It’s finally here! College Football is back in all its glory! The 2017 season is amongst us and I for one am extremely excited. It’s been a long offseason, filled with early Heisman talk and National Title projections, but that’s ok because that helps keep the excitement in the air in the dead of the offseason.
Last season we saw Coach Dabo Sweeney and the Clemson Tigers raise the College Football Playoff Championship Trophy over their heads in Tampa Bay, as they went on to outlast the Alabama Crimson Tide. Last season’s Championship game marked the second consecutive meeting between these two teams in the final, with Alabama claiming victory in the first meeting. Though we are several months away from finding out the actual four teams that will be competing in this year’s CFB Playoff, I thought I would offer up my take on what I think the picture will look like come December 2017.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0)
This may not seem like a surprise to most, but it makes the most sense. Alabama has been in Championship games in back to back seasons and continue to have the nation’s top ranked recruiting class on an annual basis. This year Alabama will be without offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, as he parted ways with the Tide late last season and has since accepted the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic University. This may not impact them much; however, Kiffin was the guide for Sophomore QB Jalen Hurts last season, when he was a freshman. The Tide did lose 10 players in last year’s NFL draft, all of which went in the first four rounds. But, they will still have more than enough depth in every single offensive skill position to be as dominant as before. Returning to the Tide is junior phenom running back, Bo Scarborough, an absolute beast of a man coming in at 6’3” 240 pounds of pure muscle. He is hard to stop and will take defenders along for the ride. The Tide have some superstars in the making on the defensive side of the ball that will make them one of the nation’s most feared teams. Minkah Hyde and Rashaan Evans are lock down corners. Though they lost some core parts of their front seven in the draft, they are still so deep at D-line and linebacker that it won’t make a difference. Defensive lineman, Da’Ron Payne will be a force to reckon with on Saturdays. Let’s not forget that freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa, from Saint Louis High in Hawaii; the same high school that produced Marcus Mariota, looked amazing in spring games and could see some action if Hurts isn’t at a hundred percent. The Tide play Florida State in week one, which could be their toughest opponent of the year, other than LSU at home and Auburn away. I can easily see Saban and CO. going 12-0 as they have some soft game this season against the likes of Colorado State and Mercer.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
The Buckeyes are coming off a terrible 31-0 Playoff Game loss to eventual Champions, Clemson, and will look to rebound with another solid season under the guidance of coach Urban Meyer. Last season the Buckeyes went 11-1, with their only loss coming mid-season away at Penn State, who did play in the Rose Bowl. Though the Buckeyes lost some terrific defensive players to the NFL, four in total and three in the first round alone, they are still extremely deep on defense, especially on the line and at linebacker. They have some serious NFL talent in their front seven and the Buckeyes won’t recruit you unless they know you can ball. Senior Jalyn Holmes returns, alongside the likes of Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard, just to name a few. The Buckeyes have also just had one of their best recruiting classes in history. Add that up with one of the game’s best coaches in Urban Meyer and arguably one of the nation’s best defensive and offensive coordinators in Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson and you’re laughing. The most important thing to remember is that Senior QB J.T. Barrett is coming back for his final season. He brings great leadership, athleticism and experience to the table, and this will only help OSU this season. In terms of strength of schedule, the Buckeyes’ toughest games will come against Oklahoma, Penn State (both at home) and MAYBE Michigan. The reason I say maybe Michigan is because they are one of the countries most overrated teams this season. They lost so much talent (11 players) in the draft and didn’t recruit as well as expected. Expect a drop-off from Michigan this season, leaving a massive gap for Ohio State to burst through and overshadow Jim Harbaugh and Co. in Ann Arbor. In my opinion, the Buckeyes’ only loss will be to Penn State again, who is also looking good this season.
