College Football Playoff 2020: Predicting Final 4 Teams Post-Week 16 Rankings

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 16, 2020

College Football Playoff 2020: Predicting Final 4 Teams Post-Week 16 Rankings

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    Matt Gentry/Associated Press

    At least three of the four programs in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings seem like shoo-ins to qualify for the national semifinals. 

    The Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes are heavy favorites in their respective conference championship games, and the winner of the ACC Championship Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Clemson Tigers will be in. 

    The result of the ACC Championship Game will likely dictate what happens with the No. 4 seed if Alabama and Ohio State win as expected. 

    Notre Dame could still get into the playoff with a defeat because its only loss came to Clemson.

    Where things get interesting is if Clemson loses for a second time. Then the Texas A&M Aggies and the Big 12 champion could stake claims to the No. 4 position.

    However, Clemson is a different team than the one that lost to Notre Dame on November 7, and returning the favor to Notre Dame may eliminate any playoff controversy.

Sugar Bowl (January 1): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Alabama was viewed as the projected winner of the SEC Championship Game prior to Saturday's results. 

    The Crimson Tide's win over the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Florida Gators' home defeat to the LSU Tigers opened up the case that Nick Saban's team can win by at least 15-20 points on Saturday. 

    If Alabama continues its dominant run, the biggest question surrounding the contest in Atlanta will be which Crimson Tide player helped his Heisman Trophy candidacy the most. 

    Quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith could be going head-to-head for first-place votes if Kyle Trask suffers two defeats in a row. 

    If Alabama takes the conference crown, it will remain as the No. 1 seed and likely stay in SEC country at the Sugar Bowl. 

    Notre Dame's potential margin of defeat could be carefully analyzed in comparison to the resumes of Texas A&M and either the Iowa State Cyclones or Oklahoma Sooners. 

    If the Irish's resume includes a seven-point double-overtime win over Clemson and a close defeat to the Tigers, the selection committee could be persuaded to drop them two spots to No. 4. 

    Notre Dame needs to come up with a defensive game plan that stifles Trevor Lawrence, which is something few teams have been able to do during the quarterback's three-year career. 

    Lawrence has not lost an ACC game, and he produced 327 yards and three touchdowns in a 2019 playoff win over Notre Dame. 

    Of course, the players on each side have changed a bit, but it is worth noting Lawrence has a history with Notre Dame's defensive concepts, even though he did not play on November 7. 

    If Ian Book attempts to match Lawrence and performs better than the 160 passing yards and completing half his passes from the 2019 playoff battle, the Irish's playoff hopes should still be in good shape. 

    If Notre Dame somehow gets blown out, it opens itself up for a drop to No. 5 with two capable contenders below it. 

Rose Bowl (January 1): No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    If Lawrence captures his third conference crown in a row, the Tigers would likely take Notre Dame's position in the rankings. 

    Clemson sits at No. 3, and its ceiling would be the No. 2 seed if Alabama heads into the postseason with a perfect mark. 

    The difference between Saturday's clash in Charlotte, North Carolina, and previous ACC Championship Games that Clemson has won could be the margin of victory.

    A year ago, Dabo Swinney's side blew out the Virginia Cavaliers 62-17. It has scored 40 or more points four times during its five-year reign atop the ACC.

    If three of the top four teams win on Saturday, Clemson could be in line for a semifinal rematch with Ohio State. 

    The lack of games on the Buckeyes' Big Ten schedule has not hindered them from remaining in the playoff positions. 

    Ohio State is on a three-game winning streak in the Big Ten Championship Game, and it has the offensive firepower to blow out the Northwestern Wildcats. 

    The Buckeyes took commanding leads in both of their matchups against Top 25 opponents, and if the Indiana Hoosiers did not make a second-half surge, they would have a pair of double-digit triumphs in those contests. 

    If Justin Fields and Co. replicate the fast starts from those games and avoid a second-half letdown, they should secure their spot in the final four.

         

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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