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College Football Playoff 2017: Predicting Final Four After Amway Preseason Poll

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2017

The pressure will be on Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett this season.
The pressure will be on Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett this season.Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The end of August and the start of the college football season can't come soon enough for fans who have been waiting through the interminable offseason for the competition to begin in earnest.

The release of the Amway Coaches Poll Thursday means that the season is that much closer to starting, and perennial power Alabama is once again in the top spot.

Nick Saban's team usually holds on to that position during the preseason, and the Crimson Tide are joined by Ohio State, Florida State and Southern California for the top four spots.

Will those same four teams make the College Football Playoffs at the conclusion of the regular season?

That scenario is highly unlikely. Young talent can be volatile, and motivated underdogs, serious injuries and unexpected losses could impact all of these teams.

As a result, our predicted playoff teams exclude two of the teams in the original top four.

Amway Top 25

1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Florida State
4. Southern California
5. Clemson
6. Penn State
7. Washington
8. Oklahoma
9. Michigan
10. Wisconsin
11. Oklahoma State
12. Louisiana State
13. Auburn
14. Stanford
15. Georgia
16. Florida
17. Louisville
18. Miami
19. Kansas State
20. West Virginia
21. South Florida
22. Virginia Tech
23. Texas
24. Tennessee
25. Utah

Ryan C. Fowler @RyanCFowler

"We have had a good off-season" - Nick Saban https://t.co/iIPB0S7FSB

Alabama

While there may be several notable upsets throughout the college football season, it would almost certainly take two or more losses by the Crimson Tide for this team to find itself on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoffs.

Saban has found a way to keep his team at or near the top on an every-season basis, and after coming up short to Clemson and Deshaun Watson last year in the national championship game, expect Alabama to be motivated throughout the season.

There will be a season when Alabama falls short of the playoffs, but it won't happen this year.

Jalen Hurts is now a seasoned leader who is likely to improve after a very good freshman year. Expect his execution in the passing game to get even better after throwing for 23 TD passes with nine interceptions last season.

The powerful Alabama offense should be able to work hand-in-hand with the takeaway-oriented Crimson Tide defense once again. This is a strong and nasty unit led by defensive tackles Da'Ron Payne and Da'Shawn Hand.

Alabama is almost certainly going to be in the College Football Playoff at the end of the 2017 season.

Urban Meyer
Urban MeyerPatrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State 

The Buckeyes may have even more motivation than the Crimson Tide when it comes to getting back into the postseason college football tournament.

Many of the wise guys thought Ohio State may have been the team to beat after a notable 11-1 regular season, but the Buckeyes were pummeled 31-0 by Clemson in the national semifinal game. Head coach Urban Meyer is not about to let his players forget that result if he senses that they are just going through the motions at any point this season.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett may not be perfect, and he will hear criticism from time-to-time among the Ohio State fans. However, he is a first-team All-Big Ten quarterback who threw for 2,555 yards last year with a 24-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also ran for 845 yards and nine scores and is a leader who should be able to take his team a long way.

Running back Mike Weber is another key contributor, and a huge sophomore season is likely after running for 1,096 yard and nine scores a year ago, especially if he can match or exceed the 5.0 yards-per-carry average that he had a year ago.

Senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis leads the defense and has registered 8.0 sacks in each of the last two seasons. At 6'4" and 265 pounds, he is a lethal combination of speed and strength. Plus, the Buckeyes have enough depth on the defensive line so that Lewis should be fresh for the crucial moments that decide big games.

PFF College @PFF_College

Jake Browning topped some other big names in TD passes under pressure last year, among returning Pac-12 QBs. https://t.co/vgN5GeRWMj

Washington

The Huskies may be ranked a little further down in the coaches poll, but that won't be the case by the end of the season.

The Huskies climbed the ladder last year largely because of their defense, but the offense was an excellent complementary unit that should be even better this year. 

Junior quarterback Jake Browning has an excellent arm, and he can get rid of the ball quickly and accurately. He threw for 3,430 yards last year with a robust 43 TD passes and nine interceptions. While he will have a hard time improving on his numbers, look for Browning to be at his best in Washington's biggest games.

The defense is led by senior linebacker Azeem Victor, who had 67 tackles a year ago before suffering a broken tibia that prematurely ended his 2016 season. Victor is not a huge man at 6'3" and 222 pounds, but he is a huge hitter with more than enough speed to chase down receivers and running backs.

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma State

Many observers look at Oklahoma as the top team in the Big 12, but we see Oklahoma State as a team that is prepared to shock the college football world this year.

The Cowboys have the kind of offensive game that will allow them to devastate many of their opponents early in games and turn them into blowouts. They averaged 324 yards per game through the air last season and 494 yards overall.

Quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington have a tremendous rapport, and their partnership should be devastating. Rudolph threw for 4,091 yards with 28 touchdowns and four interceptions last year, while Washington caught 71 passes for 1,380 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

The Cowboys also have a versatile ground game with sophomore Justice Hill, who ran for 1,142 yards as a freshman. The combination in the air and on the ground could give them the most dangerous offense in the country.

Defense in the Big 12 is often more of a rumor than a reality, but the Cowboys did just enough in that area most of the time to let their potent offense get the job done.

Head coach Mike Gundy needs a bit more from the defense this year, and he will count on linebacker Chad Whitener to provide big plays. He had 7.5 tackles for loss and he is fairly proficient in coverage. 

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