2016 College Football Playoff Preview

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The College Football Playoff is still in its infancy as this will mark the third year that the playoff has determined the National Champion.

So far the system has been a good change as it has seen multiple champions and some fairly interesting results for the most part.

The first year saw the Ohio State Buckeyes take home the National Title after they beat top-ranked Alabama as the last team in the playoff.

They then took on the second-ranked Oregon Ducks and won the National Championship giving a lot of people hope for the future of this system.

In its first year, a team that never would have been considered for the BCS National Championship had won the whole thing.

The system worked, even if there was a demand for more teams to make the playoff, and a new era of parity was beginning.

Then the second year came around and things seemed to veer back to the expected as the old BCS power showed up again.

The Alabama Crimson Tide might not have been the top-ranked team when the year ended but that didn’t stop most from expecting a lot from them.

After all, they have been one of the most dominant college programs in recent years and they are favourites to win the National Championship every year.

They made good on that favourite status when they beat the #1 team in Clemson and suddenly the playoff wasn’t as great as it seemed to be.

The second iteration of the system produced a matchup between the top two teams in the rankings with a familiar team taking home the title.

As the third year under the system is about to begin the question becomes, what will be in store this time around.

The first time was a complete surprise for everyone as nobody expected the #4 team to take home the National Championship.

The second time around was the exact opposite as the team that many expected to win at the start of the season did exactly what they were supposed to do.

This year there is a potential for both as the dominant team is back on top of the rankings and has the best shot of winning a second straight National title.

Alabama started the year as the #1 team and they never moved from that spot as they ran the table and became the only team to go undefeated throughout the year.

There were a few games where that streak almost ended but they came through every test to win another SEC title and become the best team in the country.

Last year the Tide had to sit as second fiddle to the Clemson Tigers but this year they came through to stay on top while the Tigers fought to be second.

They certainly weren’t as stable as the Tide as Clemson moved up and down the rankings but always staying right in the hunt for the playoff.

Their one-loss season ended with another ACC Championship and a #2 ranking as they hope to get some revenge for being out-classed in the 2016 National Championship.

As the Tigers look for their first title since 1981 and their first since the CFP began the Ohio State Buckeyes will look to win their second.

The Buckeyes are the only other team aside from the Tide to win a CFP National Title and they will hope to get their second after three years in the top four.

They are a strange inclusion in the playoff this year though as their reputation seems to have earned them a spot rather than season success.

They only had one loss but they didn’t make the Big Ten championship game and are the only non-conference champion in the playoff this year.

For many analysts and fans they need to justify their inclusion as the only non-conference champion and if they lose right away the whole system is sure to receive even more criticism.

Then there are the outsiders of the playoff in the Washington Huskies who are enjoying a resurgent season.

They unexpectedly moved up the rankings and took home the Pac-12 championship to be the last team into the playoff despite their one-loss season.

If they can pull an Ohio State this year, the system might once again be seen as a great equaliser but they will have a tough path.

Fans from all over are watching closely to see if the playoff can actually change anything about college football and the third year under the CFP will go a long way to determining if this new system has actually made a difference or if it is just more of the same.

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On paper, it is the most lopsided of the two semi-final playoff games as the unexpected Huskies are taking on the College football Goliath’s in the Tide. There has been no team that has been as dominant in the last decade than the Nick Saban-led Crimson Tide. Since his arrival in 2007 the Tide have won four national titles and have been in the hunt almost every year. That dominance continued into this year as the Tide just went about their business putting together the only undefeated season of the Power Five conferences along with another top ranking and another SEC title. It wasn’t anything spectacular as it was just business as usual for the Tide with a stifling defence and a power offence. Their defence ranks as the best in the country while their offence is led by Damien Harris on the ground. The interesting part of the team this year is Jalen Hurts who is a rare freshman QB for Saban and has that dual threat ability even if he doesn’t have as much freedom to improvise. The Huskies will look to do the unthinkable this year as nobody is giving them a chance to beat the monster that is the Tide. Some of that is the fact that the Pac-12 rarely gets the attention that other conferences do so the Huskies are a bit of an unknown. Like most teams in the playoff, they have a solid defence that is ranked 11th in the country with a good secondary. On offence, the Huskies are a different beast though as Jake Browning has been one of the best quarterbacks throughout the year. His ability to improvise and his freedom to do so makes the Huskies hard to plan for along with their tendency to throw anything and everything at teams. Their trick plays have fooled plenty of teams and there is little doubt that they will open up their entire playbook against the Tide. Alabama is clearly the favourite in this game and rightfully so as the overall talent is just at a different level. They will try to win like they know how, by getting to the quarterback and forcing the Huskies to be one-dimensional while pounding the ball on the ground when they are on offence. If the Huskies can expose the only potential weakness in the secondary of the Tide they might make this interesting as their offence could push the Tide to depend on Hurts who hasn’t reached his full potential in his freshman year. It’s not that Hurts can’t lead them but if the Huskies want to win they will need to put the pressure on his shoulders and test the young QB as it might be the only way they can beat the Tide.

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The Clemson Tigers are an offensive powerhouse that will try to show that a non-conference champion shouldn’t be a part of the playoff. They will be fighting for the number of fans and analysts that believe just that but there is little doubt that the Ohio State Buckeyes are still a threat to win a national title. The Tigers are one team that have been a part of the national title conversation over the last few years but have yet to make due on their expectations. Deshaun Watson leads the best offence in the playoffs with a top ten passing offence that helped them win the ACC championship. The rushing game is not as potent but Wayne Gallman is a key to their red zone offence and provides a change of pace to Watson who can get out of the pocket and hurt teams with his legs as well. Their defence doesn’t really stack up to some of the defences in the playoff but they are certainly not without talent. Much like last year, the defensive side of the ball is led by their rush which will be key because the rest of the defence can be exposed. Their biggest advantage is that Brent Venables, the top assistant coach in the NCAA, knows how to confuse offences with different alignments keeping the advantage on the defensive side. J.T. Barrett will be tasked with figuring that defence out as the entire Ohio State offence runs through their dual threat QB. He needs to be a dual threat as well with a real lack of receiving depth that was a big reason for them not being in the Big Ten Championship game. Their leading receiver is Curtis Samuel who is listed as a running back which shows just how their offence runs. Barret rarely has time to find a deep threat and there isn’t a true deep threat on the offence. That leaves Barrett to rush the ball alongside 1,000-yard running back Mike Weber. Where they win games though is on defence even without some of the stars from a year ago. Much like Alabama the third-ranked defence in the country doesn’t have one particular star but they are stifling and they know how to put up points themselves. The match-up is an interesting one as the Buckeyes look like a team that should be out of the playoffs but they still put together an 11-win year with a great defence and an offence that was good enough. The challenge will be whether or not that defence can shut down the best offence in the playoff and if they can’t will the Buckeye offence be able to keep up. A few mistakes by the Buckeye defence could make things tough for the former CFP champions.

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