College football expert roundtable: Which teams will reach the College Football Playoff?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is it. Championship week in college football is upon us, and the race to make it into the College Football Playoff is arguably even more cloudy now than it was at the start of the season. Georgia is a lock to make it, but the other 3 spots are all up for grabs after Ohio State’s shock defeat to Michigan and Alabama’s incredibly narrow victory over Auburn. The rise of Cincinnati has further complicated matters.
So, when the dust settles on the weekend, who will be the 4 teams that make it into the playoff? We have the views of 5 of our top college football experts, who have given their expected final four along with an explanation.
Make sure you check out our full game previews for every championship game this weekend, but for now let’s dive into our experts’ thoughts on who reaches the college football playoff.
Jared Smith: Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati
The biggest question for me is how the committee will handle a close win by Georgia in the SEC Championship game. If Bama keeps it within the number, I can see the Tide still sneaking in as the 4-seed, which, if Alabama wins outright, I think they will jump Michigan and take over the top spot, and Georgia will drop to the 3-seed. I feel good about Cincinnati and Michigan being securely in with wins in their respective conference title games, as they have both handled business well down the stretch.
Oklahoma State is the odd team out for me, which is a shame because their resume is deserving, and they have the 17th-ranked strength of schedule, 32 spots ahead of Cincinnati. But the Cowboys lost to Iowa State and the Bearcats haven’t slipped up, which matters more. So barring some upsets in the conference title games, I think the committee got it right this week, and the four teams that will be competing for the CFP are Georgia, Michigan, Alabama and Cincinnati. If Baylor wins and Alabama gets blown out, that’s where the chaos could ensue.
Alex Glaze: Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati
This weekend I believe that we will see one team currently ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff Rankings fall out of the playoff picture. Georgia is a lock to make the playoff, regardless of what happens in the SEC Championship. I do believe the Bulldogs will win and ultimately end Alabama’s playoff dream. Michigan will beat Iowa and remain the No. 2 team in the country. An Oklahoma State win over Baylor will push the Cowboys to No. 3 in the rankings. And then Cincinnati will beat Houston and be the No. 4 team in the country.
Ricky Dimon: Georgia, Michigan, Cincinnati, Notre Dame
You can go ahead and hand Georgia the National Championship on a silver platter if this is the College Football Playoff quartet. And there is a good chance it is. Yes, there is also a decent chance that Oklahoma State, Michigan, and Cincinnati all lose their title games to throw the CFP into complete chaos. But I think Michigan can avoid a letdown following its massive win over Ohio State and Cincinnati should be able to handle the pressure of completing an undefeated regular season. The Bearcats are simply way better than Houston, and they have come on strong of late with 3 straight wins by 17 points or more.
Notre Dame needs at least one upset this weekend and I think the Brian Kelly-less Fighting Irish will get it from Baylor against Oklahoma State. The Bears’ only 2 losses have come in true road games and the Cowboys are ripe for a letdown after winning a thriller in Bedlam (I realize you can say the same about Michigan, but the Wolverines were so impressive against the Buckeyes that I can’t bet against them). The Irish are by no means great, but it would be a joke if a 2-loss team gets in at their expense.
Steven Hall: Georgia, Michigan, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State
It feels like there are a hundred different ways this could end up going after championship weekend, but I’m going to be boring and lay the chalk. Alabama won’t be able to keep up with Georgia, Michigan is easily the better team in its matchup, and Oklahoma State might be the most underrated team in the country. The Houston-Cincinnati game gives me a bit of an upset feel, but the Bearcats should be able to come out on top in that one. Georgia, Michigan, Cincinnati, and Oklahoma State are my predictions for the CFP. But for those of you who root for chaos, just know there’s a scenario out there where 4 of the top 5 teams all lose this weekend…
Caleb Wilfinger: Georgia, Michigan, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State
Make sure you read our extended preview and best bets for the CFB game of the week: Georgia vs Alabama
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