If you were wowed by the fact that the #3 and #4 teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff – Ohio State and Oregon – ended up playing in a national championship game that they would never have even reached in prior seasons, then you’re probably already trying to figure out who will make those top four slots in 2016. Here’s a look at 2016 college football betting season.
Congrats to DT Antwaun Woods and C Max Tuerk on making the Outland Trophy Watch List – CFB’s best interior lineman. pic.twitter.com/YDb9nExJiM
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) July 10, 2015
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State won the first College Football Playoff, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be right back in the mix of things. Ohio State will sit atop all of the polls going into the 2015 season, and their schedule is favorable. They return 15 starters from the 2014 team, and they have talent spilling out of every position on the field. The intimidating part for the rest of the NCAA is that Ohio State should put an improved team on the field. They have three quarterbacks – Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardell Jones – who could start for any program, and whoever emerges as the #1 will be a favorite in the Heisman Trophy race as well. Running back Ezekiel Elliott will also be in the Heisman talk, since the line blocking him returns mostly intact. The defense has lost some starters, but Joey Bosai anchors an impressive defensive line. If Ohio State isn’t back in the 2016 playoff, a significant upset will have taken place.
2. USC Trojans
Now that Steve Sarkisian is returning for his second year coaching the Trojans, USC is primed to get back into contention for the national title. Sanctions have kept the Trojans with a smaller roster in the past few years, but that has also pushed some younger players into leadership roles that gave them the skins on the wall to excel this year. Quarterback Cody Kessler returns, as does his whole offensive line. Kessler went largely unnoticed last year, throwing 39 touchdowns against just five interceptions, but somehow the media missed out, perhaps in part due to the rise of Marcus Mariota in the same conference and the failure of the Trojans to contend in the Pac-12. Nelsoh Agholor won’t be around to catch passes, but JuJu Smith looks promising to take his spot, finishing as the second-leading receiver on the team. Adoree’ Jackson is primarily a cornerback but can also contribute on special teams. There is a tough schedule in place for the Trojans next year, as they travel to Notre Dame, Arizona State and Oregon, but Utah, Arizona and UCLA all have to travel to USC.
3. TCU Horned Frogs
If the Big 12 hadn’t made a pig’s breakfast out of their conference champion selection process, TCU might have been in the playoff last year. However, they ended up in the #6 ranking behind Baylor. While TCU has built a strong defensive reputation under head coach Gary Patterson, the offense is now elite as well. Quarterback Trevone Boykin returns for a second year in Doug Meachem’s offensive system, and the Horned Frogs return 10 starters on that side of the ball. The defense did lose six starters (five All-Big 12 players), as well as defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas, but the Horned Frogs should be motivated after running roughshod over Ole Miss in their bowl game, leaving a late loss at Baylor as their only blemish in the season. The Frogs do have to travel to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, but they get the chance to wreak vengeance on Baylor at home, playing them in the regular season’s last game.
4. Auburn Tigers
The SEC usually makes for a tough schedule for everyone, but Auburn’s 2014 campaign was particularly brutal as the team traveled to play five teams in the Top 25. this year the Tigers only have to play four real road games, and they get to host the Iron Bowl. Mississippi State and Ole Miss also have to travel to Auburn. There’s a lot of turnover on the offensive side, but new quarterback Jeremy Johnson could end up contending for the Heisman Trophy. Sophomore Roc Thomas and juco transfer Jovon Robinson could both lead the conference in rushing. The defense was a bit of a mess last year, but the Tigers bring in Will Muschamp as their new defensive coordinator. If he can live up to his legacy, the Auburn Tigers will be well equipped to rumble through the SEC and emerge in the playoff.