2015 College Football Playoff Preview

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It is that time of the year as the Bowl Season is in full swing with the games only getting better in the lead up to the National Championship. Over the past few years it wasn’t until the new year when the big bowls took place that any of the top teams played. They were the BCS bowls and they led up to the National Championship where the two best teams in the country faced off. Things are done a little bit differently this time around though as the NCAA returned to the big six bowls. They brought back the Peach and Cotton Bowl to join the Fiesta, Orange, Sugar, and Rose Bowl. These six bowl games will surround New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as they mark the semi-final games for the new College Football Playoff. These classic bowl games will rotate in and out as the semi-final games for the National Championship. This year it will be the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl that will have the honour of being the first ever semi-final games in the history of College Football. It is the end of one of the longest debates in the NCAA after years of a demand for a playoff. The national championship had always been decided based purely on rankings. For years it was simply the rankings that determined the champion with the #1 team at the end of the year earning the title. For many that simply wasn’t good enough as the system lent itself to ties with more than one team earning the top spot on multiple occasions. So the NCAA decided on a new system where a computer program would decide the rankings and the top two teams in those rankings would face-off in a national championship game. It provided a spectacle like a Super Bowl to determine the best team and included the top two teams rather than just the top team at the end of the year. It was a system that took humans out of the equation and brought a more mechanical approach to the rankings that valued certain aspects over just how a team looked. It still wasn’t good enough though as more often than not teams were left out of the big game despite good records. So the NCAA moved to a new system this year where two more teams were added to the mix in a four-game playoff. The new system was meant to include more teams and give some of the smaller conferences a chance to compete after the BCS was ruled by the SEC. After one season it has definitely included more teams but the smaller conferences were not represented. It was the big conferences that will find their way to the playoff this year as the SEC, Pac-12, ACC, and Big Ten will all make an appearance. The conference left out is the Big 12 where the top two teams, who tied for the Championship, are on the outside looking in. In its first year the small schools still couldn’t make the playoff while the big schools will face-off. It is the first year though and the experiment continues as everyone just looks for good football as the inaugural College Football Playoff gets underway.

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The Rose Bowl has long been the most prestigious bowl in the NCAA as it has run consistently from 1916 until today. It is no question that with that background it has been chosen as the first semi-final in the new College Football playoff. It will shed its usual Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup to host two of the country’s best teams with the winner heading into the National Championship. This year the Rose Bowl will have one familiar tam though as the Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks make their way to Pasadena for the 7th time. The Ducks ran through the Pac-12 conference this year with only one hiccup against Arizona. They exercised that demon in the Pac-12 Championship with a 51-13 win over the Wildcats. That championship win kept the Ducks at the #2 spot in the rankings and gave them a spot in the first playoff. The Florida State Seminoles are back in the national title conversation a year after winning the big game. They are the only undefeated team in the playoff after running the table in their 2014 season. That is only a continuation of their 2013 season where they also ran the table all the way to the 2014 National Championship. These two teams now face-off in the legendary Rose Bowl with a matchup for the ages. Although they won’t be on the field at the same time Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be fighting back and forth all game. The matchup is a rare one as two Heisman Trophy winners will play in the same game. Winston won his a year ago in guiding the Seminoles to the top of the rankings and earning a spot in the National Championship. This year it was Mariota who earned the nod after moving through the entire season as the best quarterback in the NCAA. As the two enter the Rose Bowl together they are clearly the story of the game. This game could very well come down to which quarterback can do the most for his offence and can make the least amount of mistakes. As easy of a determination as that might sound it is slightly complicated. On the one hand the Seminoles went undefeated on the year but never looked like the dominant team they were when they won the National title in 2014. On the other hand the Ducks could not run the table but in their wins seemed more dominant than most teams in the playoff. As two great quarterbacks face-off there could more than a national title birth on the line as both quarterbacks could very well be competing to be the best quarterback in the NFL draft along with a National title, or a second in Winston’s case.

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The Sugar Bowl is another legendary bowl that has been in place since 1935 and is another appropriate semi-final destination. The bowl has been a matchup of southern teams for the last few years as the Big 12, dominated by mostly Texas teams, and the SEC have faced off. Much like the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl will see a familiar face in the SEC champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama did not look like a #1 team when they started the year and for that they were sitting on the outside of the playoff from the start. They battled their way back and eventually took their spot as the top team in the country. They are used to that spot as they have been ranked #1 multiple times in the last few years but their opponents have not seen a shot at the national title in a while. The Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the NCAA’s premier programs but recently have not seen a lot of success. Their last appearance in the National title game was in 2008 when they lost their second straight title game. Now the Buckeyes have moved back into the conversation, albeit just barely, earning the #4 spot in the last week of the season. Much like the Rose bowl this matchup will feature a battle for the ages except in this game it will be on the sidelines instead of the field. Two of the most dominant BCS coaches will go head to head in this game as Nick Saban and Urban Meyer try to add another major award to their mantle. Saban has been the reason for the rise of Alabama back to greatness in the last few years and has been named among the likes of Bear Bryant, Saban needs three more National titles to catch the legendary coach. Meyer was Saban before Saban arrived in the SEC. As the head coach of Florida Meyer won two national titles before taking a leave of absence from coaching. These two coaches are two of the greatest of this era and although Meyer is just beginning to build Ohio State back up since ending his leave of absence in 2012, he and Saban will face-off in a classic match of the football minds. The game seems to be headed down to who can call the better game. For Saban it has always been about defence first and this year he added a touch of offence with the addition of Lane Kiffin. Meanwhile Meyer has always been an offensive minded coach often being credited with the explosion of the Spread offence. These two football thinkers will try to match wits in the Sugar Bowl to get back to a title game that both coaches are happy to get back to this year.

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