Alabama fans are probably ecstatic that their team keeps making the College Football (CFB) Playoffs and winning national championships. Fans from every other school probably wish anyone, but Alabama would make it in (and win). But they understand that the best team wins in the end. They just wish the candidates for that honor would be different sometimes.
The CFB Playoff system has been in place for four years now. During those four years, there hasn’t been a lot of turnover among the teams that qualify for the playoffs. Those sixteen slots have been filled by just nine teams—Alabama (4), Ohio State (2), Oregon, Florida State, Michigan State, Clemson (2), Oklahoma (2), Washington, and Georgia.
Some would say that’s a sign the system needs to be expanded. Others would say it’s a sign that the teams on the outside looking in need to play better football. They need to play tougher schedules and beat more ranked opponents.
If they want a spot, they need to earn it—not add another spot.
This season finds some of the usual suspects expected to make it back to the Playoffs (Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, and Oklahoma). But there are a handful of teams that could crash the party by earning their first trip:
The Tigers nearly became the first two-loss team to make it into the playoffs last year. Had they not blown a 20-point lead and lost to LSU they might have made it in. The only question mark about this year’s team is the offensive line. But otherwise, they have a Heisman contender at QB, some great skill position guys, and a stout defense. Tack on that tough SEC West schedule and you have the makings of a potential playoff team.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish were in the mix last season until their late-season loss to Miami knocked them out of the running. With a strength of schedule that ranks 20th to start the season and includes five ranked opponents, the opportunity is there. They’ll just need the defense to be as good as it was last year. They’ll need the run to be as effective (if not better), and it wouldn’t hurt if they could develop a more reliable passing game.
Last season they were disrespected the entire year because of their relatively weak schedule even though they dominated opponents. But then they lost the Big Ten Championship and gave the committee a reason to exclude them. This season, they’ll have the best offensive line in college football and arguably the best running back looking to make the most of it.
Can they afford to lose a game? Probably not. But who says the will?
The knock on the Wolverines during the Harbaugh Era has been the quarterback. But they may have finally gotten answer an Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. If he and the defense can live up to the hype (Michigan’s strength of schedule is No. 4), the Wolverines will be in.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Will Grier has gone from being a subpar quarterback at Florida to a Heisman candidate with first-round aspirations at West Virginia. He has a great trio of receivers to work with in David Sills, Gary Jennings, and Marcus Simms, a solid offensive line, and good running backs. The defense isn’t spectacular, but it could be good enough if the offense lives up to expectations. They will fill the power void in the Big 12 this season—and maybe more.