We finally have our top 4 teams, and of course, with some controversy. While everyone knew Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State would be the 3 in, that last spot seemed to be a 3-team race. Baylor, TCU, and Ohio State all won on Saturday and all 3 have one loss. I feel each team is good enough to play for a National title, but unfortunately, only one gets in.
Ohio State 12-1, BIG 10 Champs
Best Win: 52-0 vs Wisconsin
Ohio State is that 4th best team. The Buckeyes went 12-1 on the season and that's without their starting QB, Braxton Miler. Freshman, J.T. Barrett (out of season with broken ankle), did a wonderful job filling the void, accounting for 45 total TDs and 3,722 total yards. The only reason why I wouldn't consider Barrett a Heisman finalist was because he has 10 INTs but he was worthy of an invite. The Buckeyes schedule isn't very tough, which I will win get into later, but a tough road win against Michigan State and their recent thrashing of Wisconsin in the BIG 10 title game is what help them jump TCU in the final week of rankings. The best thing about the Buckeyes is their balance. Sophomore, Ezekiel Elliot, provides that tough running game that really helped Barrett this season.
Now with 3rd stringer, Cardale Jones behind center, I think Elliot will be needed much more. Elliot played phenomenal against Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game, but Bama is up next. I know for sure Elliot won't have a monster game against Bama, so Jones will have to be the one that beat the Tide. Bama does have a history of struggling with mobile QBs, which is a plus for the Buckeyes, who offense is built around the QB being mobile. Urban Meyer is OSU's best threat against the Tide. Meyer is familiar with the SEC style, winning two titles at Florida (defeating Ohio State in 2007), and he is the mad wizard behind this offense that seems to work with anyone under center.
Florida State 13-0, ACC Champs
Best Win: 42-31 @ Louisville
It's crazy how a team that hasn't loss since November 24th 2012, currently on a 29-game win streak, and the defending champs is somehow the third best team in the country. The playoff committee wants me to believe that since Florida State wasn't blowing teams out while working towards a 13-0 record, the only undefeated team left, their not better than Alabama and Oregon, who both have 1 loss. I never understood how a team can be punished for winning. People claim they didn't play anybody but they defeated 3 ranked teams this season, 4 if you want to count Notre Dame who was ranked #5 at the time. It's no reason why this team should be ranked #3 and I understand that they're still in the playoffs but, as a fan, I don't see the respect from the committee.
Jameis didn't have the same Heisman caliber season like he did last year. Winston has 17 INTs, 7 more than what he finished with last year. All his numbers are down from a year ago, 16 less TDs and 497 less yards. I'm not really sure what's going on with Winston, except maybe all the negative media coverage. Winston made some bonehead decisions but I've never seen a college player crucified like this. None the less, Jameis came through every single game, even when the Noles were down by double digit scores during certain games because of him.
This team is balanced and I still think they are the best team in the country. The running game hasn't missed a beat after losing Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. to the NFL. Delvin Cook and Karlos Williams has been a very potent one two punch, that has saved Jameis at times, but a 104th ranking in rushing would make you think other wise. The defense has made plays when it matters the most but they're no where near as dominant as they were last year. Like any team that plays Oregon, the Noles will have to keep the ball away from that offense. If the Noles start off slow like they been doing most of this season, they will be in trouble and might not be able to climb out of the hole.
Oregon 12-1, PAC-12 Championship
Best Win: 51-13 Arizona
Oregon was one of the pre-season favorites to make it to the playoffs and they find themselves right where they belong. Oregon only loss came against Arizona, which they avenged in the Pac-12 championship, 51-13. They're ranked 3rd in points, averaging 46 points a game, and 2nd in total offense. They have who I think will win the Heisman, at QB, Marcus Mariota, the best QB remaining in the playoffs. Mariota has 52 total TDs and 4,452 total yards. Unlike Winston, Mariota turned it up a notch this season, scoring 12 more TDs than he did last season. Mariota could possibly be the best QB Oregon has ever had, and becoming the first ever Heisman winner in school history would solidify it.
Oregon has the best offense and probably the most speed in the playoffs. It will be hard for anyone to stop this team from scoring, and historically they are known for scoring fast. In the second game of the season against Michigan State, they scored 28 straight points in 5 minutes, which completely turned the game around and sealed it for them. I questioned whether or not the offense would still be potent without the Wizard Chip Kelly but nothing has changed, this is still one of the best offenses in the country. Freshman, Royce Freeman, leads the team in rushing with 1,299 yards and 16 TDs, while Byron Marshall, who led the team last year in rushing, leads the team in receiving. Average fans may not know that despite this being a high powered offense, it is built around the running backs.
This is another opportunity for Oregon to become National Champions. For the past 5 seasons, they started the year off as championship favorites but at some point, they fold under pressure. This is a perfect opportunity for the Ducks to claim the title, since there is no dominant team this year. Bama aren't the juggernauts they usually are, FSU always starts off slow, and the Buckeyes are down to their 3rd string QB. With Mariota under center, the title is practically theirs for the taking.
Alabama 12-1, SEC Champs
Best Win: 59-0 Texas A&M
Bama's only loss came against Ole Miss on the road. They defeated 6 ranked teams during the season, outscoring them 201-90. They finished #1 in the best conference in football for the 3rd time since 2009. They're ranked 4th in points allowed, even though this is the worst defense in Nick Saban's tenure there, in my opinion. As much as I am not a fan of Bama, I do not like Bama, and I feel they shouldn't be #1, but I have to admit they have done everything they can to be #1.
Talent wise, I don't think they are as great as everyone makes them out to be. I wouldn't say their overrated because they are worthy of being in the top 4, I just don't think they are number 1. Blake Sims has been trying to win over the Bama fans all season and he finally might have done it. I have been very critical of him, but he has done a good job leading the Tide to a playoff position, throwing 26 TDs and 3,250 yards. His safety net, Amari Cooper, is the star of this team though. The stellar wide out has caught 14 TDs and broke every receiving record Bama had. It's not often, especially in today's era of college football, where you see the receiver as the Heisman finalist and not the quarterback. I've said time after time that Amari is the perfect combo of size, skill, and ability. I would even go as far and say that he is my favorite player this season.
Now when I say Bama isn't that great, that's cause I'm comparing them to the previous years. The defense isn't dominant, the running game I think could be better though it is very consistent. TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry both combined for 20 TDs and 1,827 yards. In 2012, both Eddie Lacy and Yeldon, rushed for 1,000+ yards and 10+ TDs, reason why I say it could be better. I think they have enough to defeat the Buckeyes but Oregon/FSU might be too much.
I thought it was crazy how Ohio State jumped TCU for the final spot, even though TCU didn't do anything to lose the spot. Ohio State only played 3 ranked opponents this year and had a weak BIG 10 and out of conference schedule. I didn't think TCU should have had the spot because they lost to Baylor who also only had 1 lost. I actually thought Baylor should had been in but I digress. The reason why neither TCU and Baylor didn't make it in the final 4 is because the BIG 12 doesn't have a conference championship, simple as that.