1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0 SEC)
Why They Made It: They’ve made it every year, so it’d be foolish to predict them missing right? They don’t have a challenging game until November.
Team Review: The defending National Champions shouldn’t fall off. The national media is making it out like there is a quarterback controversy. There is none… Tua is the starter. The offense is loaded at Running Back with Damien Harris and Najee Harris. The receivers are young and talented. To cap it off four out of the five offensive lineman are back. Expect Alabama to average 40 points per game.
The defense should stay elite with the front seven. Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs lead up front. Inside linebackers Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses also make a dynamic duo.
The secondary remains the one unknown. Deionte Thompson is a dynamic safety, but there are young, unproven corners that will have to step up. The schedule sets up well with Louisville the only Power 5 test for nonconference play. A trip to LSU for a Saturday night game could be tricky as well.
2. Clemson Tigers
Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0 ACC)
Why They Made It: A great defense should get Clemson through an ACC schedule that isn’t very tough. The Tigers will just have to avoid a surprise loss against non-conference opponents Texas A&M and South Carolina.
Team Review: Back from a College Football Semi-Final loss, Clemson comes back loaded especially on the defensive front. Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant all should be drafted within the first three rounds.
The offense will need to step up after only scoring 6 points against Alabama. Mitch Hyatt leads a good offensive line even with losing two starting offensive guards to graduation. The running backs are solid with a combination of Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster. Talented Freshman QB Trevor Lawrence could take over for Kelly Bryant if he is not effective. Clemson does have two non-conference games against SEC opponents Texas A&M and South Carolina. Clemson will try to avoid a trip up like last year when they lost to 4-8 Syracuse.
3. Georgia Bulldogs
Projected Record: 12-1 (8-0 SEC)
Why They Made It: I know they’re not conference champions and do not have a difficult schedule. But in years past the committee does not punish conference championship losses heavily and I think Georgia will more than past the eye test.
Team Review: Georgia comes off a great season and heartbreaking loss in the National Championship. Getting back to the playoffs will not come easy as they must replace 8 starters on the defensive side of the ball. The roster is talented with Georgia having three out of the last four years a top five recruiting class.
On offense talented WRs Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, and Riley Ridley should give SEC defenses trouble along with shifty RB De’Andre Swift. It’ll be interesting whether QB Jake Fromm can hold off freshman phenom Justin Fields for the starting job. There will be new starters across the defense, but Georgia still has reliable players like CB Deandre Baker, Safety J.R. Reid and DE Jonathan Ledbetter. The schedule will not be easy with matchups against Auburn and LSU from the West. If Kirby Smart can find a way to replace the lost defensive starters Georgia should not only be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, but the College Football Playoffs as well.
4. Oregon Ducks
Projected Record: 12-1 (8-1 Pac 12)
Why They Made It: I think Oregon could shock a lot of people this year. Justin Herbert will lead a dynamic offense that the committee will love. They will be knocked on their non-conference schedule, but winning the Pac-12 with one loss in the tougher division will get them in.
Team Review: My biggest surprise candidate for the 2018 College Football season. Oregon has all the makings of a surprise team- a great quarterback, talented roster, and alot of returning starters. Last year with Justin Herbert at quarterback, Oregon had a 6-1 record and averaged 52.1 PPG. New head coach Mario Cristobal has had success before, turning around Florida International. He then served as a great recruiter and offensive line coach under Nick Saban.
On defense, the Ducks specialize in stopping the run with a front seven that includes DE Jalen Jelks and ILB Troy Dye. The defense will just have to slow down the opponent and let the offense put up points. The schedule sets up really well for Oregon as they play Stanford and Washington at home, and they do not have to face USC from the South. Oregon could shock the country and be a playoff contender.
Just Missed The Cut
5. Wisconsin Badgers
Projected Record: 12-1 (8-1 Big Ten)
Why They Missed: This is the toughest team to leave out. Wisconsin does have to play at Penn State and at Michigan, but playing in one of the easiest divisions I think will keep them out. Add in a soft non-conference schedule and Alex Hornibrook as the quarterback, Wisconsin might just be left out as a one-loss team again.
Team Review: Wisconsin is a hot pick to make the College Football Playoff and for good reason. The Badgers have a loaded offensive line and they’re returning an almost 2,000 yard rusher with Jonathan Taylor. QB Alex Hornibrook will just have to manage the game for the Badgers to be in good shape.
The defense has 8 starters to replace, but TJ Edwards is one of the best LBs in the country. Also add DT Olive Sagapolu and this defense should be solid again. Wisconsin has an easy schedule with no tough non-conference opponents and just a few tough road matchups against Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State. The schedule sets up well for a Big Ten Championship run.
6. Oklahoma Sooners
Projected Record: 11-2 (7-2 Big 12)
Why They Missed: I’m projecting two losses for this Oklahoma team. Losing Baker Mayfield is big, and I don’t think a two loss Big 12 Conference Champion gets in the playoff. A decent non-conference schedule does help their case.
Team Review: The Baker Mayfield era is over, but that doesn’t mean Oklahoma won’t be competing for the playoffs. Kyler Murray is expected to take over, but Redshirt Sophomore Austin Kendall has pushed him for the starting job. The offense returns one of the best running backs in college football with Rodney Anderson. The offense will revolve around Anderson and a strong offensive line. The receiving group should give the new quarterback help with high profile WRs Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, CeeDee Lamb and Mykel Jones.
The defense continues to be a question especially after allowing 54 points to Georgia in the semi-final game last year. There are some solid young players including LBs Caleb Kelly and Kenneth Murray. The non-conference schedule is interesting with FAU, UCLA, and Army. FAU will try to pull the upset in Norman for the first game of the year. Replacing a quarterback with Baker Mayfield’s talent won’t be easy, but there is still enough talent on the roster to compete for a spot in the playoffs.