A look at the College Football Playoffs:

Ohio State. TCU. Alabama. Baylor. These teams were your AP Preseason Top 4 teams in the nation. That was of course before we had another crazy season of college football to play. After all the upsets, surprise teams, let downs, and crazy finishes, we now have our four teams to duke it out to be crowned the College Football Champion. Clemson. Alabama. Michigan State. Oklahoma. Who lifts the trophy in Glendale in two weeks?


 

Oklahoma:

Why They Win:

(Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports)
(Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports)

Oklahoma emerged from the Big 12 as the victors in the only Power Five Conferences that lacked a championship game. That being said, the additional week could put them at an advantage in the film room, with more tape on their Orange Bowl opponent Clemson from the ACC Championship game against UNC. Oklahoma had a terrific offensive performance this year in the offense heavy Big 12, led by Texas Tech transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield completed a staggering 70% of his passes, with 35 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions, a Heisman worthy year for most quarterbacks. Mayfield was not only putting up these kinds of numbers consistently but doing so against some of the best teams in the country. Coach Stoops and the Sooners have beat 5 ranked teams in their path to the 4 seed, 3 of the 5 in the last 3 weeks of their season. Having their one loss of the season early on is an advantage, as the Sooners have been steam rolling the competition since the loss to Texas. Oklahoma has had the hot offense and hot hand overall going into the playoffs, which becomes a much bigger factor now than what was in the bowl system.

Why They Lose:

While Oklahoma has been putting up numbers on the offensive side of the field this season, they have definitely benefitted from a no-defense Big 12. It may be easy to hang up 55 points on lowly Kansas, but those numbers become a much bigger feat when facing Michigan State, much less the stout defense of ‘Bama. The Texas loss looks much more concerning when it’s brought to light that this was Oklahoma’s lowest scoring outing, only producing 17 points. The Sooners are not going to win a defensive struggle, which is what their opponents will try to force. Of all the one loss teams in the playoff, you could make the case that the Texas loss is the worst among them all, as the Longhorns weren’t contenders going into that game, and didn’t finish the season much better than they started. Stoops has an 8-8 record in bowl games but is 3-5 in bowls of true significance (Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, Rose, Sugar, and Championship). Also, remember that team that had a solid record, great quarterback, prolific offense and made the playoffs? The Oregon squad of last year casts a big shadow on this Sooner team.

Final Thoughts:

I believe that Oklahoma stands a strong chance against the current #1 seed Clemson in the Orange Bowl. However, if they make it past the Tigers in Miami, I don’t expect to see them beat the winner of the Cotton Bowl, whoever that may be.


 

Michigan State

Why They Win:

(Bradley Leeb/AP Photo)
(Bradley Leeb/AP Photo)

Michigan State looks to be one of the most well rounded teams in the playoff this season, with all sides of the ball making plays and winning them games. Connor Cook has been playing some of his best ball of his collegiate career this season, and looks to have his name called early come April at the NFL Draft. LJ Scott has provided a solid running game to base the offense around, while Aaron Burbridge has been opening up the offense with 15.3 yards per catch in a breakout year for the senior. The Sparty defense has been one of the best in the land this season, ranked 26th in defensive efficiency. The safety combination of Demetrious Cox and Montae Nicholson have produced 6 interceptions combined, producing turnovers when their D-line produces pressure on the opposing quarterback. As for special teams, ask Wolverine fans how the Michigan State special teams unit is. The Spartans also have one of the best coaches in college football in the form of Mark Dantonio, who is 4 for 4 in his last bowl appearances.

Why They Lose:

Let’s be honest, Alabama is looking like they’re the best team in the country right now, so it’s no surprise that the Spartans are considered underdogs in their New Year’s Eve match up. Even if Cook and the Spartans get past the Tide, they would face either Clemson or Oklahoma in the Championship, both teams wielding high power offenses that Michigan State’s defense may not be able to contain. While Dantonio is 4 for 4 in his last 4 appearances at Michigan State, he was 0 for 4 in the previous 4 years before that. Also, Connor Cook is a little banged up heading into the Cotton Bowl, so one good hit to his shoulder could mean the end of the season for the Spartans.

Final Thoughts:

I think the Spartans pose the strongest threat to the Crimson Tide among this group of four. If Sparty can pull the underdog upset, don’t be surprised if they carry that momentum onto the trophy stage January 11th.


 

Alabama

Why They Win:

(Vasha Hunt/vhunt@al.com)
(Vasha Hunt/vhunt@al.com)

Derrick Henry. Jake CokerCyrus Jones. Calvin Ridley. Nick Saban. Need I say more?  The Crimson Tide has been rolling (yeah I know what I did there) to the playoffs with a vengeance. The Crimson Tide defense has been playing at a high level all season (3rd ranked defense in the nation), making Heisman hopefuls Leonard Fournette and Dak Prescott look human in the process. Lane Kiffin has orchestrated this Alabama offense into a well-oiled machine. Also, Saban has a storied postseason legacy, with 3 national championships to his credit.

Why They Lose:

Ole Miss. Hugh Freeze and the Rebels have the Crimson Tide’s number and if any team in the playoff can replicate the spread style offense that has worked so well against Nick Saban’s pro style defense, it could mean trouble for the Tide. If any team can shut down Derrick Henry’s monster season, the Alabama offense may struggle as Jake Coker and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would have to run an offense primarily through the air, which hasn’t been their specialty of late. One more point about the Ole Miss loss and how it can haunt the Tide; Alabama had 5 turnovers in that game, so if any team can win the turnover battle against Alabama, it’ll be bad news for Saban and company.

Final Thoughts:

I personally think Alabama is the best suited to win the Playoff, no matter how much I personally dislike them. If they keep the Spartans in check in the Cotton Bowl, they’ll beat whichever team come out of the Orange Bowl and be victorious in the National Championship.


 

Clemson

Why They Win: 

(Tyler Smith/SB Nation)
(Tyler Smith/SB Nation)

Well for starters, they are unbeaten and the only team to boast such a claim in the nation. Clemson has been on their A game the whole season. Deshaun Watson has been a phenomenal quarterback this season, completing 70 percent of his passes and 30 touchdowns this year, as well as 11 rushing touchdowns. Dabo Swinney has brought this program to a historic peak. Clemson’s offense has been firing on all cylinders, averaging 511 yards of offense a game. When you’ve got a good thing going for you, why stop? If Clemson wants to be on that trophy stage, their offense needs to keep performing at a high level.

Why They Lose:

Clemson might have the weakest schedule among all the playoff teams, so it shouldn’t be a surprise they went undefeated. Their best win on their schedule was against #6 ranked Notre Dame, with the final score of that game being a Clemson victory by only two points. The Clemson defense concerns me, as I don’t know if they’ll be able to stop offenses if they get behind in these games. Deshaun Watson is only one man, so if the Tigers fall too far into a whole, I don’t think he’ll be able to fully pull them out of it. The only other unbeaten that has had so much more to prove to me in recent memory was the Fighting Irish of 2012, and we all saw how that went.

Final Thoughts:

Seeding aside, the ACC has been weak this year, and I just don’t know if the Tigers have what it takes to win it all.

 

What are your thoughts on the upcoming games? We would love to hear your predictions below

 

Shawn Valdrighi

Spark Sports Analyst

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