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College Football Playoff First Four projections: Alabama tops our initial rankings

Before the committee who didn't pick your team because they hate them unveils their ranking on Tuesday, GABA's assistant manager will release his CFP and New Years' Six projections every week until the final selections are made on December 4. Agree? Disagree? Let him know in the comments.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, I made weekly projections (well, almost) for the College Football Playoff top four and New Years’ Six picks. Like last year, I don’t have a dog in the fight, so that should make it (somewhat?) easier. And also, like last year, these are solely my views and may not represent the views of the rest of the GABA staff, so they have every right to shame me mercilessly if they disagree. Overall, though, I feel that this will be a fun exercise. I hope.

New Years’ Six and College Football Playoff Projections

I was ready to put Boise State as an at-large Group of Five pick, but then they had to go on and lose to Wyoming on Saturday. This is the same Wyoming that is led by former North Dakota State head coach and three time FCS national champion Craig Bohl, so that’s looking like a pretty good hire right now for a team that is 6-2, bowl eligible for the first time since 2011, and currently leads their division despite being picked last in the preseason. P.J. Fleck and Western Michigan appreciated that, I’m sure.

Without further ado, here are my CFP/NY6 projections:

Rose Bowl Game Ohio State (B1G) Washington State (Pac-12)
Sugar Bowl Oklahoma (Big 12) Texas A&M (SEC)
Orange Bowl Louisville (ACC) Wisconsin (B1G)
Cotton Bowl Western Michigan (Mid-American; Group of Five AQ) Nebraska (B1G; at-large selection)
Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA; CFP semifinal) (1) Alabama (4) Washington
Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ; CFP semifinal) (2) Michigan (3) Clemson
CFP National Championship (Tampa, FL) (1) Alabama (2) Michigan

The Top 4

1. Alabama (8-0)
Last Week: off
Remaining Schedule: at LSU (11/5); Mississippi State (11/12); Chattanooga (11/19); Auburn (11/26)

Despite a minor blip against Ole Miss, the Tide have looked flat out unstoppable. Jalen Hurts looks like the real deal, the rushing offense features four players (including Hurts) that can get the ball at any given time, and the defense is among the nation’s elite. It’s tough to see the Tide dropping a game to either LSU, Mississippi State or FCS Chattanooga, and even with that said, falling to a suddenly resurgent Auburn in the Iron Bowl shouldn’t hurt their chances at a playoff berth if they’re able to take care of business at the SEC Championship. (Also note: their final three games are at home!)

2. Clemson (8-0)
Last Week: W 37-34 at Florida State
Remaining Schedule: Syracuse (11/5); Pitt (11/12); at Wake Forest (11/19); South Carolina (11/26)
I keep thinking that the Tigers are ripe for an upset, but then I see what happened against N.C. State and Louisville and can’t help but shake my head at how this team can’t lose. (Here’s a link to a meme a friend of mine, a Clemson grad, posted on her Facebook page, which pretty much sums things up.) Dabo and company are out to prove that the dreaded “C” word is completely out of everybody’s vocabulary, and so far, they’ve done that this year, somehow. The Tigers’ problem, though, is that apart from blowout wins over FCS S.C. State and Boston College, they’ve struggled a little with some of those other weak opponents (Troy, N.C. State, even Georgia Tech). I’ve put them 2nd over Michigan despite the AP polls due to their strength of schedule, which is #1 in the country right now. (That season-opening victory over Auburn just looks better and better by the week.)

3. Michigan (8-0)
Last Week: W 32-23 at Michigan State
Remaining Schedule: Maryland (11/5); at Iowa (11/12); Indiana (11/19); at Ohio State (11/26)

Jim Harbaugh and co. can’t stop winning, and barring a letdown down the stretch (which, I mean, Maryland? Iowa? Indiana?), this year’s edition of The Game at the Horseshoe might be the de facto Big Ten East title game. (By the way, what can’t Jabril Peppers do? And he’s only a sophomore!) Here’s a stat to throw your way, as well: the Wolverines have defeated opponents by an average of 35 points. Sure, it’s due to the fact that they’ve played teams like Hawaii, Rutgers and Illinois, but it shows that they don’t have any trouble with beating the teams that they should beat. However, I slotted them below Clemson due to the Tigers’ better SOS and more attractive wins.

4. Washington (8-0)
Last Week: W 31-24 at Utah
Remaining Schedule: @ California (11/5); Southern Cal (11/12); Arizona State (11/19); @ Washington State (11/26)

Chris Petersen turned Boise State around, and he’s on the verge of getting Washington to the playoff in his third season at the helm. And he’s done it at the expense of a Pac-12 that, outside of Utah (who they’ve beaten) and probably Washington State (who lost to a FCS team to open the season) and Colorado (!), hasn’t had any real standout teams. Stanford’s cratered, UCLA’s been average, and Southern Cal’s, well, Southern Cal. The Huskies are looking to avoid a few landmines down the stretch - one loss will see their playoff hopes go instantly out the window.