Justin McNulty ‘20 and Bryce Tinson ‘20: With all games other than the conference championships over with, there is the question of who’s in, and who gets snubbed. Predicting who the committee will select, each team will be broken down and analyzed from a fan’s point of view.
Justin’s Prediction: Starting off with the front runners, several schools will have the opportunity to win out, earning a spot in the committee’s final four. Starting in the SEC #2 Auburn faces off against #6 Georgia, in the SEC Championship game. Auburn arguably has the most momentum of any team in the country, knocking off the previous two #1 seeds in the past 3 weeks, including a 40-17 dismantling of Georgia. However, as many points as the Tigers won by in the first contest, it’s hard to defeat the same team twice in a season, especially in such a short span of time. ESPN’s fivethirtyeight website predicts this matchup to be the closest conference championship game, giving Auburn the edge with a 56% chance of winning. The big question revolving around this game is will the tigers star halfback Kerryon Johnson take the field after an injury vs Alabama. In my opinion, I see Auburn winning this game, with or without Johnson playing, but fans should expect a much closer battle this time around. Expect Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham to deliver another outstanding performance, but don’t be surprised if Georgia’s QB Jake Fromm or star running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Mitchell game a breakout game to lead the Bulldogs to an upset.
Prediction: 24-14 Auburn
Heading to the BIG Ten conference, Undefeated and #4 ranked Wisconsin Badgers square off with the #8 Ohio State Buckeyes. Wisconsin lead by the nation’s number 2 statistically ranked defense will look to shut down OSU’s 5th year Senior QB J.T. Barrett and one of college football’s most explosive offenses. Barrett, who suffered a minor injury vs Michigan, is expected to make the start this saturday, but we can infer that he won’t be at full strength. Expect Wisconsin to blitz Barrett all day long and take advantage of his injury. This means Ohio State will have to lean on the pure speed of Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins, as well as the raw power of Sophomore back, Mike Weber Jr. Wisconsin’s journey to the BIG Ten title game is unlike most others, given their undefeated record but still being believed the underdog by most analysts in this contest. This is despite the record Wisconsin stands at 45th in strength of schedule, while Ohio State who comes into this game with 2 losses, yet sits atop the rankings at 3rd. For the Badgers to silence the doubters, they will need to rely on another strong defensive led by captain D’Cota Dixon. As well as a strong ground attack established by their super freshman running back, Johnathan Taylor. Expect this game to be a defensive slugfest with two teams who like to pound the rock and run the ball, but I quickly envision the Buckeyes establishing themselves as the better team. I’m giving Ohio State a superior edge in this contest, but even with a win in the big ten title game, it’ll be questionable if their resume is strong enough for the playoffs.
Prediction: Ohio State 31-10.
Next up is the ACC Conference championship game with the now top ranked Clemson Tigers against #7 Miami Hurricanes. Being the defending National Champion’s, Clemson has recovered from a loss suffered at Syracuse early on in the season and looks to being playing at top notch form. Clemson is led by Junior Qb Kelly Bryant who has waited for his moment to shine and is taking advantage of it this season. Bryant, has proven to be a dual threat player this season totaling more than 2000 yards throughout the air and adding another 600 on the ground. Another impact player to watch for is Slot receiver Ray-Ray McCloud who’s sure to be noticed not only on offense but his his play making abilities as a returner on special teams as well. McCloud’s joined by Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow, and Tee Higgins to round out one of the most explosive receiving cores in college football that has accounted for 16 touchdowns this season. Potential top NFL draft picks Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins look to lead the Tigers fierce defensive unit by creating havoc at the line of scrimmage.
On the flip side, Miami, or ‘THE U” is lead by a impact turnover creating defense with play makers all over that side of the field. On offense, their go to guy is senior WR Braxton Berrios who’s caught 45 balls for 583 yards and 9 touchdowns this season. However, the passing game is going to rely on the play of quarterback Malik Rosier, who struggled last week in their loss vs Pittsburgh. The Hurricanes defense is going to be the most energized team on that side of the ball that Clemson has seen all season. Sophomore defensive back Malek Young anchors an elite secondary which has forced 11 interceptions throughout the year.
This matchup features two evenly faced teams, both who feature stout defense and explosive offense. I feel like this one could come down to some coaching decisions, and Dabo Swinney is the most exciting coach the America and is sure to have his Tigers fired up for this game.
Prediction: 35-17 Clemson. Clemson punches their ticket to the playoff.
