By Cole Tussing
The CFP field is set. After some tight number crunching, the college football committee put together a list of the four best teams overall. LSU leads the way with No. 1, followed by Ohio State, the defending champion Clemson and Oklahoma. Talent-wise they are pretty equal, but each has something unique at stake.
- LSU Tigers (SEC Champion)
This is the first time in the CFP for the Tigers. From top to bottom, this is the most complete team, in my opinion (1st in the nation in total offense, third in passing efficiency, and 10th in passing efficiency defensively). They bring a Big 12 mindset to the infamous SEC West with opposition like Alabama, Auburn, and Texas A&M. Their goal is to put up as many points as possible, and saying it worked, is a massive understatement. The Tigers had the second most ranked matchups in the nation, only behind Ohio State, and played the most matchups out of anybody in the country, when both teams were ranked within the Top 15. They have ranked wins over Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama (in Tuscaloosa, mind you), and Georgia in the SEC Championship. This is also a small detail, but their quarterback Joe Burrow just took home the Heisman. He broke Drew Lock’s SEC single-season TD record set back in 2017. He also broke the SEC yardage record in a season with 4,715, and to top it all off, shattered the NCAA completion record (78%). This team is electrifying, reminding me a lot of the Kansas City Chiefs last season; Joe Burrow is the Patrick Mahomes, and Ja’Marr Chase is Tyreek Hill.
So, what’s at stake for this fast and fun team? Well, it’s all about the finish. Just like in storytelling, the middle portion is important, but the final section will leave a lasting impression. Also, LSU is the team representing the SEC conference, and bringing a national championship to Baton Rogue will continue that mindset of “hardest conference in college football”.
- Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten Champion)
It was inevitable that we would see the Buckeyes in the field again. This will be the third time they’ve made it in. They first won it all, in the first year the CFP was created back in 2015. And then in 2017, they were shutout by Clemson in the semi-final. If LSU is the oldest child and the doctor, Ohio State is the middle with a career in physical therapy, still important but not the same carryover. The Big Ten had an interesting year, where it looked like Wisconsin was going to be a dark horse team led by future first-round pick running back Johnathon Taylor, but then they had that upset vs Illinois. But the one consistent thing, Ohio State. They have the highest margin of victory in the nation, with final scores like 48-7 or 73-14 against conference opponents. The Buckeyes were led by first full-year head coach Ryan Day, and transfer quarterback Justin Fields. Normally with a lot of new faces at important positions, it causes a collapse in team morale, but luckily this was not the case, for one football team in Ohio. The advantage Ohio State has over LSU is their defense. Led by Heisman finalist, Chase Young, who was projected to be a Top 5 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, already dismissed the option and is returning to the red and silver. He’s going to want to put on a showing in these playoffs, to give him all the draft momentum and Heisman buzz next season, similar to Trevor Lawrence or Tua Tagovailoa recently.
The pressure for the Buckeyes comes with a history. The last time they were in this position, they were shut out by Clemson. Can they overcome the rematch this time?
- Clemson Tigers (ACC Champion)
The defending National Champions, back in the Top 4. The Tigers are currently on a streak, in being five-straight College Football Playoffs. Not the “talk of the town” team we are used to in years past. That could be due to Clemson was never challenged, and waltzed to another undefeated season. Their best win was Texas A&M, which is weak in comparison to the rest of the field. Also, the time they almost lost to North Carolina on the road in overtime, added more fuel to the flame. After the National Championship beatdown vs Alabama last year, Trevor Lawrence was seen as the best quarterback in the nation. Now, you don’t hear much about him or the team anymore. He didn’t have a bad sophomore year, but a disappointment from what he was projected in the preseason. Interesting note, Lawrence is the only quarterback in this College Football Playoff that’s not a transfer.
There are two things Clemson has to prove. The first is how everyone has been writing this team off. It seems that we forget, these are the defending National Champions, and they don’t want to give that title away so easily.
The second thing Clemson has for stakes is eras and Alabama. The 2010s was the Nick Saban era. The Crimson Tide won five titles in the decade, and in the beginning won three, in four years. Clemson, on the other hand, won two titles, 2016 and last year. Here’s the asterisk here, Alabama isn’t in the playoff this year. If Clemson defends their title and wins another championship, they would win three, in four years, going into the 2020s. The Tigers have an opportunity to begin the Dabo Swinney era in the college football world.
- Oklahoma Sooners (Big 12 Champion)
Similar to above with Clemson, the Sooners have made a few appearances recently in the CFP. This will be their 3rd appearance, and both had them go against SEC teams; Georgia in the Rose Bowl, and Alabama in the Orange Bowl. That SEC trend will continue, this time against LSU. So, Oklahoma has some experience with SEC in big moments, and that’s something they should take with them. The Sooners are the only team of the four to lose a game, as they lost to Kansas State on the road. However they took that loss as momentum when they came back 28-3 at Baylor and then won the Big 12 with a rematch vs the Baylor Bears.
Even though Oklahoma has made the cut in the Top 4, they still haven’t won the trophy yet. But just like with anything, all things eventually come to an end at some point. One of these years, the Sooners will be crowned National Champions, the question is, this the year? The last time a Big 12 team was crowned was Texas in 2005.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org