against Arizona State has CFP implications.
‘Zona may make a great run, but they don’t have enough to stop Ohio State. Rich Rodriguez falls to 0-4 against the Buckeyes. Auburn knocks off TCU in a close game, as Jeremy Johnson has a monster performance. Ohio State - Auburn is a nail-biter, but Ohio State comes out on top. I really wanted to pick Auburn, but Ohio State is just too good.
Brian Rauf @brauf33
1. Ohio State
Title match-up: Ohio State vs. Auburn
Ohio State might be as dominant of a team as we have seen in college football since the legendary Miami team of the early 2000’s, and with their extremely soft schedule (they only face one ranked team, a home contest against Michigan State), they’re a virtual lock to return to the playoff.
The same goes for TCU, who are returning 10 starters from their record-setting offense last year - including Heisman hopeful QB Trevone Boykin. Their toughest game will be a showdown against fellow playoff contender Baylor in the final contest of the season, but they have the advantage playing in Fort Worth. I would not be surprised if the Horned Frogs lost once this year (Nov. 7 at Oklahoma State, perhaps?), but they’ll do enough to finish in the top four.
Auburn is the favorite to win the SEC this year due to head coach Gus Malzahn’s offensive system and eight returning starters on defense to play for new DC Will Muschamp. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson has drawn comparisons to former Tigers star Cam Newton, and considering the major QB questions facing every other SEC contender, Auburn will show their worth in the SEC West.
Then there’s USC, who has created a talent gap between themselves and the rest of the Pac-12 now that Oregon is trying to replace Marcus Mariota. However, they don’t have the depth to match up with Ohio State if they meet in the playoffs, allowing the Buckeyes to advance to the title game with relative ease.
Auburn and TCU will be different. Both offensives should be extremely explosive, creating a high-scoring shootout, but Auburn’s defense is much more talented, athletic, and experienced, allowing them to make enough stops to earn a chance to face the Buckeyes.
The Tigers should play another great game against Ohio State, one that won’t be decided until the fourth quarter. Auburn will be the more battle-tested team from playing numerous close games in the SEC West, and they’ll use that experience to simply make more plays down the stretch.
Justin Lee @JustinClarkeLee
1. Ohio State
Title match up: Ohio State v Auburn
Champ: Ohio State
Ohio State has exactly two road games which should prove tricky in 2015 -- the season opener in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech (because everyone and their mother is suspended), and the regular season finale in the Big House against a ‘who the heck knows?’ Michigan program. The Buckeyes could lose BOTH of those games and conceivably sneak into the CFP field on name value alone.
They won’t lose both, however, because mini-Beast Mode Ezekiel Elliott is around and set to kill opposing front sevens dead. Whether it’s Cardale Jones or JT Barrett under center, Ohio State is as comfortable of a repeat championship bet I’ve ever (legally) wagered on.
From there, the fog is thick over one of the deepest pools of Power Five contenders in quite some time. Auburn’s offense replaces six starters on offense, but the move from a zone-read attack to a more balanced scheme that’ll ride the arm of soon-to-be YouTube darling Jeremy Johnson will paper over some of the experience gap. All Will Muschamp’s defense has to do is not get shredded in Death Valley (LSU) in Week 3 and hold serve at home in the annual Iron Bowl crapshoot and the Tigers are going dancing.
Then there’s Baylor and Clemson. Those penciling in TCU to emerge from the Big 12 flustercluck forget that the Horned Frogs are forced to travel to Oklahoma and head home for Baylor to close out the regular season -- a two-week nerve-shredder that could be a real back-breaker. Baylor returns nine starters on defense (including All-American DE Shawn Oakman) and boasts the deepest 1-thru-10 supporting offensive cast in college football. New starting QB or not, Baylor is your Big 12 favorite. They won’t get snubbed by the committee two years in a row.
As for Clemson, returning QB Deshaun Watson (torn ACL) is the legitimate Heisman contender no one is talking about right now. A 19-year-old baller who’s both an effective game manager and a big-play assassin, Watson replaces Jameis Winston as the ACC’s premier QB. Clemson’s three games against currently-ranked opponents all come at home (Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, FSU). Road trips to Louisville and South Carolina will be tough, but the Tigers are deep enough to win at least one of those and backpedal through the ACC title game and into the final four -- personnel turnover or not.
