Chances are good that a lot of people predicted three of the four teams who eventualy got into the College Football Playoff last season.
It wasn’t going out on a limb to predict that the two teams in the 2015 championship game, Alabama and Clemson, would return for another round. And it wasn’t a surprise to see the 2014 champion, Ohio State, there either.
The only surprise in the semifinals was Washington. So, will this year bring any unanticipated playoff teams? Or will it belong to the tried and true powers of the college game again?
It would not be a shock to see the four College Football Playoff semifinalists come from this list of eight teams: Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Florida State, Clemson, Penn State, Oklahoma and Washington, who have all been near the top of the preseason national rankings.
Quarterback Jalen Hurt is a year older and a season more experienced. The defense has two returning starters at every level — line, linebackers and defensive backfield. The Tide came within seconds of winning Nick Saban’s fifth national championship last season.
If the Buckeyes restore the deep pass to their offense and find replacements for three defensive backs who were first-round NFL draft choices, they could be contenders.
The Trojans finished last season on a nine-game winning streak behind redshirt freshman Sam Darnold.
If Florida State’s offensive line, which allowed 36 sacks last season, plays a little better, quarterback Deondre Francois, running back Cam Akers and others will put points on the scoreboard.
The big question, obviously, is who will replace Deshaun Watson at quarterback. But, as Ohio State learned, the Tigers can play a little defense, too.
Quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley and a good receivers group make the Nittany Lions one of the most explosive offensive teams in college football.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield is back, but coach Bob Stoops, running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine and wide receiver Dede Westbrook are all gone.
The Huskies have quite a bit of talent back from last year’s playoff semifinalist team and a schedule that might not be overly challenging until November.