2016-2017 College Football Playoff Predictions
We are making an extremely risky move this season, and leaving what are likely four of the five or six most popular 2016-2017 playoff teams out of our selection. You won’t find Florida State, Clemson, Alabama or Ohio State in our 2016-2017 college football playoff predictions. Rather than make a case against each of these teams we will break down why their counterpart will get into the playoffs this season.
Our 2016-2017 Projected College Football Playoff Teams
The Volunteers lost four games last season by a total of 17 points, including a 5 point loss at Alabama and 1 point loss at Florida. The Vols return 17/21 starters, including the top QB/RB in the SEC, 7 of their top 8 receivers, kicker and punter on special teams, and their entire offensive line.
The Vols get Florida and Alabama at home in the first half of the season, and finish with South Carolina, Tennessee Tech, Kentucky, Mizzou, and Vandy. They should have no problem making the SEC championship game where they will likely face the winner of the Alabama/LSU game. We will take the hot team, rested team, experienced team in the title game, making Tennessee our pick to come out of the SEC this season.
Michigan starts out of conference games with Florida and Notre Dame in 2017 and 2018, but this season has a cakewalk into the Michigan State game on October 29. We are talking Hawaii / UCF / Colorado / Penn St / Wisconsin / Rutger / Illinois. The Spartans return only 10 starters, losing Connor Cook, 3 starters on the offensive line, two leading receivers, and 5 players in their front 7 on defense. It took a miraculous blocked punt for MSU to win with those guys, we don’t see them pulling it off without.
The Buckeyes face a similar problem returning only 6/22 starters, losing Elliott, 6 of 7 leading receivers, 3 offensive linemen including both tackles, and their entire secondary and linebacker corps outside of Raekwon McMillan.
Harbaugh has his players with a year of experience in his system now. He returns 14/22 starters, including 4/5 offensive linemen, their leading rusher, All American tight end Jake Butt, All American receiver Jehu Chesson, and the country’s top secondary. The biggest change will be at QB where they go from Jake Rudock, a game manager, to either John O’Korn or Wilton Speight. Speight was the #3 QB in his class, and O’Korn was the starting QB at Houston for 2 season before transferring. Either guy will be a significant upgrade in talent, assuming they can avoid making mistakes like Rudock did last season, but we see that as more of a reflection on Harbaugh and Tim Drevno.
This is clearly going to be the most controversial selection we make this season. The Huskies were just 7-6 last season, but there were several reasons they struggled last year and will be dramatically improved this season. First off, they played the toughest schedule in the Pac 12 and 5th toughest in the nation. That number shifts to 54th toughest this season, and they finish the season with 6 very winnable games.
The second reason is this is Chris Petersen’s third year in the program. He rebooted in the first two seasons, starting freshman and sophomores everywhere, including a freshman QB and RB last year. This year they return 15/22 starters, including 7 starters from the top defense in the Pac 12 last season. This defense showed up in a big way last season holding USC, Oregon, and Stanford to just 23 PPG despite playing at USC and Stanford.
We like the Huskies to go 11-1, and beat USC in the Pac 12 title game. At 12-1 with a Pac 12 title and one of the nation’s best defenses, the Huskies would have earned their spot in the 2016-2017 Playoff.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Despite losing 13/22 starters, the Irish have a few things going for them this season. The first, and most obvious, is the schedule. They play only 3 road games, and the big name teams on their schedule are in much bigger rebuild seasons than the Irish. They play Michigan State at home early before traveling to Stanford in what will likely be their only test prior to traveling to USC in the final week of the season. The Irish will likely be favored in all three of those contests, and if they manage to win one of the first two, then beat USC, it would be hard to argue for a 3 loss SEC or 2 loss ACC team over a 1 loss Notre Dame team.
The second reason the Irish will likely overcome having only 9 returning starters is the depth they return from last year. Josh Adams outperformed CJ Prosise and only had 40 fewer carries than the starter on the year. They Lose Will Fuller and Chris Brown, but return experience in Torii Hunter and Corey Robinson.
They also return two of the best playmakers in the country at quarterback that both can make plays with their arms and legs. Despite setting all sorts of Freshman records for the Irish last season, I don’t see how Kizer can hold off the uber-talented Malik Zaire. In less than one and a half games last season, Zaire was 26-40 for 430 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, and ran for another 130 yards. He’s a darkhorse Heisman candidate, but will have to earn the job this preseason.