Welcome to a special holiday edition of the Coastal Courier’s weekly college football pick-em contest, where pickers are competing to win a $2,500 vacation card and bragging rights.
Among the Coastal Courier’s VIP’s participating are general manager Kathryn Fox, sponsor Tyler Arnold, advertising operations manager Lori McCampbell and good old absented-minded editor Jeff Whitten.
McCampbell (LM) and Whitten (JW) provide the incisive, engaging and obviously expert commentary again this week.
Here’s their thoughts on the bowl games.
LM: Remember those "what if" scenarios I wrote about for week 10? Well, week 11 play did not disappoint. Auburn and Miami (FL) prevailed over Georgia and Notre Dame.
What does that mean? It means a couple of big entities appear to have left the 2017 Playoff board. It looks like there may be not one, but two, two-loss teams with very worthy resumes that fill the void left by Georgia and Notre Dame.
This also means the playoffs are on track to have the top four spots filled by four power conferences, if those two-loss teams get in, but it won’t be the Pac-12 champ. That conference hasn’t had the strength in schedule or the Irish team that ended 10-2, not 11-2.
Can the bruised and banged-up Alabama Tide survive Auburn?
They narrowly escaped last week against Mississippi State, and they’ve played somewhat of a light schedule this year. At best they could fill the number four spot in the playoff as the top SEC one or two loss entrant. Or will it be Auburn?
What I predict will happen is that Oklahoma and Ohio State will end their season the way it began, with a rematch.
Sugar Bowl (New Orleans): Miami (FL) vs. Ohio State
Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA): Oklahoma vs. Auburn
Championship (Atlanta): Oklahoma vs. Ohio State
New Year’s Six
Peach Bowl (Atlanta): UCF vs. Penn State
Orange Bowl (Miami): Clemson vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ): USC vs. Georgia
Cotton Bowl (Arlington, TX): Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. It’s your turn, Jeff.
JW: You’ve definitely thought this through. Kudos. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Oklahoma or Ohio State in the title game. I do not, however, expect to see both of them in the title game.
But let me back up a bit. First, I don’t think we’ll see Notre Dame back in the title hunt. I do think Georgia still has a better than outside shot. I’m no Bulldog fan, but the same team that ran roughshod over opponents for much of the season is already in the SEC title game. Wins over Kentucky (no guarantee, but I think it happens because of Auburn) and Georgia Tech (another game that could result in a UGA loss) and the potential for a win over either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC Championship would make a strong case for the Bulldogs getting into the College Football Playoff.
In fact, if the Bulldogs win out I’d have them in my top four.
Georgia aside, I can’t see anyone from the PAC-12 with the resume to get into the playoffs. Oklahoma is the strongest challenger from out west, and Ohio State might be the class of the Big 10, as much as that pains me to say.
But, the Buckeyes still have to play Michigan, and that’s no gimme, even if the Wolverines are having a down year. What’s more, Ohio State will be playing in Ann Arbor, and you can’t discount home field advantage in this rivalry, which is the equal of any in the country. Michigan also will be playing for the opportunity to knock Ohio State out of consideration for a spot in college football’s final four.
I think Oklahoma has the better shot at getting into the CFP, mostly due to a schedule that includes wins over four ranked teams.
And, they’ve also got Heisman Trophy frontrunner Baker Mayfield at quarterback.
Now for the ACC. Clemson is the hardest team for me to figure out, largely because I don’t know how strong the ACC really is. That early season win over Auburn was, well, early season. The Tigers, or War Eagles, were still breaking in transfer quarterback Jarret Stidham. Virginia Tech and North Carolina State are both overrated, in my opinion.
The Tigers, who played the Citadel before our press date, should be 9-1 heading into this week’s rivalry game against South Carolina. As a Gamecock, I’m hoping the Chicken Curse that usually strikes Carolina will actually go work its bad magic on somebody else this season, and I can’t think of a better victim than Clemson.
What’s more, I think Carolina could win this game. For one thing, it’s in Columbia at Williams-Bryce, and that stadium will be swaying. I just hope the Gamecocks come out playing and don’t give this thing away.
Anyway, all that is to say this: If the Gamecocks do what I hope they do, Clemson should be eliminated from the final four before the ACC championship game against Miami.
Now for Miami.
Assuming the Hurricanes beat Virginia and then survive a cold-weather trip to Pitt, they’ll be 12-0 under Mark Richt, who’s due a shot at a title given all his years getting cussed by a certain segment of the UGA fan base for letting them down.
But I don’t think they can beat Clemson.
The Hurricanes have had luck on their side so far this season, and, despite a big win over Notre Dame, don’t impress me as much as they do some. After all, Miami squeaked past both Florida State and Georgia Tech, and they weren’t exactly dominant in wins over ACC foes Syracuse, North Carolina or Virginia Tech.
And apart from the Irish, Miami’s out-of-conference schedule was weak. Toledo?
Contrast that with the two schools from the Southeast Conference still in the hunt for a spot in the playoff.
Auburn opened everybody’s eyes with that 40-17 rolling of Georgia, and similar cakewalks over Mississippi State, Arkansas and Texas A&M are to me more impressive than Miami’s conference wins.
What’s more, if the Tigers go on to beat both Alabama and Georgia, then I think they’re not only in the four-team playoff, but I think they win out. This is a team as hot as any in the country.
And that brings me to the only program strong enough to beat both Auburn and Georgia and then take down whoever’s left, be it Oklahoma, Ohio State, Miami or Clemson.
Alabama, come on down.
I don’t care how banged up the Crimson Tide are. I don’t care how narrow that win over Mississippi State was. I don’t care that they lost last year to Deshaun Watson and his Clemson teammates. This is Alabama, and Alabama has two things going for it no other program does.
One is quarterback Jalen Hurts, who quietly makes play after play. As long as he’s under center, the Tide will be tough to beat.
But the biggest thing Alabama has going for it is Nick Saban. The man knows how to get it done.
He’s 124-19 at Alabama with four national titles. He’s 215-61-1 all time, and also won a BCS title in 2003 with Louisiana State.
As long as that coach is on the Alabama sideline, the Crimson Tide are going to be the No. 1 threat to win a championship.
This season is no different.
So, here’s my breakdown:
Rose Bowl: Alabama over Ohio State
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma over Miami
Championship: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
New Year’s Six:
Peach: UCF vs. Clemson
Orange: Wisconsin vs. Auburn
Fiesta: Georgia vs. Ohio State
Cotton: Penn State vs. the other USC.
Happy Thanksgiving, folks.