Lastly, we will cover the Big 12 title game which pins number 3 Oklahoma with number 12 TCU. You can’t talk about Oklahoma football without menting the name of heisman frontrunner Senior QB Baker Mayfield. Ask him to run, pass, lead the team, anything, Mayfield can do it all. Totalling, 37 touchdowns with 4000 yards through the air and another 5 scores with 245 yards on the ground. These stats are impressive but it can’t hurt Mayfield when’s he surrounded by playmakers. RB Rodney Anderson, and receivers CeeDee Lamb, Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown are constantly making an impact with the ball in their hands, and look for Mayfield to keep throwing their way. TCU has a strong qb of their own with Kenny Hill running the show. Hill at times can be just as dynamic of a playmaker as Mayfield, but has struggled a bit down the stretch of this season. Oklahoma’s defense has to be ready for Hill to run the ball and try to make something happen with his legs. The Horned Frogs will try to get the ball in the hands of RB/WR Kavonte Turpin who’s going to be a challenge to tackle in open field situations. TCU’s coach Gary Patterson stresses the importance of getting Turpin involved saying they want have at least 15-20 “Turp touches” a game whether out of the backfield, spread out wide, or on special teams as they look to make the most of his abilities. TCU’s Mat Boesen is 4th in the country with 11.5 sacks and is going to be all sorts of trouble for Mayfield and the Sooners O-Line on Saturday. Going out with a bold prediction in this one, TCU will be able to keep up with Oklahoma offensively by averaging 34.5 PPG, and if the defense is able to shut down Mayfield even a little bit, I see the Frogs coming out on top.
Prediction: Expect an offensive battle… 42-38 Texas Christian University.
Final Four: Who’s In? Clemson wins out remain number 1 seed, they’re in.
Auburn with a victory against Georgia and an SEC title will secure the number 2 seed, they’re in.
Ohio State’s upset against Wisconsin should be enough to make the playoff, they’re in at the 3 seed.
In this situation 3 teams are a lock, but the debate will remain for the 4th spot. This is between Taking TCU with a 11-2 record and Big 12 title or an 11-1 Alabama without a conference championship. I think the Committee should respect TCU taking down a top dawg in Oklahoma, but I see them giving Alabama the edge, and the Crimson tide should get in with the 4th spot.
Bryce’s Predictions: Only four teams can get in. The playoff committee has a tougher job this year than in years past, with at least ten teams having a legitimate shot at the grand stage. All the pieces will fall into place this weekend, then it’s go time.
Number 2 Auburn faces off against number 6 Georgia, in the SEC Championship game. Auburn is playing at another level, right now, having beat the two number one teams the past three weeks. One of them being Georgia, who they will face in the championship. Auburn lost their number one offensive threat, when Kerryon Johnson went down with a knee Injury against Alabama. He is expected to go this weekend, but he might not be one hundred percent. With that being said, Georgia is coming off a solid 38-7 against in state rival Georgia Tech and have played well all season. Overall, I believe it will be somewhat close in the first half, with the Georgia defense starting out tough, but Auburn will wear them down in the second blowing it open. Jarrett Stidham is going to have to play at his highest level with Kerryon Johnson being less than his usual self. Nick Chubb will do what he can, coming off a season in which he had 1,100 rushing yards, and 13 touchdowns. In the end the, Auburn’s defense will prevail, stifling Nick Chubb, Jake Fromm, and the Bulldogs offense.
Prediction: Auburn clinches playoff, wins 27-7.
The Big Ten Championship game pits, underestimated, #4 Wisconsin against #8 Ohio State. This one will be low scoring, slug it out, big ten football. Wisconsin is the lone undefeated power five team left in the country. They have been playing at the highest level all season. Their defense is by far the best in the nation. Led by a stellar linebacking core, they’re giving up a NCAA low 236.9 yards per game, as well as a nation’s 2nd best 12.0 points per game. Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards will be tasked to slow down the Ohio State rushing duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Webber. The offense isn’t too bad itself. Freshman, Jonathan Taylor, burst onto the scene this year rushing for 1,806 yards and 13 TD’s. He will half to be electric in order for this offense to score points. Alex Hornibrook is the leader of the offense, and will have to be more careful with the ball averaging at least a thrown pick a game. Ohio State is coming off of a hard fought win against The University of Michigan. Being ranked fourth in the nation in total offense they look to open opportunities for their two headed monster of Dobbins and Webber. They have combined for 1,792 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season. They are led by 5th year senior, J.T. Barrett, who has been playing insane this year accounting for a total of 42 touchdowns, along with 3,400 yards. His dual threat ability allows Urban Meyer to run the read option, giving the defense another thing to think about. The Defense ranks 9th in the nation in total yards allowed making this a defensive battle for the ages. Wisconsin is allowing 80.2 yards on the ground keeping Dobbins, and Webber in check. Barrett is going to have to do it through the air if he wants the win, but he’ll need more than the 156 yards that Wisconsin is giving up. Taylor will run all over the Buckeyes defense that’s giving up 101.3 yards per game. It’ll be low scoring contest, but Wisconsin with Taylor and an amazing defense will keep the buckeyes off the field long enough to contain them.
