It has been months since Ohio State defied the odds and came away victors in the first ever #CFBPlayoff. There was much debate, including #TwineTime, on whether the Buckeyes should have made the playoff. They proved most of us wrong in knocking off Alabama and Oregon, the two favorites for the title most of the season. But that was last year....time to turn the page and look to this year.
The Buckeyes enter the season as favorites to repeat, achieving all 61 preseason #1 ranking votes. Their schedule supports the ranking. A tricky road game vs. Virginia Tech to start the season (on a Monday night nonetheless) could provide some hiccups but I cannot see Ohio State really being challenged all season. Will they win the title again? Not so sure. Will they make the playoff with a realistic shot? Yup, I'd say that is very probable. But who can challenge the Buckeyes for the title.
The SEC seems loaded with possibilities. Alabama and Auburn appear poised for an Iron Bowl match up serving as a playoff play-in game. Even Georgia and Arkansas are generating some buzz as possible outsiders with a chance. The only downside here is the SEC teams could essentially eliminate one another throughout the season. But, then again, we all know a 1-loss SEC team always gets a playoff look.
The PAC-12 could provide a few possible teams challenging for a playoff spot. Defending champion, and last year finalist, Oregon once again will field a strong team. Sure they lost Heisman Trophy winning QB Marcus Mariota to the NFL but this program has a history of recovering from losing a star QB. USC, Arizona State and UCLA are also primed to make a run at the PAC-12 and knock off the Ducks. There could be some backfire though to having a competitive conference. Similar to the SEC, these teams could end up eliminating one another from the playoff picture. A 1-loss PAC-12 team could make the playoff but a 2-loss team probably won't make it (without some help). I am not so sure a team can escape the conference with only 1-loss either.
And what about the Big 12. Oh the Big 12...the place of controversy from last season. TCU and Baylor both feel slighted by the selection committee and enter the season with the motto of having something to prove to those who doubted them last year. Both of these teams once again should stay at or near the top of the rankings all season. Similar to the SEC, when these teams hit the field to battle one another at the end of the season in November, consider this a playoff elimination game.
So what are you saying here #TwineTime? This season is basically a 4 conference race? Well honestly, yes. Your champion will come from the B1G, SEC, PAC-12 or Big 12. 100%. No question. Bet the farm on it. Can anyone even mount an outside shot? Ok maybe. Clemson and Florida State could possibly mount a challenge. As always, Notre Dame is a team to watch our for. And if you really want to rally around a true upset, you probably are looking towards Boise State to run the gauntlet and go undefeated to maybe get a look. But all 4 of these teams have very outside shots and would need to basically go undefeated. Something I just do not see happening.
Before looking into Week 1, let's continue the #TwineTime tradition from last season. While the best and brightest put together the rankings for the top college football playoff teams each week, #TwineTime will offer a power rankings of their own. Maybe they will be the same. Maybe they will be different. In this space every week, #TwineTime will compare the Top 6 teams in the rankings with the Top 6 #TwineTime rankings. Let's take a look at the preseason rankings:
AP Top 6 #TwineTime
1. Ohio State 1. Ohio State
2. TCU 2. TCU
3. Alabama 3. Baylor
4. Baylor 4. Oregon
5. Michigan State 5. Alabama
6. Auburn 6. Auburn
As you can see above, slight disagreements between the AP and #TwineTime to start the season. I honestly think TCU and Baylor are a tie behind Ohio State. Tough to really rank either of these teams ahead of one another until we see them play. Ok well TCU played yesterday and did struggle against Minnesota but these are preseason rankings and they cannot change based on yesterday's result. TCU may be punished next week though...who knows?!? I am surprised with Oregon being ranked #7 in AP. I think the Ducks are stronger than Alabama, Michigan State and Auburn. Remember the Ducks beat MSU last season and did make the national championship. Luckily for us, Oregon and MSU will re-unite for their home and home agreement in Week 2, this time in East Lansing. Expect more on that next week though.
Each week, #TwineTime will present their full week of picks for every game. Yup, similar to last year, I will put my college football knowledge on the line and make predictions for every game. How many other bloggers, sports prognostics and websites are willing to do that? I don't know of any. This is a #TwineTime exclusive!
#TwineTime Week 1 Picks
(9) Georgia def. Louisiana Monroe
(17) Ole Miss def. Tennessee-Martin
(21) Stanford def. Northwestern
Navy def. Colgate
Rutgers def. Norfolk State
Iowa def. Illinois State
Maryland def. Richmond
UPSET SPECIAL: South Dakota State def. Kansas - The Jayhawks are horrible. Let's just be honest. They are lucky to win 1 or 2 games max this entire season. Many expect this game to be one of their wins but I wouldn't undersell the upset possibility. The Jackrabbits are a strong team. Ok, sure they play in the FCS's Missouri Valley Conference but they are ranked 15th in the preseason polls. Last season they gave then-#24 Missouri a scare on the road to start the season and almost pulled the upset of 4-time FCS National Champion North Dakota State to close their season. This is a good team....and Kansas simply is not.