3. Florida State Seminoles (10-2)
Last season Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles finished the season with a 10-3 record, as they had earned their tenth win a narrow victory over the Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl. The ‘Noles started the season off with a massive win over Ole Miss, but suffered a gruesome loss to Louisville, followed by two other close losses to North Carolina and Clemson, respectively. All things considered, the Seminoles played very well under the leadership of then freshman QB Deondre Francois, who won the awards of ACC Rookie of the Year and ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year. Needless to say, Francois is returning to Bowden Field for his sophomore season, poised to bring the ‘Noles back to football glory. The NFL draft claimed their star running back, Dalvin Cook and DE DeMarcus Walker; however, they have a lot of solid players returning and a nice crop of running backs that can help fill the void. Safety Derwin James will look to be a leader on the defensive side as he is a true impact player. On the offense, Freshman Cam Akers is a stud in the making and WR Keith Gavin is becoming THE guy for Deondre Francois and the ‘Noles on offense. FSU has also been blessed with yet another year of tremendous recruits that can step in and make an impact. This could very well be the best FSU team since their Championship win in 2013. They have a little bit of a tricky schedule in 2017, and it all starts week one in a clash of the titans-type game against Alabama. They take on the ‘Canes early, and then prepare for a mid-season stretch of hosting Louisville and then travelling to Clemson and finishing the season in Gainesville against the Gators. Needless to say, they have an uphill battle. I have them losing to ‘Bama in week one with their second loss coming in week seven again against the Cardinals of Louisville. However, I feel like they are a team that can put up some point this season and persuade the committee to vote them into the Top-4.
4. Southern California (USC) Trojans (10-2)
Last season, under then first year head coach Clay Helton, The USC Trojans finished with a rather impressive 10-3 record, which featured a crazy win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl. After starting an abysmal 1-3, the Trojans turned it around with some amazing offensive play coming from the redshirt freshman QB Sam Darnold. After finding instant success coming off the bench, Darnold took home the 2016 Archie Griffin Award and the PAC-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Award, all while generating a lot of Heisman buzz. This year Darnold is the early Heisman Trophy favourite and will look to have an even more impressive season with all the hard work the team has done in the offseason in order to build an offense that he can excel in. The tough part for USC is that they lost two amazing athletes, Adoree Jackson and Juju Smith-Schuster to the NFL draft. Fear not though, the Trojans have a stout and experienced offensive line, as well as a reliable running back in Ronald Jones, who can hopefully team up with 5-star freshman RB Stephen Carr, that will help them look dangerous on offense. They already have a plethora of talented and tall wide receivers such as, Deaontay Burnett that can help stretch the field. Their defense will be in the spotlight this season as they have a ton of play makers. DB Iman Marshall will step in and fill the void that Adoree left. LB Cameron Smith, DE Porter Gustin and beast of a man DT Rasheen Green will look to be some of the more productive Trojans in 2017. The Trojans had the Nation’s fifth best recruiting class this year and most certainly have some athletes that can play right away, especially at the wide receiver position. When taking a look at the Trojan’s schedule, it doesn’t seem like it’s all that difficult. They don’t play Washington or Oregon this season, but instead take on the Oregon State and Washington State. However, they have a tricky game against Stanford, who are not getting anywhere near enough recognition, in week two and I feel their defense may get them the win that night. They also have a mid-season game at Notre Dame, which could be problematic. But to me, their second loss will come in a trap game against Arizona State in Tempe, a week after they play Notre Dame in South Bend. Though they have two losses, I still feel that they get into the CFB Playoff.
2017/18 Rose Bowl – CFB Playoff Game 1
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. #4 USC Trojans. This game will feature #1 vs. #4, which is a tad bit untraditional for the Rose Bowl. This game will be great; however, I feel Alabama’s defense will be able to give the USC Trojan offense some fits, thus allowing them to play for the National Title for the third straight season. Final Score: Alabama 34 – USC 17
2017/18 Sugar Bowl – CFB Playoff Game 2
#2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #3 Florida State Seminoles. Though the ‘Noles have a ton of talent on their team, the well-oiled machine of Urban Meyer will be too much for FSU that night. I feel that veteran QB J.T. Barrett is destined for success this season and that the OSU defense will be too much for sophomore QB Deondre Francois to handle. Final Score: Ohio State 42 – FSU 21
2017/18 College Football Playoff National Championship Game
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. #2 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Clash of the Titans, as they say. This game will be a tad more defensive at the start, with both QBs trying to feel out opposing defenses. Until the second half when J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes offense comes alive, and so does that Ohio State pass-rush. The Bucks will get off to an early lead in the second half and then crank up the pass rush to flush out sophomore QB Jalen Hurts and force him into mistakes. The Buckeyes out-coach and out-dual the Tide in this match as they hand ‘Bama their second straight loss in the title game, all while clinching Urban Meyer’s fourth National Championship. Final Score: Ohio State 30 – Alabama 21