13 thoughts

Hallelujah that college football decision-makers finally wised up and created a playoff, but crowning a true champion won’t stop the controversy. Rest assured, fans of the No. 5 team will scream at the top of their lungs once the pairings are announced. …


Amazing what a 45-31 victory against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl has meant to Oklahoma’s preseason expectations. The Sooners are a popular pick to make the four-team playoff behind sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight. …


Initially, I projected Ohio State as one of the four playoff teams, but that changed with the season-ending injury to Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes remain loaded with talent and Urban Meyer’s system still will be difficult to defend, but Miller was one of the best players in college football. Hard to include the Buckeyes in the national title discussion without him. ...


Remember when Florida ruled college football? The Gators went 4-8 last season, including a loss to Georgia Southern. The seat couldn’t be any hotter for Will Muschamp. …


Florida State needs some young receivers to emerge, but Jameis Winston has the best offensive line in college football, the best tight end (Nick O’Leary) and his favorite receiver (Rashad Greene) returning. …


Here’s a championship formula: The Seminoles ranked second nationally in scoring offense (51.6 points) and first nationally in scoring defense (12.1) last season. …


Mark it down, Charlie Strong will win big at Texas. Some argue that Strong is a bad fit because his personality doesn’t mesh with all the outside responsibilities — media, boosters, promotional appearances, etc. — required of the Texas coach. So what? The guy is a good coach and terrific recruiter. …


No matter what mess he makes, Lane Kiffin always manages to land in a good place. Nick Saban hired Kiffin to run Alabama’s offense as coordinator. …


I’d rank the major FBS conferences this way: 1. SEC. 2. Pac-12. 3. Big Ten. 4. Big 12. 5. ACC …


The battle for Los Angeles has become interesting with the rebuilding job that Jim Mora has overseen at UCLA. USC is coming off severe NCAA sanctions; the Bruins are good enough to win the Pac-12 and earn spot in the playoff. …


Here’s a fast climber: In 2009, Derek Mason served as the Minnesota Vikings assistant defensive backs coach. Now, he’s in his first season as Vanderbilt’s head coach. …


Nebraska’s Bo Pelini received a contract extension through 2018. Yet a number of preseason publications listed Pelini as a coach on the hot seat. Complicated relationship between Pelini and Cornhuskers fan base. …


And finally, how can you not love Steve Spurrier? Here was the Ol’ Ball Coach’s response to a question about a trophy named in honor of a soldier who died at the Alamo being awarded to the winner of the new “rivalry game” between South Carolina and Texas A&M: “I’m actually from Tennessee,” Spurrier said. “I always thought Davy Crockett was the hero of the Alamo, he and those 33 Tennessee guys that came in there and got killed and so forth.”

The Super Six


Every year, we create a list of Heisman Trophy candidates in this space. Every year, we’re flat wrong. Or more accurately, we fail even to mention the eventual winner. We had no clue about Johnny Manziel in 2012. Or Jameis Winston last season. Cam Newton’s personal bio in Auburn’s media guide took up only one line the season he won the Heisman, 2010. His bio included his birthdate and the names of his parents. So, we’ve learned our lesson. We have no clue which player will take home the Heisman this winter. But here are six players who college football fans will love to watch this season:

1. Jameis Winston, Florida State

Duh. He took the college football world by storm last season, passing for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns as a freshman. What does he have in store for an encore?

2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

If he can stay healthy, the Ducks quarterback will amass Heisman-worthy statistics in a fast-break offense.

3. Todd Gurley, Georgia

Best running back in college football. He battled injuries last season, but he’s a force as a runner and receiver out of the backfield.

4. Vic Beasley, Clemson

Explosive pass rusher at defensive end. Collected 13 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, six pass breakups and four forced fumbles last season.

5. Amari Cooper, Alabama

He’ll have a new quarterback throwing him passes, but Cooper is electric when he gets the ball in his hands.

6. Bryce Petty, Baylor

Like offense? So does Petty. He passed for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns and also rushed for 14 TDs last season.

The Road to Arlington

One man’s view of how inaugural playoff could unfold:

The Biggies

Four games that will affect playoff chase:

Oct. 11: Oregon at UCLA: Ducks throttled UCLA last season, but Jim Mora has Bruins thinking big.

Nov. 8: Baylor at Oklahoma: Winner of Big 12 showdown could stay alive in national race.

Nov. 8: Ohio State at Michigan State: Spartans likely will be favored with possible playoff berth at stake. Not bad.

Nov. 29: Auburn at Alabama: Iron Bowl can’t possibly top last season, but this could propel one of them into playoff.

Playoff predictions

National semifinal 1: Florida State vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1 in New Orleans.

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston returns to an offense that averaged 51.6 points per game last season. The defending national champion Seminoles expect to be as good, if not better. The Sooners made believers out of many by the way they handled Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Expectations are high, but Florida State has championship experience.

Winner: Florida State


National semifinal 2: Alabama vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif.

For once, Alabama doesn’t enter the season as an overwhelming favorite, largely because the Crimson Tide must replace A.J. McCarron. Don’t bet against Nick Saban, especially with the way things ended last season: back-to-back losses. No one recruits like ‘Bama. Oregon’s offense will score tons of points behind QB Marcus Mariota. Ducks defense needs to prove it can stop the run.

Winner: Alabama

National championship: Florida State vs. Alabama Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas

Alabama has terrific skill players in tailback T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper, but we’ll give the nod to Florida State, despite the inherent challenge any team faces in defending its title. Winston showed that he can thrive under pressure and Jimbo Fisher has made the Seminoles a dominant, confident program again.

Winner: Florida State