We don’t hear much about college football here at Loyola, but for those who haven’t been watching, the 2018 season has been a wild one. On Sunday, the College Football Playoff Committee released their final rankings for the 2018 College Football Playoff, and although many teams made a deserving case, only four are in.
- Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0), SEC Champion
The defending champions find themselves at the top once again. Sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has emerged as the Heisman frontrunner, and if not for his health concerns, most would crown the Tide the national champions right now. Tagovailoa suffered a sprained right ankle that took him out of the SEC championship game. Jalen Hurts came in and capably led the Tide on two consecutive touchdown drives to get the win, but the receiving corps looked concerningly sloppy, dropping four easy passes. Every defense on this list is more than capable of slowing down a banged-up, disorganized Alabama offense.
Tagovailoa’s health concerns give Oklahoma some hope, but regardless of who starts at quarterback, the Tide face a poor defense by Oklahoma and should have no problem putting up enough points. But how many points is enough when you’re facing the best offense in the country, led by Kyler Murray? Bama must prevent this game from becoming a shootout. If the scoring gets into the 40s, the defending champions could be in trouble.
- Clemson Tigers (13-0), ACC Champion
Clemson sits at the No. 2 spot, posing the biggest threat to overthrow Alabama as the country’s top team. Ever since freshman Trevor Lawrence assumed the starting quarterback role, this offense has been firing on all cylinders. In a four-game stretch against ACC opponents in the middle of the season, the Tigers outscored their competition by a mind-boggling 240-26. They scored 45 points on Pitt in the ACC championship game, putting a stranglehold on the entire conference.
Clemson is loaded with talent on defense, but they’ve been exposed in recent weeks, especially in their rivalry game against South Carolina when they gave up 35 points and over 500 yards. They looked better on Saturday night against Pitt, but the secondary still has some holes. Lawrence’s arm strength and accuracy are reminiscent of Peyton Manning’s during his Tennessee days. His talent combined with ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne make for a lethal offensive attack at about 45 points per game. This team’s success starts with those dynamic players, and they’ll have to bring their A game against a Notre Dame team hungry for their first playoff win.
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-0)
College football’s most iconic team has made the playoff for the first time. Many have compared this year’s Irish team to the 2012 team who, by the luck of the Irish, went undefeated on the way to the national championship game. This year’s team has shown they don’t need luck to win. Notre Dame defeated Michigan on opening night with backup quarterback Brandon Wimbush and did the same on the road against Florida State. They looked flat against Pitt and USC but rallied to win both contests. The Irish showed their true character in those matchups, proving that they can stay the course when they fall behind.
Starting quarterback Ian Book should be fully healed from his rib injury from a few weeks ago. He’s played fantastically since becoming the leader of this offense, throwing 19 touchdowns to just six interceptions. But the defense may prove to be Notre Dame’s biggest asset. They never give up big plays and are strong on third down, which can expose the inexperience of Trevor Lawrence. Notre Dame does not have the same talent as Clemson, but they are well-coached and rarely make mistakes. The Irish will have to outsmart their opponent if they want to earn their first playoff win.
- Oklahoma Sooners (12-1), Big XII Champion
What you call a shootout, the Sooners call Saturday. Opponents have recently scored at will against this team, but quarterback Kyler Murray and this high-powered offense simply score more, at about 49 points per game. Their most recent 39-27 victory in the Big 12 championship game against rival Texas avenged their only loss of the season on Oct. 6, giving them the slight edge over Georgia and Ohio State for the final playoff spot.
Despite the team’s offensive success, it would be an understatement to call the defense suspect. The defense has given up 40 or more points four games in a row before the Big 12 championship, including 56 against West Virginia. However, it only takes a few stops to give Murray and the offense a chance to win. Oklahoma can score on anybody, including Alabama. A shootout is just what the Sooners want when they play the No. 1 team in the country.
Although the eye test indicates two exciting semifinal matchups, oddsmakers disagree. Alabama is favored by 14 points over Oklahoma, while Clemson holds an 11.5-point advantage in the spread against Notre Dame. Here’s the full schedule of the 2018 College Football Playoff:
Dec. 29 – Orange Bowl from Miami – No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
Dec. 29 – Cotton Bowl from Arlington, Texas – No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
Jan. 7 – National Championship Game from Santa Clara, Calif. – Semifinal winners
Feature Image Courtesy of WBNS TV
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