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Division I Football Has a Playoff! Now What?

Posted on August 10, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Jameis Winston and Florida State seem to be the likely choice to run past the competition and into the first Division I Football Playoff.

Jameis Winston and Florida State seem to be the likely choice to run past the competition and into the first Division I Football Playoff.

After years of waiting and wanting, those who said that Division I college football will be better with a playoff system now have their wish. So, as the first season of the College Football Playoff prepares to get underway, it will be interesting to see if this system calms the critics or creates a new set of detractors.

On the field, the potential candidates for the playoff seem to be many of the same players that have been in the mix over the last few years and you can see the odds at allpro.

Simply by returning their starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston, the Florida State Seminoles are the popular favorites to repeat as national champions. With 13 returning starters and a relatively favorable schedule in which they have only seven challenging games and play four of them at home and one on a neutral site, it seems very likely that Florida State will be among the four teams to earn playoff spots.

It also seems generally safe to pencil Alabama into the playoff mix. However, what is an unknown entering the first year of the playoff is how the SEC, which provides tougher challenges on a weekly basis than many other conferences, will be treated in the likelihood that no-one from the league is undefeated and the conference has multiple teams with just one or two losses.

Besides the Crimson Tide, other SEC teams that certainly have the talent to contend for a playoff spot are Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia and LSU. However, in recent years the conference has also featured a surprise team that wasn’t expected to make a run, but somehow is there at the end. This year that team could possibly be Mississippi, Texas A&M or maybe even the Florida Gators.

With four teams possessing enough talent to contend for the playoffs, the Pac-12 could also be hampered by their top-line depth when looking at getting a team (or two) into the playoff. Oregon and Stanford have been the cream of the conference in recent years, but UCLA and USC both seem to have the talent to contend for the conference title.

While I know this playoff system is supposed to take the politics out of deciding a champion, does anyone really think that is possible? That being said, it would seem extremely unlikely that the Big Ten will not figure a way to get someone into the playoff party.

Ohio State would seem to be the most likely candidate, but after going nearly two seasons undefeated under head coach Urban Meyer they barely defeated Michigan before ending the 2013 season with losses to Michigan State and Clemson. They have only a couple challenging games in 2014, so how they perform in the final weeks of the season could determine whether they are in the playoff.

If the Buckeyes don’t prove worthy, Michigan State could certainly prove to be the Big Ten representative. Wisconsin is a relative long-shot and while Michigan seems highly unlikely to be good enough to reach the playoffs, they could prove to be a spoiler for other Big Ten contenders.

Braxton Miller and Ohio State will try to avoid being pulled back to the pack after their late season struggles a year ago.

Braxton Miller and Ohio State will try to avoid being pulled back to the pack after their late season struggles a year ago.

The popular choice from the Big 12 is the Oklahoma Sooners, but they have spent the last decade falling just short of being championship worthy and it seems unlikely that they won’t stumble at some point in the 2014 season. Baylor continues to be on the rise, but it could be very difficult for them to break into the playoff mix.

With only four playoff spots, the biggest question could be how long it takes before rumblings start about how to increase the number of playoff spots. If for no other reason than with five “power” conferences it seems unlikely that one of those leagues (and possibly more if they really pick the four best teams, instead of the four best records) will be okay with not having a team in the mix each year.

It promises to be another great college football season, but it will not be until January 12th that we will know if the college football playoff system was worth the wait.


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