Just as in 2017, the SEC will once again dominate the College Football Playoff this year.
If you think it’s too early for bold College Football Playoff predictions, then think again. The SEC is stacked once again this year, and the schedules are laid out in a way that will likely mean the conference has two teams in the playoff again.
(That sound you just heard is the sound of every Big 12 and Pac-12 fan screaming in disgust.)
Why will the SEC have two teams again? It’s going to shape up much like 2017 did when Georgia and Alabama both represented the conference in the College Football Playoff.
In the ACC, Clemson is likely to cake-walk through the conference again (although, a stumble in the early part of the season isn’t outside the realm of possibility). Should they hack and slash their way through the season, they’ll be in.
That leaves three spots in the College Football Playoff.
The Big Ten is a solid conference, and whether it’s Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State — the three teams most likely to come out on top of the conference — one of them is probably going to get playoff spot number two.
Now we’re down to two spots.
The SEC champion is almost a given as a playoff selection. While there could be one of those weird things where a two-or-three-loss division champ upsets a highly-ranked division champ, leaving the SEC with a comparatively so-so team as it’s conference champion, it’s not a likely scenario.
One spot left. Here’s where things get interesting.
Taking a look at the Pac-12, no one really stands out. It’s hard enough to even pick who’ll win the conference and, as in recent years, it doesn’t seem even the Pac-12 champ will stack up as a playoff team. Oregon and Cal are the two frontrunners on most experts’ scorecards, and of the two, the Ducks have the tougher schedule.
It would take an unbeaten or possibly single-loss season for either Oregon or Cal to get serious looks as a playoff team, and both will probably end the season with at least two (if not more) losses.
Best Case Prediction for Cal: 11-2, with losses to USC and Utah, wins rematch in Pac-12 Championship game vs Utah or USC.
Best Case Prediction for Oregon: 11-2, with losses to Ohio State and USC, wins Pac-12 Championship Game in rematch vs USC or against Utah.
Neither of those would wow the playoff committee.
In the Big 12, you have almost as much of a mess. For starters, Texas is not back. Not by a longshot. Baylor will just regress without former head coach Matt Rhule.
Oklahoma is still the team to beat, but with their poor record in the CFB Playoff and a non-conference schedule containing Missouri State, Tennessee, and Army, the Sooners will be a longshot for a playoff spot.
Best Case Prediction for Oklahoma: 11-2, with losses to Tennessee and Oklahoma State (because 2020 is exactly the year the Cowboys would win Bedlam). Wins Big 12 Championship Game vs who knows.
Not the strongest resume.
Second-best SEC team should be in the College Football Playoff
So why would a second-best team from the SEC be any better than Oregon, Cal or Oklahoma in the CFB Playoff?
Well, for starters, the second-best team in the SEC is better than Oregon, Cal or Oklahoma in all likelihood. But just putting that opinion aside, the lay of the land in the SEC bodes well for a two-team selection.
While some think LSU is primed to repeat in the West, they’ve simply lost too many players and coaches. Alabama will have a chip on their shoulder and has the talent to reclaim their spot as SEC West champs.
In the SEC East, you’re looking at either Georgia or Florida coming out on top, with Tennessee being viewed as the sleeper. Odds are in Georgia’s favor, with Florida being a strong number two pick.
Georgia and Alabama meet early in the season. so one of those two teams will have at least one loss by the time the SEC Championship game rolls around. Alabama and Florida do not meet in the regular season this year. If Florida wins the East, they’ll probably be undefeated and would be facing what is sure to be a highly-ranked Alabama team.
So your probable SEC Championship Game (in theory) would be either:
Undefeated Florida vs Undefeated or one-loss Alabama.
Undefeated or one-loss Georgia vs. Undefeated or one-loss Alabama in a rematch.
In either scenario, regardless of the winner, the SEC would clearly still have one of the top four teams in the nation.
Obviously, any number of monkey wrenches can be thrown into that prediction but based on what we’ve seen in past years, it would take a hellacious upset or an unfathomable collapse by one of those top-rated teams.
The other possible fly in the ointment would be Notre Dame. Should the Fighting Irish survive their schedule unscathed (and it is a pretty touch schedule) they’d have to get serious consideration for a playoff spot. That would put the committee in the least-desirable position possible.
So get ready, all you haters out there, because your SEC bias conspiracy theories should be ready to pull out of the drawer once again when those playoff rankings are first announced this year.