2015 College Football Championship Predictions
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
The 2014 college football season is becoming one of the most anticipated seasons in college football history. The forever controversial Bowl Championship Series era has concluded and has been replaced with college football's first playoff system. At the end of the year, the top 4 teams in college football will battle it out for the National Championship starting with the semi-final rounds which will be the historic Rose and Sugar Bowls that will be played on January 1st, 2015. The winners will meet in the 2015 College Football National Championship Game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Of course with any system, controversy will still be inevitable. However, the controversy with the new system will likely surround the rankings around the teams at the cutoff point to make the 4 team playoff. The good news is we will no longer have to worry if the two best teams are playing for the National Championship like we have in previous years. Additionally, one loss teams are not necessarily out of the picture when it comes to earning a spot in the 2015 college football playoffs. Therefore it is bound to be an exciting journey throughout the year on the college grid iron.
Now, we look forward to the teams that are suited for making a run towards a National Championship in this season's playoff system. Take a look as I breakdown my 2015 College Football National Championship Predictions:
Top 10 Favorites:
Florida State Seminoles +550
Alabama Crimson Tide +600
Oregon Ducks +800
Ohio State Buckeyes +900
Auburn Tigers +1000
Oklahoma Sooners +1200
Georgia Bulldogs +1600
UCLA Bruins +1600
LSU Tigers +1800
The Florida State Seminoles headline this year's group of 'favorites' to repeat as College Football's National Champion. The Seminoles return a load of talent on the offensive side of the football led by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. The Seminoles defense has a few holes to fill at the linebacker position but rest assured they will reload with 4-5 star talent. Since 2000, two teams have repeated as National Champions with USC in 2003-2004 and most recently with Alabama (2011-2012).
Therefore while it may be difficult to go back to back, it is not by any means impossible, especially for a team as talented as FSU. The 2014 schedule will be tougher right out of the gate as the Seminoles open with Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium and then play Clemson two weeks later. Florida St. will also have a Thursday night road trip to Louisville and their annual rivalry game with Florida during the latter stretches of the season, which will not be cakewalks. The talent may still be in Tallahassee, but, it will be a much more difficult journey for the Seminoles to repeat this year, especially if they stumble to one of the mediocre classes of the ACC, which was common in years prior to last season's National Championship run.
Outside of the Seminoles, Alabama is receiving a ton of attention to make it back to the National Championship stage. Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Georgia are all listed in our group of favorites from the SEC, which looks to regain college football's top spot. Out of the group, I believe Georgia is in for the biggest disappointment. The Bulldogs have serious concerns on defense and along the offensive front. Quarterback Hutson Mason has talent, but he is not Aaron Murray and lacks experience. How will tailbacks Todd Gurley and possibly Keith Marshall perform behind a shaky offensive line? More importantly the schedule is brutal as the season starts off with Clemson, then a road trip to South Carolina. If Georgia does not come out firing on all cylinders, they could be 0-2 by mid September.
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As for the 'Big 3' in the SEC West, odds are that they will cancel each other out in terms of a National Championship race for the most part. It could be possible for one SEC West team to emerge with just one loss and still make the playoffs with another undefeated SEC West member (Alabama and Auburn in 2013). However, a lot of outside circumstances would also have to play into that situation for it to work out. For those 3 teams, Alabama is clearly the favorite and poised to return to the National Championship stage. Even though some talent was lost on defense, we really never have to worry about the Bama defense as they reload every year to be one of the best groups in America. The Crimson Tide offense is poised to be dangerous with the return of veteran guys like running back T.J Yeldon and WR Amari Cooper. As long as Blake Sims can manage football games as Nick Saban demands, the Crimson Tide should be legit. I feel like LSU and Auburn are both on the outside looking in. LSU is still maybe a year away and has an extremely tough schedule starting in their opener with Wisconsin. Meanwhile Auburn's Cinderella type run in 2013 may have expectations a bit too high for 2014. Coach Gus Malzahn will surely replicate another lethal dose of the read option which will lead to big offensive numbers, but Auburn is still not quite there yet. I know that may sound crazy for a team that just went to the National Championship a year ago, but remember, this is still just year no. 2 of the Malzahn era and they are still trying to build up the talent level from an entire team perspective.
As for the rest of the favorites, I believe the Ohio State Buckeyes and Oregon Ducks are legit contenders to make the 4 team playoff. The Quack Attack is especially dangerous considering their improvements on defense in 2013. With QB Marcus Mariota leading the way this season, the Ducks are poised for another thrilling season on the offensive side of the football. They loaded up on blue chip recruits as well. If the defense holds ground, I do not see anyone stopping the Ducks, at least in the regular season. Stanford has derailed Oregon's National Title hopes each of the last two seasons, but I believe that streak comes to an end this year and I fully expect Oregon to make the 4 team playoff. UCLA may be the surprise team to contend for the PAC-12 title, but they are not National Championship worthy. QB Brent Hundley and the offense will make the Bruins' a threat to win any game on their schedule but that does not mean they will win every game either.
