Here’s Who We Predict Will Make the 2018 College Football Playoff

    The college football conference championship games are over and now we await the College Football Playoff selection committee's announcement of the

    December 2, 2018

    The college football conference championship games are over and now we await the College Football Playoff selection committee’s announcement of the four-team playoff field on Sunday. There are no more chances for teams to impress the committee or to get upset. The 12 and 13-game bodies of work assembled by this year’s playoff contenders have led to a four-team playoff that’s fairly straightforward to predict after Week 14.

    Here’s what we think the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings will look like on Sunday.

    1. Alabama (13-0): For the second time this calendar year, Alabama nearly met its match in Georgia inside of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And for the second time, the Crimson Tide’s backup quarterback entered the game in the second half to spark a come-from-behind victory.

    In so many ways, it was poetic as Alabama junior quarterback Jalen Hurts, who lost his starting job to then-freshman Tua Tagovailoa at halftime of last season’s national championship game against Georgia, replaced the injured Tagovailoa and led two touchdown drives for the Tide.

    Even with the rise of Georgia under Kirby Smart, Alabama proved again Saturday that it’s still the team to beat in the SEC and nationally, as the Crimson Tide will enter the playoff undefeated and its win will keep the Bulldogs out of the playoff.

    2. Clemson (13-0): For the fourth straight year, Clemson will make the College Football Playoff thanks to its 42-10 win over Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship. Assuming Clemson maintains its No. 2 ranking, this will also be the fourth straight year that it earned a top-two seed in the playoff.

    The Tigers’ conference championship game opponent was somewhat symbolic of their previous 12. Their best win of the season was in Week 2 at Texas A&M, which is ranked No. 19 in the latest CFP rankings, and No. 20 Syracuse is the only other currently ranked team that Clemson has defeated this season.

    Even if the Tigers lack a marquee win that can compare to Alabama’s win over Georgia or Notre Dame’s victory against Michigan, Clemson has been nothing short of dominant in ACC play, winning its final eight games by at least 20 points.

    3. Notre Dame (12-0): The Fighting Irish are the ultimate wild card in the College Football Playoff era as an independent team that will claim one of the four playoff spots in a given season as long as it goes undefeated. After winning at USC in Week 13 to finish the regular season with a 12-0 record, Notre Dame effectively punched its ticket to its first-ever playoff appearance.

    The games on Notre Dame’s schedule that projected to be its toughest matchups in the offseason largely didn’t live up to the billing. The Fighting Irish’s 24-17 win over Michigan in Week 1 shaped the College Football Playoff landscape, but games against Ball State, Vanderbilt and Pitt proved to be closer than games against Stanford, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

    Notre Dame ranks outside the top 30 nationally in passing offense, rushing offense, pass defense and rush defense, so it might be fair to wonder where the Fighting Irish are elite but they’re undefeated with 10 wins over Power Five opponents, so they rightly earned their place in the playoff.

    4. Oklahoma (12-1): There was some question as to whether No. 1 Alabama would stay in the top four if it suffered a loss to No. 4 Georgia or whether or not No. 6 Ohio State could jump No. 5 Oklahoma, but the Crimson Tide’s win over Georgia combined with the Sooners’ 39-27 win over Texas in the Big 12 Championship should’ve promptly ended those questions.

    Georgia may be one of the best four teams in the country but its lack of a conference title and its 11-2 record, which includes a 20-point loss at LSU, will prevent the Bulldogs from making the playoff. Ohio State’s win over then-No. 4 Michigan was impressive but the Buckeyes entered the Big Ten Championship ranked behind the Sooners and No. 21 Northwestern provided little in terms of a potential statement win that could’ve vaulted them over 12-1 Oklahoma.

    Despite a 24-7 lead at halftime, Ohio State struggled to seriously distance itself from Northwestern in the first three and a half quarters of its 45-24 win.

    Oklahoma has the highest-scoring offense in the country and a likely Heisman Trophy finalist in quarterback Kyler Murray, so even if the Sooners’ defense isn’t on the level of Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame, their offense is good enough to score — potentially with ease — on the other three playoff teams.

    Perhaps the most encouraging, big-picture takeaway for Oklahoma fans is that assuming the Sooners make the playoff this season, it’ll be their third head coach-quarterback combination that has made the playoff (Bob Stoops-Baker Mayfield, Lincoln Riley-Baker Mayfield, Lincoln Riley-Kyler Murray). Oklahoma is one of college football’s elite programs and it’s bigger than any single coach or quarterback. But it does have both a great coach and a great quarterback as Riley has provided a seamless transition after taking over from Stoops (and Murray from Mayfield).

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