(12) Clemson def. Wofford
Pittsburgh def. Youngstown State
Boston College def. Maine
Washington State def. Portland State
Penn State def. Temple
(18) Arkansas def. UTEP
(6) Auburn def. Louisville
(13) UCLA def. Virginia
UPSET SPECIAL 2.0: Sam Houston State def. Texas Tech - Going on a limb with this one but taking another FCS school to knock off a favored "big boy" on the road. The Bearkats have a high octane offense, which they will need to employ to beat the Red Raiders. SHS enters the season fresh off a tough FCS semifinal loss to eventual champion North Dakota State. The Bearkats are hungry for redemption and are currently ranked #3 in the FCS preseason poll. The Raiders are coming off a disappointing 4-win season and almost suffered an upset in last season's opener at Central Arkansas.
BYU def. Nebraska
Old Dominion def. Eastern Michigan
Tulsa def. Florida Atlantic
Air Force def. Morgan State
Buffalo def. Albany
Miami (OH) def. Presbyterian College
Appalachian State def. Howard
Colorado State def. Savannah State
Wyoming def. North Dakota
(25) Tennessee def. Bowling Green - This could produce a surprise upset. BGU is an explosive offensive team and could give the Vols some trouble. Tennessee is just starting their rise back into SEC relevance this season, this would be a complete fall back to planet Earth for them if they lose.
Indiana def. Southern Illinois
California def. Grambling State
Miami (FL) def. Bethune-Cookman
NC State def. Troy
East Carolina def. Towson
South Alabama def. Gardner-Webb
New Mexico def. Mississippi Valley State
South Florida def. Florida A&M
Memphis def. Missouri State
Cincinatti def. Alabama A&M
Louisiana Tech def. Southern
Middle Tennessee def. Jackson State
(19) Oklahoma def. Akron
(15) Arizona State def. Texas A&M
Kansas State def. South Dakota
(11) Notre Dame def. Texas
West Virginia def. Georgia Southern
(14) LSU def. McNeese State
Florida def. New Mexico State
Northern Illinois def. UNLV
(7) Oregon def. Eastern Washington - Lots of drama off the field leading into this game. Current Ducks starting QB Vernon Adams is a transfer from Eastern Washington. Adams takes over a team coming off a National Championship appearance and follows the footsteps of the school's first Heisman Trophy winner. Talk about pressure! But this is what he wanted when he transferred, time to go out on the field and make it happen. It won't be easy though. EWU enters the season with aspirations of a FCS championship and is the preseason #7 team. #7 vs. #7. Old school vs. new school. If the Ducks were on the road, I would say they should be a bit more worried. But this game is in friendly (or terrifying for visitors) Autzen Stadium. Having attended many games at Autzen, I can tell you the noise factor is out of this world and helps back the team. Fans could be in for a stressful 1st quarter but by the second half, the Ducks should be in control. #GoDucks
San Diego State def. San Diego
(3) Alabama def. (20) Wisconsin - Oh how I want the Badgers to win this game. This is a neutral site game taking place in Arlington but let's be honest here. Bama fans will make the short trek from Alabama to Texas to watch their Tide. Bama will have a home field advantage. The Badgers are good but not this good.
(10) Florida State def. Texas State
UPSET SPECIAL 3.0: Northern Iowa def. Iowa State - Upsets happen in 3's right? Well let's chalk up this one as a huge possibility to see another FCS team beat the "big boys" on opening weekend. Iowa State finished last season as one of the worst team in college football and a dubious #9 final ranking on the Bottom 10 with ESPN. The Cyclones only had 2 wins last season. The Panthers are ranked #10 in the FCS preseason poll and are coming off a 9-win season. Also, let's remember the last time these teams played. The Panthers pulled off the shocker W to start the 2013 season 28-20...oh and that game was on the road. Northern Iowa is the road team again this year....but I think that will just provide confidence. The Cyclones will have revenge on their mind...but the Panthers are just too good.
Houston def. Tennessee Tech
Mississippi State def. Southern Mississippi
(8) USC def. Arkansas State
Marshall def. Purdue
(1) Ohio State def. Virginia Tech - I am very tempted to pick the Hokies because this game is in Blacksburg and VTech is a tough out at home. If this game was next weekend or maybe even in Week 3 I might have pulled the trigger but opening game of the season, I think the stronger more senior led team comes out on top. But expect the defending champs to have a scare to start the season.
Here we go folks....time for college football season to kick off. Get ready for the drama and, hopefully, unpredictability that comes with every season. Great games....huge upsets...last minute wins...painful losses and much more. Feel free to share your thoughts here or on twitter. I am always interested in chatting with other college football fans. Enjoy the season everyone....