21 for 2021: 21 key college football preseason topics, No. 1. Five preseason College Football Playoff scenarios.
For most college football programs the season is about the journey.
For those select few, it’s only about the destination – Indianapolis this season – and how much fun you have once you arrive.
We’re now entering the world of true elitism. If you have to ask about whether or not your team really does have a shot to get to the College Football Playoff, you can’t afford it.
We’re seven years into this grand experiment, and until this thing expands to 12 – which it probably will in the very near future – we now know how the CFP’s panel of judges does this.
1. Win your Power Five conference and you’re in if you’re unbeaten. It would take some sort of historical weirdness for all five Power Five conference champs to go unbeaten.
2. Realistically, you’re almost certainly fine if you win your Power Five conference and finish with one loss. 2018 Ohio State is the first and only one to be left out – Notre Dame screwed things up.
3. Be a one-loss Power Five team that rolled through all the other wins and/or lost to a superpower. 2020 Texas A&M lost at Alabama and probably deserved to be in, and wasn’t. Notre Dame screwed things up.
4. Be Notre Dame and go undefeated, or lose the ACC Championship in that one strange season as true conference partner.
Other than that, there’s certainly a nice bowl game and free t-shirt out there waiting for you – and no, it’s not fair.
The Group of Five programs have yet to be invited to the party, and no team with two losses has made it in, but at some point that could and should change – more on both of that in a moment.
With all that in mind – and coming off our oh-so-gutty call of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma last year – here are five possible College Football Playoff scenarios, starting with …
College Football Playoff Scenario: The Chalk
Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma
No one wants this other than Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
While this might seem like a powerhouse mini-tournament, recent history – with great games very, very few and far between – would suggest otherwise.
The College Football Playoff is in desperate need of new teams, a new energy, and at least a competitive contest of a national title game that won’t get instantly memory dumped.
Eight of the last nine College Football Playoff games – the three CFPs since the epic Alabama overtime win over Georgia on the Tua Tagovailoa to DeVonta Smith 2nd-and-26 touchdown – have been decided by double-digits.
However, if you spin the wheel enough times you’ll eventually avoid the Bankrupt.
We were all spoiled by a strong start, with three phenomenal national championships – Alabama over Clemson, Clemson over Alabama, and Alabama over Georgia – after Ohio State rolled by Oregon in the inaugural title game. Get the four strongest programs into the CFP over and over again, and eventually you’ll get something amazing.
That would be fun, but not as great as …