We’ve finally made it! All the games (except bowls) have been played, we know the conference champions, and we’re about ready to find out who made the CFP. Before the committee releases the official results, I wanted to share who I thought should be in and the order in which they should be ranked. I am most certainly not going to align with the CFP committee, and I’ll point out those cases where they arise. Unfortunately, my selections mean nothing in the real world of college football. It’s just fun to discuss, because everyone has their own opinion. Here are my final CFP picks!
1. Georgia Bulldogs
I said when the CFP rankings started that Georgia would remain my #1 until they no longer deserved it. They still deserve it. I’ve basically had this team penciled in all season. Nothing they’ve done this year has warranted a change in that strategy. Their conference championship game was actually irrelevant to me and quite likely to the committee as well. Georgia entered last year’s SEC title game as a dominant #1 seed and still made the playoff as a 3-seed after losing that game to Alabama. I suspect that Georgia was a lock regardless of outcome this time as well.
Somehow, the Georgia defense continues to be exceptional. Former DC Dan Lanning became the head coach of Oregon, but co-DCs Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann have maintained the team’s insanely high standard. Their 30 points allowed to LSU this week were the most Georgia surrendered all season. Against the odds, Bennett has kept his critics at bay for another whole season. Although his numbers are a bit down, he’s been similarly effective as a passer, and he provides an underrated rushing threat. DT Jalen Carter and TE Brock Bowers are surefire top-10 picks this year and next, respectively. This team is loaded and remains the favorite to win it all.
2. Michigan Wolverines
So far I think the committee and have the same picks. 2 for 2! Two undefeated teams remain, and Georgia is the better one. Thus, I place Michigan at #2. Though their nonconference schedule is one of the worst any playoff contender has ever played, they beat everyone they faced. Producing a 13-0 season is hard no matter who you’re playing, which is why I rank the undefeated teams at the top regardless of context. In fairness, the Wolverines have upped their game since they started the Big 10 portion of their schedule. They have two top 10 wins (Penn State and Ohio State), and they possess a conference title. That’s plenty for a playoff spot, especially this year.
I still have questions about Michigan’s ability to go all the way. RB Blake Corum, a Heisman candidate at one time, is out. He had knee surgery and will miss the playoffs. Donovan Edwards is a great replacement, but depth is missing. I also don’t trust QB JJ McCarthy very much. He has been efficient in recent games, but Jim Harbaugh hasn’t asked him to do too much. I worry about how he’ll perform when he’s expected to carry the offense. Defensively this team is very strong, and Jake Moody might be the best kicker in the nation. Michigan has certainly earned this spot, but that doesn’t mean that I have to consider them remotely close to Georgia.
3. TCU Horned Frogs
Here, the committee and I might not see eye to eye. During the Sun Belt championship game, commentator Rod Gilmore said “I don’t think you should be in the playoff if you’re not playing this weekend.” Check out my pick below if you want to REALLY get into that argument. TCU shouldn’t really be in danger. They came into this weekend 12-0, and they’ll be one of only 2 one-loss teams in the nation. The other two playoff teams are unbeaten. I have those two teams ranked first, with TCU slotting right behind them. They weren’t blown out in their conference championship game, losing in OT.
If you ask me whether TCU is one of the four best teams in the FBS, I say yes without hesitation. No team came into this weekend with a better strength of record. The Big XII has been the deepest conference from top to bottom, so the Horned Frogs have had no cupcakes. They’ve won with many different styles: shootouts, defensive struggles, and come-from-behind victories. Their defense has quietly improved, especially up front. Who would you put over the Frogs? Ohio State hasn’t looked great for weeks, and Alabama has simply not been the Nick Saban team that we’re used to. Keep TCU in regardless of what happened today.
4. USC Trojans
This is where I’m REALLY going to be in conflict with the CFP committee. They’re almost certainly going to bump Ohio State up to this spot after USC’s blowout loss in the Pac-12 championship game. My ranking here reflects my personal philosophy: I do not believe that a team playing in a conference title game should be dropped below a team that did not. Ohio State losing last week eliminated them from conference championship contention, so they did not have to play a 13th game. If you send USC home because they lost a “bonus game” (CFP committee chairman Boo Corrigan’s words, not mine), you’re essentially sending teams the following message: you should forfeit and refuse to play your conference title game because it could cost you your playoff spot. Does the committee really want that to be the takeaway? I don’t.
What’s ironic about this is the committee’s obsession with conference championships. They have left Big XII teams out because the conference didn’t have a title game. That essentially made the conference add such a game just to appease the committee! Now, they’re saying that not only do teams have to play for a title, but they need to win that game or else they’ll be dropped…below teams sitting at home and not playing in one of those incredibly important games…? Based on all of that, I was only going to adjust the top 4 amongst themselves. I was willing to shift their positions within the top 4 based on this weekend’s results. However, I was not swapping any of these teams out of the top 4 entirely. The only thing that could have changed this was if Clemson had come into the night as a 1-loss conference champion. That would have meant that they were a potential jumper who DID play a 13th contest, but that scenario didn’t come into play. Thus, USC stays where they are.