Who the Experts Are Predicting to Reach First Ever College Football Playoff

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2014

Oct 26, 2013; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Thomas Tyner (24) runs the ball against the UCLA Bruins at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason picks have officially reached their due date. 

Abilene Christian and Georgia State kick off at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, and once they do, all predictions on who will make the College Football Playoff are docked half a letter grade for this and every subsequent day they are late.

But most college football experts are better students than that; they know how to hit a deadline. Their CFP predictions were submitted with time to spare, and with all that data floating around the Interwebs, we were eager to look at the critical consensus.

Who are the majority favorites to reach the final four?

The table below cites the 23 expert predictions at ESPN.com, the 20 anonymous coaches' predictions at ESPN.com, the nine (earnest) predictions at Grantland, the seven predictions at NFL.com, the seven predictions at SI.com and the five predictions at USA Today

Beneath that, it cites a collection of non-aggregated predictions from across the web (which is where you'll find your B/R experts). A full list of those can be found on the spreadsheet here.

Here is how the numbers shook out:

Expert Predictions to Reach the CFP
1. Florida St.2. Alabama3. Oregon4. Oklahoma4. Mich. St.
ESPN (23)23169415
Coaches (20)191610105
Grantland (9)95531
NFL (7)75334
SI (7)76306
USA Today (5)54412
Other (19)19129164
TOTAL (90)89 (98.9%)64 (71.1%)43 (47.8%)37 (41.1%)37 (41.1%)
6. UCLA7. Georgia8. S. Car.9. Baylor9. Auburn
ESPN (23)96232
Coaches (20)24212
Grantland (9)42210
NFL (7)20121
SI (7)31001
USA Today (5)00120
Other (19)63203
TOTAL (90)26 (28.9%)16 (17.8%)10 (11.1%)9 (10.0%)9 (10.0%)
Source: Various

Others receiving votes: LSU (5), Wisconsin (5), Ohio State (4), Stanford (3), USC (1), Virginia Tech (1), Michigan (1)


Florida State: The Team We Are All Scared to Pick Against

Gregory Bull/Associated Press

Florida State isn't just the majority's pick to reach the CFP; it is everybody's pick to reach the CFP.

Well, almost. Of the 90 voters we tallied, one brave soul did not have the Seminoles making the final four.

The identity of that one brave soul? Good question. It came from the anonymous coaches' poll, so there's no way for any of us (save Travis Haney of ESPN) to put a name to his picks. Everyone who did sign themselves to a public prediction, however, included Florida State.

The Seminoles return a ton of talent from last year's 14-0 national champion, highlighted, of course, by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. He'll play behind an offensive line that starts five seniors, and his defense should be just as impregnable as last year's.

Florida State's schedule also includes zero teams from the Top 15 of the Associated Press Poll, and the only two teams included in the rankings at all (Clemson and Notre Dame) both come to Tallahassee.

So, yeah. There's a reason this was near-unanimous.


Georgia is 60 Percent More Popular Than South Carolina

Sep 7, 2013; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley (3) runs after losing his helmet past South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker T.J. Holloman (11)  during the second quarter at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Spo

Georgia received 16 votes to South Carolina's 10.

On the surface, that is not particularly jarring. Both teams return a lot on offense, but Georgia returns more on the other side of the ball and made the SEC Championship Game as recently as 2012.

At the same time, though, South Carolina gets to host Georgia in Week 2 and was voted the favorite to win the SEC East during media days, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com. Thirty-one voters tabbed the Gamecocks to win the SEC at large; only 19 had the Bulldogs.

It's not clear where the discord here occurs. Has time treated the Bulldogs' outlook kindly? That is, has looking at their roster and reading the reports from fall camp actually changed voters' opinions? Or do local scribes just look less fondly on Georgia than the rest of us?

It's hard to say for sure. What we can say for sure is that Georgia is trending upward: Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee even had it playing for the national championship (and wasn't alone in doing so):

Gabriel Baumgaertner of SI.com went one further than Sallee, picking the 'Dawgs to beat Alabama in an All-SEC national title game.

"No," said Georgia head coach Mark Richt when asked if he agreed with his team being picked behind the Gamecocks at media days, per Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald. "I'd have us first."

Apparently he's not the only one.


The Braxton Miller Ripple Effect

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

This table does not include any predictions from before Braxton Miller's injury. When the two-time reigning Big Ten Player of the Year/star quarterback of a preseason top-five team goes down with a season-ending shoulder tear, folks should be allowed to readjust.

That's kind of a big deal.

The biggest ostensible beneficiary of the Miller injury was Big Ten East rival Michigan State, which surely would have placed in the top 10 of this list regardless but is now tied with Oklahoma as the No. 4 overall favorite.

Even with a road game at Oregon looming as a potential (if not likely) loss in Week 2, the Spartans are sitting in a good spot. ESPN and SI experts in particular made note of that, voting MSU into the playoff on 21 of 30 ballots—more than two of every three.

Ohio State still got four votes despite Miller's injury, and Wisconsin and Michigan (huh?) combined to give the Big Ten another six, so it's not like Michigan State has as clear of a path as, say, FSU. But Sparty beat a Miller-led Buckeyes team by 10 on a neutral field last season, and now they get a Miller-less Buckeyes team in East Lansing for what should (still) be the game that decides their division.

Forty-one percent of the vote feels about right.


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT


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