The 2014-2015 College Football starts tonight and even though his Nittany Lions are still under a postseason ban, Neil Monnery is excited that we are finally getting a playoff. He looks at some of the teams who could be playing in the house that Jerry built in January.
"The big question for Nick Saban is who plays Quarterback? AJ Mccarron has graduated and moved on to the NFL and neither of Saban's options have much experience but one of them, Jacob Coker was Jameis Winston's backup last year at Florida State before transferring, now that would be a story."
What's that, Jim Mora?
Well sorry, Jim, it is time to talk about playoffs because after so many years of the Bowl Championship Series, the NCAA have finally got with the times and created a four-team playoff to end the College Football season. At the end of the regular season, the newly formed College Football Playoff Selection Committee will rank the top four colleges and seed them to create our semi-finals before we move on to the Championship Game that will take place in Arlington, Texas, on January 12, 2015.
So let's look at some of the potential teams who could be making hotel reservations in the Lone Star state come early January.
Florida State - 4.84/1
The reigning national champions are pre-season ranked number one, have a returning Heisman Trophy winner at Quarterback and have a cupcake schedule in the weak ACC. It is easy to see why they are the favourites going into the season. They only face two pre-season ranked opponents in Clemson and Notre Dame and both of those match-ups come at home. Jameis Winston has had, shall we say, an interesting 2014 so far, but he has the qualities to lead the Seminoles to an undefeated regular season but I don't see them as the best team out there and we won't know if they are any good until they face a live opponent. If they lose a game they are unlikely to make the playoffs. Beware.
Alabama - 6.611/2
Unlike Florida State, Alabama play in the toughest conference in America (although the Pac-12 looks strong this year). The Crimson Tide entertain Auburn and Texas A&M whilst travelling to Ole Miss and going into the Swamp to take on LSU. All ranked and when you throw in Florida who were a few votes shy of being in the top 25, you can be assured that any team going through that schedule with just one loss will get playoff consideration. The big question for Nick Saban is who plays Quarterback? AJ Mccarron has graduated and moved on to the NFL and neither of Saban's options have much experience but one of them, Jacob Coker was Jameis Winston's backup last year at Florida State before transferring, now that would be a story.
Oregon - 7.87/1
Despite the reigning Heisman Trophy winner returning to school and being a Quarterback, the pre-season All-American team sees Oregon's QB Marcus Mariota take the first-team spot and it is easy to see why. A genuine dual-threat under center, the Junior runs that high-paced Oregon offense with aplomb and played well last season even though he had an MCL sprain that seriously impacted his mobility. The big question against the Oregon team is whether they can stop throwing in stupid defeats and can they finally beat Stanford? They travel to UCLA on October 11 but before that they have the best non-conference game of the season when they host Michigan State on September 6. One defeat and they can still be in the mix, two and they'll be done.
UCLA - 19.5
Brett Hundley - that is a name NFL fans will have to get to know. He might be the best Quarterback no-one has ever seen. Like Mariota, he is a dual threat guy who has a huge arm. Both Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit are tipping him to lift the Heisman after the season so his potential is clearly there. For UCLA, that game with Oregon will go a long way to deciding their season but even a defeat isn't the end as they end with a tough run of ranked Washington, USC and Stanford, an 11-1 season isn't the end of the world.
Michigan State 1817/1, Ohio State 19.5 and Iowa 9089/1
Ohio State came into the season as one of the big favourites. Then Braxton Miller had an appointment with Dr. James Andrews and it is time to stick a fork in them. They are done in terms of winning it all.
Michigan State are now the class of the Big Ten East. They have that early season trip out west to face Oregon but they can lose that and still make the playoff if they run the table in the Big Ten. The anticipated Ohio State match-up is now less appealing but it will still be trouble and they end the season in Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions. Penn State are ineligible for the postseason as it stands so this will be their big bowl game. Michigan State have to tread lightly here.
Lastly I threw in Iowa, who aren't that good but at 90.089/1 you have to look at that schedule and realise they should be undefeated deep into November. They don't face anyone they shouldn't handle with ease until coming up against Wisconsin on November 22. They don't face Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State or Penn State in Big Ten play and if they were ever to make the playoffs then this is the year.
Oklahoma - 10.519/2
Lastly in the Big 12 we have Oklahoma who are a good side but might be on the outside looking in when all is said and done. They can't afford to lose a game as unlike some of the other teams mentioned here, they play in a weak conference and any defeat will be treated harshly by the committee. Only Kansas State and Baylor are pre-season ranked and I just have little faith in Oklahoma getting it done, they might even lose before they faced a ranked opponent as I think Texas can beat them in the Red River Rivalry game.
Back Oregon 7.87/1 to win the National Title.
Back Iowa 90.089/1 to lay in late November, they should be undefeated.