2015 College Football Playoff Preview

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In 2014 the College Football Playoff was the unknown with nobody knowing quite how things were going to work out.

In fact when the last CFP rankings of the season came out the criticism of the system really came to a head.

That was thanks to the fact that no Big 12 team had made the final four despite being among the top four in most of the CFP rankings.

The problem was that Baylor and TCU, the two Big 12 teams with a shot, ha each lost a game.

It was hard to say that TCU should be ahead of Baylor when Baylor won their head-to-head matchup while Baylor had lost to West Virginia.

So when Ohio State won the Big Ten it ended up being just the excuse to see a Big 12 team moved out of the playoff.

It was not received in the best way but the fact was that in a playoff of four teams one of the Power Five conferences was going to be left out.

All of the criticism went away quickly though as the inclusion of the Buckeyes turned out to be the right decision.

The Buckeyes got by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the semi-final and then beat up on Oregon to take home the National Championship.

The Buckeyes went from fourth place in the CFP rankings to national Champions and there was no better way to show exactly what the playoff is supposed to do.

It is supposed to give more teams a chance to win the national championship and forces them to prove that they belong in the big game.

The Buckeyes never would have made the national championship but in the playoff they were given the shot and took advantage of it in a big way.

It was the perfect expression of why the playoff seems to be working and doing everything that it is supposed to do.

Of course there are always going to people who want it to go further as people have expressed that they want an eight-team playoff instead of only four, after that they will want a 16-team tournament.

For now though the playoff remains at four team playoff and this year, much like last year, there are plenty of contenders.

There is the #1 team in the country and the only undefeated team in Division I-FBS, the Clemson Tigers.football-sidebar

There is the powerhouse of the last decade and the only team to go to two consecutive playoffs in the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Then there is the Big Ten Champion and one of the most resilient teams in the country in Michigan State.

Finally the Big 12 representative and a resurgent team who has won plenty of titles in the past in Oklahoma.

These four teams all have shown just how good they can be with all putting together great seasons in tough divisions.

They all have a chance this year as well as there is no one team that everyone seems to be looking at as the favourite.

Of course Clemson will be looked to as an early favourite with the only undefeated season but they have a reputation of blowing big games.

Alabama seems to be a great team that features the Heisman Trophy winner but they did lose to Ole Miss this year and have been exposed.

Meanwhile the Sooners looked good but a loss to Texas was a black eye and everyone wonders if they have ever been tested.

The Michigan State Spartans were good enough to win the Big Ten Championship but they lack any one really strong aspect, which could be good or bad in the playoff.

The College Playoff is still in its infancy and there are four good teams looking to add to the short history of the playoff and win their own National Championship.

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For the second year in a row one of the semi-final games will feature two of the best quarterbacks in the country. Last year it was a match-up of the top two draft eligible quarterbacks in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. This year the quarterback battle won’t be as important for the upcoming draft but for Oklahoma’s quarterback it is a chance to prove he belongs at the top of the 2016 draft. Baker Mayfield has taken the long road to this point and as a Junior may declare for the draft this year. After walking on at Texas Tech, Mayfield transferred in 2014 to Oklahoma where he lost a season due to transfer rules. Then he won a QB competition in training camp and put together a great season just missing out on an invite to the Heisman Trophy presentation. He has had plenty of doubters in his short football career but so far has proved everyone wrong which he hopes to continue in the playoff. Deshaun Watson is a slightly different story as a Sophomore who took over the reins of the Clemson offence from the best Clemson quarterback in the program’s history, Tajh Boyd. The results were a great season that had Watson travelling to New York as one of the top three players in College Football. He didn’t win the Heisman but the invite solidified him as the best quarterback in the country. He was the first quarterback in a long time to avoid the dreaded “Clemsoning,” a term developed with the uncanny ability for Clemson to lose an easy game in the middle of a great season that pushed them out of the national title picture. The Tigers avoided that all year and ended the season as the only undefeated team in the playoffs only making Watson that much greater. Both quarterbacks of course won’t be on the field at the same time but there is no doubt that the battle is all about the quarterbacks who lead potent offensive attacks. Neither defence is the greatest but they will have their work cut out for them and they will be the difference in this game. The quarterbacks will be the focus but a few more players may be the real difference. For Clemson it will be Shaq Lawson who has to chase down Mayfield, who knows how to scramble, while Mackensie Alexander will look to cover Mayfield’s favourite target Sterling Shepard. For Oklahoma it will be Eric Striker and Charles Tapper who will be looking to get into the face of Watson while Zack Sanchez tries to cover Artavis Scott. It should be a great offensive battle but the defence will be the difference to see if another #4 can upset a #1.

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The Orange Bowl will feature two great offences and should be wide open but that will not be the case in the Cotton Bowl. This game will be about the grind of football with a hint of explosive offence from both teams. After all the Cotton Bowl matches two conferences that love old school football with a twist. The Big Ten and SEC prefer to focus on great defence and running the ball but recently have also seen some explosiveness in offences through recent years. The Alabama Crimson Tide and Michigan State Spartans are two teams that express this attitude in the best way. The Tide have been that old school team with a hint of explosiveness for years and as a result have been one of the best teams in College Football. They are the only team to make the playoff in both years and they have done so with one of the best defences in the league and the best running back in the game. That is what they do and what they have done ever since Nick Saban became the head coach in 2007, which has resulted in three National Championships. Michigan State has long had the same thought process focusing on defence and the running game for years. They have adjusted slightly this year as their defence is not as good as years past and their best player could be the first quarterback taken in the 2016 NFL draft. Still the Spartans grind out games and have a top 20 offence that includes one of the best rushing defences in the country. There lies the biggest battle of the Cotton Bowl as Heisman Trophy winner and SEC record holder, Derrick Henry, looks to break through one of the rushing defence in the NCAA. Henry averaged over 150 yards per game this year while the Spartan defence has allowed 113 yards per game, good enough for 7th best in the NCAA. Something will break and whoever does will lose this game. For the Tide their top three defence will need to shut down Connor Cook who came into the season as the NFL’s top QB prospect. He hasn’t had the season many expected but he has more than enough ability to break things open. It won’t be easy against such a great defence but the Tide were burned by Ole Miss’s passing attack and if there is a weakness on this Alabama defence it is the passing defence that ranks 17th overall, their total defence ranks #3 in the NCAA. There are sure to be some big plays but this game is all about the grind of football as two teams with similar mindsets face-off for a chance at the National Championship.

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