The 2014 season will feature the inaugural College Football Playoff bracket, and fans of the sport are already trying to decipher which programs will earn the honor of fighting for the national championship.
While teams like Alabama, Oregon and Florida State have made a claim on a spot in the postseason, the playoff voting committee could promote several programs into the No. 4 position after Mississippi State’s heartbreaking loss.
Here is the full schedule of the semifinals and championship for the College Football Playoff, the complete Week 15 projected Top 25 rankings and a preview of the most underrated team in the Top Four.
|College Football Playoff Schedule|
|Date||Bowl||Predicted Matchup||Time (ET)||Watch|
|Jan. 1||Rose Bowl||No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon Ducks||5 p.m.||ESPN|
|Jan. 1||Sugar Bowl||No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Jan. 12||Championship Game||No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oregon Ducks||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Viewing information via NCAA.com.|
|Predicted Week 15 College Football Playoff Rankings|
|Rank||Projected Playoff Rankings||Associated Press Poll|
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide||Alabama Crimson Tide|
|2||Florida State Seminoles||Florida State Seminoles|
|3||Oregon Ducks||Oregon Ducks|
|4||TCU Horned Frogs||TCU Horned Frogs|
|5||Baylor Bears||Baylor Bears|
|6||Mississippi State Bulldogs||Ohio State Buckeyes|
|7||Ohio State Buckeyes||Michigan State Spartans|
|8||Michigan State Spartans||Arizona Wildcats|
|9||Kansas State Wildcats||Kansas State Wildcats|
|10||Arizona Wildcats||Mississippi State Bulldogs|
|11||Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets||Wisconsin Badgers|
|12||Ole Miss Rebels||Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets|
|13||Wisconsin Badgers||Ole Miss Rebels|
|14||Missouri Tigers||Missouri Tigers|
|15||Georgia Bulldogs||Georgia Bulldogs|
|16||Clemson Tigers||UCLA Bruins|
|17||UCLA Bruins||Arizona State Sun Devils|
|18||Arizona State Sun Devils||Oklahoma Sooners|
|19||Oklahoma Sooners||Clemson Tigers|
|20||Auburn Tigers||Auburn Tigers|
|21||LSU Tigers||Louisville Cardinals|
|22||Louisville Cardinals||Boise State Broncos|
|23||Boise State Broncos||LSU Tigers|
|24||Utah Utes||Utah Utes|
|25||Nebraska Cornhuskers||Nebraska Cornhuskers|
|Donald Wood's Projected Week 15 Playoff Rankings|
The Most Underrated Playoff Contender
There are many programs that deserve the honor of playing in the first-ever College Football Playoff, but few fans are talking about the legitimate possibility that the Oregon Ducks could stun the sport and make a run at the national title.
Oregon went 11-1 this season with the team’s only loss coming to Arizona earlier in the season, but the team gets a chance at redemption. On Friday, the Ducks square off against the Wildcats in the Pac-12 Championship in what should be a thrilling battle.
Arizona beat Oregon on October 2, 31-24, but the Ducks have managed to win seven straight games since, including big victories over UCLA and Utah. On the other hand, the Wildcats lost two games after the win over Oregon but ended the year with four straight victories.
When asked about playing Arizona, Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich spoke to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com, saying, “We talked a little bit about preparing to give somebody our best shot. I would have said it about whoever was next. But certainly our guys know the 'coulda, woulda, shoulda' of some of that night. And a lot of that night is Arizona is really good.”
The key for the Ducks will be the play of quarterback Marcus Mariota. The junior is running away with the Heisman Trophy race and has been lights-out for Oregon, racking up 3,470 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air and another 636 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
ESPN’s SportsCenter shared just how dominant Mariota was in Week 14:
Marcus Mariota DOMINATES Oregon State in 47-19 blowout win in "Civil War." Mariota: 367 Pass yds, 4 TD, 2 Rush TD http://t.co/uua6LZHXXW2014-11-30 04:40:13
While Oregon should be able to beat Arizona in the conference championship, the team will also be a legitimate threat in the College Football Playoff. With one of the most dangerous offensive units in the country and a defense that has played better than expected, the Ducks have the talent and depth to defeat teams like Florida State and Alabama.
The Seminoles may have the national championship experience and the Crimson Tide may have a roster full of potential NFL stars, but Oregon has the fourth-ranked offense in college football and a defense that only allows 23.3 points per game.
The result is a Ducks program that has the potential to win the inaugural College Football Playoff.
*Stats via ESPN.com.