Pretty sure I’m in the minority on this, but I like the College Football Playoff setup just as it is. Four spots divided by five Power Five conferences, Notre Dame and the occasional upstart equals chaos.
Sure, there will always be one or two teams left out that feel like they were snubbed. But does anybody else really remember – or care – who the fifth team was in 2016? Most of us barely remember the semifinal losers.
But since this is the worst weekend on the college football schedule, I’ll play along. What if this year’s field were eight teams? Here’s what it might look like.
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No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Central Florida – Granted, a lot would have to happen for the Knights to move into the final spot. But in a format with five conference champions and three at-large berths, there would be enormous pressure on the committee to include Central Florida.
This is the ultimate “put up or shut up” matchup. So much for the argument that UCF hasn’t played anybody. The Knights have enough talent to make things interesting, especially quarterback McKenzie Milton.
“Interesting” and “competitive,” though, are two different things. The Knights could hang around for a while. Maybe even into the fourth quarter. But this isn’t the Chick-Fil-a Peach Bowl, and this isn’t Auburn without it’s best running back.
Alabama 40, Central Florida 17.
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 West Virginia – Or Oklahoma. They’re probably going to play twice, and the game that matters most is the second one. Mere minutia.
The Wolverines have the defense to make some stops, and enough offense to prevail. Besides, Nick Saban vs. Jim Harbaugh would be fun to watch.
Michigan 38, West Virginia 35.
No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 7 Georgia – No need to wait until 2029 for that home-and-home series. The two old rivals meet and the stadium is split about as evenly as it can be. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence faces the team he strongly considered signing with. Tough opening draw for Clemson as Georgia slid down after a close loss to Alabama.
Having faced LSU, Florida, Kentucky, Auburn and Alabama down the stretch prepared the Bulldogs for the big moment.
Georgia 33, Clemson 31.
No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 6 Washington State – There’s no way there would be an eight-team playoff without each of the Power Five conference champs receiving automatic bids.
This is the best Fighting Irish team since Lou Holtz left. But what is that really saying? Their schedule looks tougher on paper (or digitally) than it really is with Stanford, Florida State and Southern Cal all down compared to what we’re accustomed to seeing.
Washington State is a complete team, that overtime loss to USC notwithstanding.
Washington State 27, Notre Dame 23.
Alabama vs. Michigan – The Wolverines are one of the few teams that might be able to match up with Bama. Their defense is stout, or at least so it seems. It’s really hard to tell playing in the Big 10, and Notre Dame’s offense with Brandon Wimbush wasn’t exactly Oklahoma. Then again, the argument could be made that Alabama hasn’t faced a defense a strong as Michigan’s, with the possible exception of Mississippi State. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. It just means the Crimson Tide won’t score 30 by halftime and Tua Tagovailoa will have to keep his helmet on in the fourth quarter.
Alabama 31, Michigan 17.
Georgia vs. Washington State – The two lower seeds meet, which legitimizes having four additional teams in the field. Gardner Minshew is the second-best quarterback the Bulldogs have faced. But the Cougars haven’t played a team as complete as Georgia with a high-powered offense and speed on defense.
Georgia 44, Washington State 38.
National Championship Game
Alabama vs. Georgia – Now, this seems familiar, doesn’t it? The challenge for Alabama is it’s hard to beat a good team twice. There’s some truth to that cliche. But that’s outweighed by another truth: It’s hard to beat Alabama once.
It will be hard to top last year’s national championship game, won by Alabama in overtime.
Alabama 34, Georgia 26.
There are many scenarios how the field would look and how it would play out. But in the end, it’s hard to see any other outcome.