Well, I’ve been asked by my editors to predict the four teams that will make this year’s College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, there aren’t going to be any surprises in here as it will be the same four teams that usually make it: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Here’s a look at each with their odds to win the national title.
Analysis NCAAF 2021 | 4-Team Playoff
The Tide lost a ton of talent off last year’s unbeaten championship team, but so what? Nick Saban simply reloads with five-star recruits and future NFL players. Alabama is not projected to be an underdog once this season, which is no surprise because they rarely are. How strong is this year’s team? Bama was represented by a league-high 16 players on the Preseason All-SEC Teams. Alabama’s eight first-team selections include a league-high six on defense to go with two on offense. Alabama also received the most votes to finish as SEC Champions once again, with the Tide totaling 84 points compared to Georgia’s 45. The Tide open the season on Sept. 4 in Atlanta against a pretty good Miami (Fla.) team, yet the Tide are still 18-point favorites.
The Tigers should waltz through the ACC again even after losing superstar quarterback Trevor Lawrence and maybe the best running back in conference history in Travis Etienne. Still the six-time defending ACC champions had eight players on the 27-member 2021 All-ACC Preseason Team. Six of Clemson’s preseason All-ACC selections came on the defensive side. The Tigers led the conference in total defense last season (326.8 total yards per game) and were second in scoring defense (20.2 points per contest). Keep an eye on Will Shipley, probably the most talented Clemson running back with Etienne gone. Shipley (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) ran indoor track one season at Weddington (N.C.) High School near Charlotte and won the state championship in the 55-meter sprint by finishing in 6.36 seconds. On the football field, he was state player of the year in 2019 but missed his senior season because it got moved to the spring as a result of COVID. ESPN ranked Shipley as the best high school running back in the country.
Ohio State (+600)
The rich just got richer. Quarterback Quinn Ewers, considered the top overall prospect in the Class of 2022, is forgoing his senior season to enroll at Ohio State immediately and will be able to play this season. Ewers is re-classifying in order to capitalize on the NCAA’s new name, image and likeness rules that allow players to earn money while retaining college eligibility. The Buckeyes are replacing quarterback Justin Fields, who was a first-round pick in the most recent NFL draft. C.J. Stroud is seemingly the front-runner for the starting job while competing with Jack Miller and Kyle McCord. Now add Ewers to the mix. OSU brings back one of the nation’s top receivers in Chris Olave. He led the 2020 Buckeyes in receptions (50), receiving yards (729) and touchdowns (seven) last year and tied an OS U single-season record for receptions per game with 7.1.
Will this be Oklahoma’s final season in the Big 12? Of course, the Sooners and Texas are SEC-bound – although it could take a few years because of legal issues. Not out of the question, though, that this will be both schools’ final season in the much-easier Big 12. Really, that’s the only reason we like OU to reach the playoff again because it’s clearly the best program in that conference. And it has maybe the top QB in the nation in Spencer Rattler. A league-high 10 Sooners received Big 12 preseason honors and nine were named to the 2021 Preseason All-Big 12 Football Team, including Rattler. He was selected as the Preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year while junior running back Eric Gray was picked as Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
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