Suzi Alvarez @suzialvarez
1. Ohio State
4. Michigan State
Title match up: Ohio State vs. TCU
Ohio State is everyone’s favorite for a reason. The level of talent on both sides of the ball is further fueled by the momentum from last year’s stunning, against-all-odds season. Urban Meyer is both cunning and patient enough to guide his team throughout the season. But what starts as momentum quickly becomes the type of mounting pressure that catches up with a team. No longer the “Cinderella” story, passed over for a new underdog, Ohio State will stumble in the championship match-up.
Let’s not forget TCU’s absolute rout of Ole Miss (42-3) in the Peach Bowl. They have the firepower to dismantle a powerhouse team, and QB Trevone Boykin’s play will only improve. Even if the Horned Frogs’ trip up to Norman goes poorly, they’ll edge out Baylor in overtime by sheer will and a bit of home field luck—sealing their fate as a CFP force to be reckoned with.
Mark my words: do not underestimate Alabama this year, nor the SEC bias of the CFP selection committee. Alabama’s strength of schedule may prove to be an asset rather than a detractor, earning them merit even with a loss. They travel into a hostile environment for an unforgettable Iron Bowl, but the game will become a coaching battle and Nick Saban has the edge.
Finally, my most difficult pick. When the Spartans shock Autzen into silence, they’ll gain the momentum that will carry them through the season. It’ll be a close race for fourth seed. Baylor or Clemson may end up being more deserving, but respect for the Big 10, a dismantling of the Ducks, and an almost-win in Columbus will stamp Michigan State’s ticket into the playoff.
Brett Scott @bscott0527
1. Ohio State
Title match up: Ohio State vs. TCU
Champion: Ohio State
It’s hard to find more clear-cut favorites this year than Ohio State and TCU. Both have to get through other possible CFP contenders Michigan State and Baylor, respectively, but I think it happens. I’m a believer that you should win your conference to make the CFP so that leaves the ACC, Pac-12, and SEC champs vying for the other two spots. Sorry Boise.
I’m going with Auburn thanks to a home Iron Bowl – don’t sleep on that game at Arkansas, though – and ACC champ Clemson. The Tigers’ schedule looks doable, and if they get through the 3 home games against Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Florida State, they’ll deserve that CFP berth.
It’s hard to pick against the defending champion Buckeyes this year. Not much more I can say. OSU takes home its second-straight title.
James Yoder @jamestyoder
3. Michigan State
Title match up: Alabama vs Michigan State
There is no good reason to pick Alabama to win it all...they have unproven playmakers at WR, have no QB that anyone trusts, and lost 2 of their top 3 rushers from 2014 (1 of whom was last season’s QB Blake Sims). But - here is are the 2 reasons why I chose the Tide to win their 4th national championship in the last 7 seasons: 1. Nick Saban 2. Talent
The Tide employ the best football coach in modern history (college or NFL) and have without questions the most talent up and down the roster of any team in college football. The fact that Saban ended last regular season #1 is a testament of the coaching genius he possesses and the absurd amount of talent in Tuscaloosa (3 of last 5 years with #1 recruiting class, and # the other 2 years speaks of the embarrassment of talent riches Saban possesses).
This is Michigan State’s year - Mark Dantoni is the best defensive coach north of Nick Saban and the Spartan offense is guided by star QB (and Hinckley, Ohio native) Connor Cook, who proved in December 2013 that he has what it takes to dismantle an Urban Meyer led Ohio State team, which he will do again this season.
TCU is led by this season’s Johnny Manziel/Denard Robinson/Braxton Miller/RG3 in QB Trevone Boykins, who many predict to win the Heisman. TCU was left out of the playoff last season, and return 16 starters, including 10 on offense, to avenge the snub from last season. I predict TCU will be the only team to enter the playoff undefeated.
Stanford? We talking about playoffs? Playoffs? Well, maybe...this is my darkhorse, but I am picking Stanford to go 12-1, including winning the Pac 12 championship game, en route to a playoff spot. How will they do it? I am basing this pick on 4 things: 1. The ACC is terrible, so someone from Pac 12 will make the playoff. 2. I love 5th year senior QBs, especially a QB who has won a Rose Bowl like Hogan did as a RS Freshman in 2012 and played in another in 2013. 3. David Shaw is clearly still getting coaching tips from Jim Harbaugh. 4. The Stanford D, in my opinion, is the best in the Pac 12 by far.
For those of you scoring at home, the results for this season's champion are:
Ohio State - 3 picks
TCU - 2 picks
Alabama 1 pick
Auburn - 1 pick
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