The wait is finally over. We have made it through another offseason and the college football season kicks off tonight on ESPN, SEC Network, Fox Sports 1, CBS Sports Network and probably a couple of others that I’m missing. In the final installment of my 2015 Countdown to Kickoff preview, I take a look at my picks for the college football playoff. My rankings have already come out but those are not how I expect the rankings to be at the end of the season. Those were just based off who I believe would be the best team in the country at a neutral site at any point throughout the season. Before we get to my final four, let’s look at the teams that just barely missed the cut.
Alabama is my first team on the outside looking in. I believe that they have too many questions to answer in the passing game, offensively and defensively, to beat some of the more complete teams this season. The schedule is rough and I don’t think they can get through trips to Athens, College Station and Starkville unscathed. I think the Iron Bowl is a play-in game and I give the edge to Auburn. Baylor is another team just barely on the outside. They have a tough November schedule that is capped against TCU in another one of my play-in games. One loss may could keep Baylor in but trips to Manhattan, Norman and Stillwater will not be easy. I also have Clemson on the outside but not by much. The Tigers will not have enough on their resume and even an 11-1 season could see them miss out on the ACC Championship game. Michigan State and Notre Dame could push into the playoff but I believe they would need a little help from others. Undefeated seasons would get them in but even a single loss, depending on who it was against and when it was, could be detrimental.
1 TCU vs. 4 Ohio State
I believe that the top two teams in the country will once again be matched up in a national semifinal game. I think the Buckeyes drop the season finale to Michigan but still win the Big Ten and get enough respect through the season to stay in a playoff spot. Last season, the Buckeyes won a championship at the number four spot. I don’t see it happening again. Urban Meyer has the edge as a coach in this game but the Horned Frogs will be playing for a school that has never hasn’t seen a championship since 1938. Trevone Boykin will show up and the TCU defense will prove themselves throughout the season and even out the advantage that Ohio State has with experience.
2 Auburn vs. 3 Oregon
A rematch of the 2010 national championship pits two high speed offenses. It is hard to see an advantage in this game to either team. Both have, so far, unproven quarterbacks with a lot of potential and a lot of weapons around him. Both teams take a lot of chances on the defensive side of the ball, forcing a lot of miscues and turnovers but also allowing a lot of big plays. This game would be a lot of fun to watch, especially with Jeremy Johnson and Vernon Adams, Jr. having a season of experience. I have to give the slight edge to Auburn because of how much time defensive guru Will Muschamp would have to prepare for the Oregon offense. You would think a game like this would be high scoring but we thought the 2011 BCS game would be too.
Championship: 1 TCU vs. 2 Auburn
This is another near impossible game to predict. TCU was first in my power rankings but I think Auburn has a lot of potential and could improve enough to become the nation’s best team by the end of the season. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that also gives time for the Horned Frogs to figure out their biggest issues at linebacker and the secondary. I think Gary Patterson finds solutions for the small problems and can put experienced guys in charge of what has consistently been a good defense at Fort Worth. TCU ends up pushing past the barrier of just having a good season record and wins their first national title in 77 years.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor and a show host at WVUA-FM. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.