The return of Braxton Miller in Columbus has Buckeyes' fans feeling good about their chances. Call me crazy, but I just do not think it will happen. In fact, I think Michigan State or Wisconsin is in line to upset Ohio State for the Big Ten Title. The Buckeyes entire offensive line is new and the defense still has some gaps heading into 2015 which will prove costly in the games that matter. One of the final teams I have yet to mention is the Oklahoma Sooners. For some reason, the Sooners are getting a lot of preseason praise, which is actually fairly common this time of year. Perhaps those expectations are inflated more since Oklahoma was able to knock off Alabama in last year's Sugar Bowl. The problem is the Sooners' are not ready to contend for a National Championship. Even with a weak schedule due to the decline of the entire Big 12, the Sooners could easily lose 1-2 games in the regular season. Explosive offensive teams like Baylor and Oklahoma State will provide extremely tough challenges for the Sooners' shaky defense. Additionally, the quarterback battle between Trevor Knight and Blake Bell may continue into the season. Even if Oklahoma weathers the storm and makes the playoff, I would almost guarantee they will not get out of the Semi-Finals.
Michigan State Spartans +2500
South Carolina Gamecocks +2500
USC Trojans +2500
Baylor Bears +2800
Florida Gators +3300
Wisconsin Badgers +3300
Mississippi Rebels +4000
Notre Dame Fighting Irish +4000
Stanford Cardinal +4000
Michigan Wolverines +5000
Nebraska Cornhuskers +5000
Texas Longhorns +5000
Clemson Tigers +6600
Missouri Tigers +6600
Texas A&M Aggies +6600
Arizona State Sun Devils +10000
Iowa Hawkeyes +10000
Kansas State Wildcats +10000
Miami Hurricanes +10000
North Carolina Tar Heels +10000
Washington Huskies +10000
Outside of the top 10 favorites, the list of remaining National Champion candidates goes downhill quickly. Still, the value is really good among the teams listed outside the top 10 as potential adds to your betting slip. While it is never a bad idea to bet on a valuable dark horse, let me help you slim the list in regards to the outside contenders. In my opinion, there are only a few teams in this list that have the capability of putting together a National Championship run and most of those teams still need some Cinderella magic, a lot like Auburn experienced last year. Of the teams that have potential, I would consider Michigan State, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Missouri to be the best of the bunch. I guess it would also be rather naive to leave Stanford off of that list as well. The Cardinal have a lot of offensive talent to replace, but their rugged style of football in the trenches still makes Stanford a dangerous team on any given Saturday. However, the rise of other Pac-12 contenders may have a bigger impact on the Cardinal this season as well.
I am really surprised to see Ole Miss listed at 40-1 and Florida currently showing at 33 to 1 odds. Being an SEC guy, there is no way either team wins the National Championship or makes the playoffs for that matter. To put it simple, the Gators still cannot move the football. Let's not forget the Gators lost 7 straight games to end the season last year, which was highlighted by their loss to Georgia Southern (FCS) in the Swamp. Ole Miss on the other hand, is making ground on the SEC West. Coach Hugh Freeze has done an excellent job on the recruiting trail and getting high quality talent into Oxford. The Rebels took a step in the right direction in 2013 with an 8-5 campaign that was capped off by a victory in the Music City Bowl. This season expect another step towards improvement as Freeze' builds off of last year's success. However, the Rebels are still not ready to take on the top dogs in the SEC West like Alabama, Auburn, and LSU. At least not all in the same season.
Considering the teams that I listed that can contend, I would consider Wisconsin at 33 to 1 odds the best of the bunch. Despite having just 10 returning starters, Wisconsin has playmakers where they need them. Running back Melvin Gordon is one of the best tailbacks in the country and will have one of the best offensive lines in the country in front of him. If the defensive line can fill some holes, the Badgers should be solid as a defensive unit as well. The Badgers start the season with a gigantic matchup against LSU in Cowboys Stadium. However, the Badgers have the talent and more importantly, play a style of football that can really frustrate Louisiana State. Wisconsin will give LSU a dose of their own medicine with a power running attack that attempts to wear down defenses while focusing on ball control. It would not surprise me to see the Badgers pull out an upset in that game. If that happens, the schedule looks very manageable throughout the rest of the season. If they somehow can get into the playoff, their style of football is dangerous to contend with late in the year.
National Championship Predictions
Teams to earn a spot in the first College Football Playoff: Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Wisconsin.
2015 College Football National Champion: Alabama Crimson Tide +600.
Alabama may not be the most surprising pick for this year's National Championship, but they are the most deserving. The defense will be great in 2014 which is a common theme for head coach Nick Saban. Additionally, Saban will rely on his big offensive line to lead the way for running back T.J Yeldon and the Crimson Tide rushing attack. Running the football + defense has been the keys to Saban's success in Tuscaloosa and the pieces are in place for that winning formula again this year. Also, it is worth noting that this year's college football playoff actually helps some of the top dogs in the SEC. For teams like Alabama, one loss does not necessarily ruin their National Championship hopes. Just look back to last year when Alabama was knocked out of the National Championship picture with a heartbreaking loss to Auburn as a result from a field goal return for a touchdown in last year's Iron Bowl. Under those same circumstances this year, Alabama would still have made college football's playoff as one of the top 4 teams in the country because they finished the season ranked 3rd in the AP and BCS polls.
Alabama is a team that is capable of running the table in 2014, but even if they don't, they can still capture a playoff spot by the end of the year with just 1 loss, if you consider their brutal schedule. All I am looking for is Alabama to get into this year's playoff. If they do that, I will take their style of football with their talent and their head coach over any other team in the country! Where are you betting on college football games this season? Did you know that yuo only have to lay -105 odds on sides and totals at 5Dimes Sportsbook? Get rid of your bookie that is charging you -110! Making the switch to discounted odds will save you tons of cash!
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