Prediction: 24-10 Wisconsin still undefeated
The ACC championship game is predicted to be a high scoring affair with the #1 ranked Clemson Tigers as a 9.5 point favorite over the #7 ranked Miami Hurricanes. The Tigers, led by Kelly Bryant are averaging 35.2 points per game, which places them 25th in the nation. Bryant has accounted for 3,065 and 22 touchdowns, while only turning the ball over 6 times. Hunter Renfrow is a big reason why Bryant has been able to succeed at such a high level this season. His 50 receptions lead the team. Dorian O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph lead a stout Tigers defense that allows only 13.6 points per game and look to keep the Canes in check. The Hurricanes, a.k.a. “The U” are led by, Junior, Malik Rosier who is playing nothing short of amazing. He has amassed 2,798 yards through the air, along with 408 on the ground. As well as, a combined total of 30 touchdowns. Sophomore, Travis Homer looks to have a big impact giving Rosier some extra help on the ground. The defense is what signifies this team. Jaquan Johnson leads a defense that has taken the ball away 29 times. Johnson and Michael Jackson have a total of 8 picks between them, giving this ball hawking secondary the extra push they need. Coming off of a tough loss to Pitt, this Miami team will be playing out of this world. Don’t be surprised if it’s not a high score shootout, but the turnover chain will get used at least 4 times this game, and Rosier does just enough to outplay Bryant and the Clemson defense to secure the win.
Prediction: 27-20 Miami pulls the upset
Probably the most lopsided of the Championship games, as #3 Oklahoma faces off against # 12 TCU. Oklahoma has the best player in the nation, Baker Mayfield. Mayfield leads the best offense in the country, and is on pace to receive the most prestigious award in college football, the heisman award. He’s playing on another level accounting for 4,300 yards and 42 touchdowns. He can’t do it by himself, with the likes of Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and CeeDee Lamb combining for 2,483 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. The problem with this team is that the defense is ranked 70th in total yardage given up, which happens when your offense scores so much. They need to step up if they want to make a run in the playoff. TCU isn’t talked about as much as the Sooners, but the Horned Frogs aren’t far behind in talent. They’re scoring 34.5 points per game, but are on a little cold streak losing 2 of their last 3. Kenny Hill, the Horned Frogs QB has to play at his best if he wants to keep up with Mayfield and the Sooners. The defense ranks 20th nationally in total yards allowed, but have looked questionable in the past against Oklahoma. Last time they played each other, Mayfield torched them for 333 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Rodney Anderson added 290 yards from scrimmage to go along with 4 touchdowns. It’ll be more of the same as Hill can’t keep up with the Juggernaut, that is the Sooners offense. Expect Mayfield to throw for at least 300 yards and 4 touchdowns against this team. Oklahoma gets a statement win.
Prediction: 45-17 Oklahoma wins big
Final Four: The championships are done, so who get in?
Oklahoma easily takes the 1 seed behind the gun slinging arm of Baker Mayfield, they’re in.
Auburn takes the 2 being one of the hottest teams as of late, they’re in.
The next slot goes to Wisconsin, even though they rank 45th in strength of schedule, they’re undefeated. They’re in at the 3.
Alabama takes the 4 slot home. An 11-1 Alabama team who doesn’t have a conference championship, but has a harder schedule is better than an 11-1 Miami team that has a championship, with an easier schedule.
Miami is a dark horse team. They’re win against Clemson, while impressive, doesn’t cover up the fact that they lost the last week of the season. If they get in it’s because they have a conference championship and Alabama doesn’t
That’s it, the first playoff that features two teams from the same conference, and the other two being just as good if not better. These four teams are no doubt the best four in America right now, so expect this come selection time.
Ohio State 27-20
With 2 of 4 predictions running true, Justin out-picked Bryce by one single game.