Way-too-early College Football Playoff predictions for the 2017 season, because the offseason is here and it’s never too soon to look ahead.
That’s a wrap, folks. And boy what a thrilling finish to the season, with Clemson winning the title in the waning seconds. Time to put a bow on the 2016 season and start looking toward 2017. Hope now springs eternal for 128 teams.
When eyeing the 2017, it’s best to keep the trends from this past season in the forefront of the brain. Can teams like Rose Bowl adversaries USC and Penn State, who peaked late and ended on a tear, carry momentum over the spring and summer? Will a transfer quarterback like Jarrett Stidham or Will Grier be enough to put his new team over the hump? Was Washington actually a year early, and 2017 is the season? What is the Texas Longhorns’ ceiling in Year 1 under Tom Herman?
With all of this in mind, and fully recognizing we’re still in the afterglow of this past season, here are predictions for the 2017 College Football Playoff from the Campus Insiders editorial team.
Way-Too-Early 2017 College Football Playoff Predictions
Alabama – Given that they’ve made it to the CFP ever year, it would be stupid not to pick the Crimson Tide.
Penn State – Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley coming back is enough for me, especially with Michigan and Ohio State undergoing plenty of changes.
USC – I wanted to go with Washington again, but seeing Sam Darnold in the Rose Bowl and realizing he’s only going to be a sophomore makes me feel like I have to go with the Trojans.
FSU – I’m leaving the Big 12 out of it – again – and going with the Seminoles. Deondre Francois will take another step forward next season.
Title Prediction – USC
FSU – The Noles return a ton of talent, and finally enter a season without there being any quarterback questions. Bookending the regular season with Alabama and Florida (this past year’s SEC division winners) gives meat to a non-conference schedule that’ll look good in the eyes of the committee.
Michigan – Throw a dart in the Big Ten East, really: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State. I’ll take Michigan, on account of the defense staying strong and the offense getting even more pop. Ohio State will be too thinned out from NFL Draft attrition, while Penn State’s midseason stretch of Michigan, at Ohio State, at Michigan State will do the Nittany Lions in.
Oklahoma – Unlike this past year, where the non-conference slate harmed the Sooners, Oklahoma will be helped out by its games outside of the Big 12. The Week 2 road trip to Columbus will present a nice challenge for the Sooners, as will the conference title game. I was tempted to go with Oklahoma State, but am just not sure the defense will be there.
Alabama – What can I say that hasn’t been written already. Saban’s team is a fixture here. Watch the Iron Bowl, though, as that will likely be the SEC’s de-facto CFP play-in (unless UGA lives up to, and then exceeds, expectations).
Title Prediction: Florida State stays healthy and wins it all.
Alabama – Jalen Hurts will improve. Bo Scarbrough will continue to destroy defenders. The defense will be elite and feature Ben Davis, Mack Wilson and others.
Penn State – Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley will lead the Nittany Lions to another Big Ten title and make it into the CFP.
USC – Even without JuJu Smith-Schuster, Sam Darnold will have enough weapons to get the job done. He’ll lead the Trojans to a Pac-12 title.
Florida State – A more mature Deondre Francois, a highly talented defense, and a backfield featuring Cam Akers will help the ‘Noles win the ACC and get into the CFP.
Title Prediction – Alabama defeats Penn State, 37-24
Alabama – The Tide keeps rolling. Jalen Hurts will have a full year under his belt and will take a step forward in the areas of his game that need developing.
Florida State – Just like with Hurts, Deondre Francois now has a full season of experience and will use the offseason to work on his pain points. Jimbo Fisher will use the win over Michigan as a launching point back into the national spotlight.
Michigan – Maybe it’s a gut call, but I like Jim Harbaugh to break into the College Football Playoff in Year 3.
Oklahoma – Baker Mayfield is back and will be the best player in the Big 12 next season, helping navigate the Sooners back to the CFP. The Big 12 title game will help to get them there.
Title Prediction – Michigan
Alabama – There is Nick Saban, Jalen Hurts’ continued progression and premier talent always ready to step up when a star moves on. Same as it ever was in Tuscaloosa.
Ohio State – Urban Meyer has an entire offseason to stew about being shut out for the first time in his career. J.T. Barrett returns to a retooled offense for his senior season, and talent is never an issue in Columbus.
Florida State – Quarterback Deondre Francois is one of the toughest signal-callers in the country, but he will have a tough matchup in the season opener against Alabama in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Even with a loss in that game, the ‘Noles can get a berth by winning the ACC.
Oklahoma State – Mason Rudolph and James Washington will return, and the Cowboys get Oklahoma at home after a surprisingly tricky non-conference slate. Mike Gundy breaks through in 2017 with the Pokes.
Title Prediction – Alabama beats Ohio State
Alabama – Unless Nick Saban retires, are you really going to count against him and the Crimson Tide?
Ohio State – The Buckeyes were embarrassed by Clemson in the CFP semifinal and have lost some key players, but Urban Meyer just keeps reloading and the only tough road game is at Michigan.
Virginia Tech – This is my wildcard, and only because the ACC has not released the conference schedule for next season as of yet. Justin Fuente has brought an offense to Blacksburg, and combined with Bud Foster’s defense, the Hokies could be dangerous next season.
Oklahoma – Okay, it is cliche to pick the Sooners and Bob Stoops to finish high in a preseason poll, as Oklahoma has become the ultimate preseason darling year in and year out. With Baker Mayfield back, the Sooners will have a chance to get back to the playoff after missing out this season.
*Close but no cigar: Auburn, FSU, USC, Michigan
Title Prediction – Alabama