With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new College Football Playoff system.
For the first time, the College Football National Champion will not be determined through a Bowl game, or set up through the dreaded BCS.
Instead, four teams – Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State – will play in two semi-final games on New Year’s Day.
The Second-ranked Ducks will take on the defending National Champions, No. 3 Florida State, at 5:00 p.m. in the Rose Bowl. Then, the No.1 Crimson Tide faces off against the No. 4 Buckeyes at 8:30 p.m. in the Sugar Bowl.
Both games have interesting plots and story lines to them.
In one game, you have last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, matching up against this year’s Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota. Not only do they have that in common, but both are dual-threat quarterbacks with crazy stats and ability.
In the other game, a four-time champion head coach in Nick Saban takes on a two-time champion in Urban Meyer.
So here are my break downs of the two match ups with my prediction.
Between the two semi-final games, this will probably the more exciting, more closely contested.
Both teams have fast, high-powered offenses and defenses that don’t give up a lot points.
Oregon scored an average of 46.3 points per game this season, third in the country, and only allowed 22.5 points per contest. In comparison, Florida State averaged nearly 35 points per contest, offensively, and was just as good as the Ducks defensively, only allowing 23 points per game.
The Seminoles currently have the longest win streak in the country having won its last 29 games in a row, including back-to-back ACC Championship games and last year’s BCS Championship game over Auburn.
Oregon did lose this season, however, a seven-point loss to Arizona on October 2.
Following the loss, though, the Ducks rattled off eight straight wins, including three wins over ranked opponents. Oregon won those eight games by an average of 26 points, but the biggest beat down came in the Pac-12 Championship game in a rematch against Arizona – a 51-13 victory.
Mariota threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for three scores, as well, against the Wildcats.
Florida State’s winning streak has definitely been jeopardized this season.
The Seminoles won each of its last four games by five points or less. They also had to pull out second-half comebacks against NC State, then-No. 5 Notre Dame, then-No. 25 Louisville, and Miami throughout the course of the regular season.
That is my red flag for Florida State.
I think Winston and company have toed the “line of defeat” and escaped too many times this season. They’ve gotten out to slow starts, while the opposing team has gotten a lead. But Florida State’s defense buckled down and gave Winston and the offense enough time to come back.
With that said, I have Oregon winning this game.
I think the Ducks are going to get out to a lead that the Seminoles aren’t going to be able to fully come back from.
Oregon 42, Florida State 30
Alabama knew it would be ushering in a new quarterback at the beginning of the season in Blake Sims, who won the QB battle over Jake Coker in training camp.
Sims almost lost the starting job following the loss to No. 11 Ole Miss and a one-point victory over Arkansas. However, Sims and the entire Alabama team rebounded with a 59-0 thrashing of No. 21 Texas A&M.
Ohio State, on the other hand, has had to change quarterbacks twice this season due to injury.
Braxton Miller, who was number one on the depth chart, injured his shoulder prior to the Buckeyes’ opening game and never returned. The Buckeyes then turned to redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett.
Barrett set a school record for passing touchdowns, 34, and ran for 11 scores this season. His throwing and rushing efforts totaled 3,772 yards. Barrett’s success this year was cut short after breaking his ankle in the regular season finale against Michigan.
Enter sophomore Cardale Jones.
Many thought that Ohio State’s chances of being one of the Top 4 teams was over due to Barrett’s injury. Instead, Jones led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 beat down of Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game.
Sims also set a school record this season, surpassing AJ McCarron’s passing yards record in the SEC Championship game versus Missouri. In that game Sims also set a new completion percentage record for the SEC title game at 85.1 percent.
Much of the attention in this game will be surrounding the two head coaches.
Nick Saban has won three national titles since becoming the head coach of the Crimson Tide, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and ’12.
Urban Meyer won his two titles as head coach of the Florida Gators in 2006 and ’08 and has enjoyed much success since coming to Ohio State.
Meyer is 36-3 in his first three seasons as the Buckeye’s head coach and went undefeated in 2012. (The Buckeyes were under probation that season and could not play in a bowl game.)
I think two things are going to make the difference in this game.
One – the experience factor in big games. Alabama is far more experienced in the big games, especially at the quarterback position. The Crimson Tide faced six ranked opponents this year, beating five of them.
Two – Nick Saban. No disrespect to Meyer, but Saban is the best coach in College Football. If you give Saban a month to prepare, he will know your team better than you do.
Saban is going to have his team very well-prepared.
The offence will be clicking on all cylinders and the defense will be swarming Jones and the rest of the Buckeyes’ offense.
I believe Alabama is going to win and win pretty easily.
Alabama 48, Ohio State 27
Those predictions will set up a National Championship matchup between Alabama and Oregon on January 12.
Funny that the NCAA had to change from the BCS to the Playoff System and Oregon would have to find a new head coach in order to get the matchup we’ve all been waiting for.