A look at eight teams who could challenge for a spot in the College Football Playoff this year:
The Crimson Tide makes it nearly impossible to leave them off a list of playoff contenders any year.
Even after having seven players, including Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft, Alabama is the team to beat in the Southeastern Conference. With talent like former five-star running back recruit Bo Scarborough on the roster, no one feels sorry for the Tide.
The Tigers were runner-up to Alabama last year and have Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson (4,104 yards passing) back from that 14-1 team. Watson was sacked only 18 times in 15 games last year. Wayne Gallman rushed for 1,527 yards but only three starters are back on defense.
The Sooners can move the ball. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns and the ground game has two good options in Samaje Perrine (1,349 yards last season) and Joe Mixon (753 yards).
The Vols have 19 starters, including Minster’s Ethan Wolf at tight end, back from a team that finished 9-4 last season. The four losses came by a total of 17 points. They won their last six games and blasted Northwestern 45-6 in the Outback Bowl.
When the Tigers started 7-0 their fans were talking national championship and when they lost the next three they wanted to fire coach Les Miles. Neither one happened. But with Leonard Fournette (1,953 yards rushing) they might have a chance at the playoff.
The Cougars were 13-1 in Tom Herman’s first year as their head coach. To get to the playoffs they have to win their opener against Oklahoma and then probably run the table. With quarterback Greg Ward and Herman, that’s possible.
A big offensive line and Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey could take the Cardinal a long way. Their 45-16 win over Iowa gave them 12 wins last season.
SOME BIG TEN TEAM
The Big Ten might be a longshot to get into the CFP this year but someone could pull it off. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa have the potential to get into this conversation. But they all have question marks, too. Michigan is the only one of the four that is probably better than a year ago but it has to play at OSU, at Michigan State and at Iowa.