The dawn of a new college football season is upon us.
More than six months removed from a forgettable BCS National Championship Game — Alabama trounced Notre Dame, 42-14 — the race to the 2014 title will begin in earnest Aug. 29 when North Carolina visits South Carolina.
The 2013 season should also be a celebration, for it is the last hurrah of the crooked Bowl Championship Series system, which, for a decade, has been the target of heaping amounts of criticism concerning the proper crowning of a true national champion.
Thus, a four-team playoff was created, simply titled the College Football Playoff, that will take effect beginning with the 2014 season.
That leaves fans to wonder how the current season would have played out had the College Football Playoff started this season.
It’s certainly a fair question deserving of exploration, as the preseason top 25 seems wide open aside from the dynasty that continues to churn at the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide have won three of the past four national championships.
Yet to gain clarity surrounding what a four-team playoff would shake out this season, paring down the rankings to a top 10 is necessary, and the following are my own preseason top-10 teams:
2. Ohio State
6. Texas A&M
8. South Carolina
Many will likely scoff at this notion, but I sincerely believe that four (yes, four) teams could finish with undefeated records this season: Ohio State, Louisville, Stanford and Clemson.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes face only one true road test during the regular season, traveling to Ann Arbor, Mich., to face bitter rival Michigan the Saturday following Thanksgiving.
Should Ohio State win that final contest and win the games it should before that, the Buckeyes would head to the Big Ten Conference Championship Game, which I also have them winning, regardless of opponent.
Stanford: For the Cardinal to traverse its 2013 schedule unscathed, it must pass three looming obstacles: UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame. Luckily for Coach David Shaw, each of those three contests will be played at Stanford Stadium.
The Cardinal’s matchup against Oregon could very well turn out to be a season-altering game on the national stage, as I’ve predicted the Ducks to finish 11-1, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Stanford. It will also likely decide which team represents the North Division in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Should Stanford advance to that title game, it would likely face a rematch with UCLA, which is poised to win the Pac-12’s South Division.
Louisville: The Cardinals of Louisville have been blessed with a very fortunate set of circumstances. The school’s new conference, the American Athletic Conference, is in its first season as a BCS bowl affiliate.
And with Louisville’s watered-down schedule as a result of its new conference, it would be considered a shock if the Cardinals didn’t finish undefeated.
Should that scenario play out, Louisville would top last season’s Sugar Bowl victory against Florida.
Clemson: The Tigers are a surprise selection to finish undefeated, though it’s certainly not out of the question. The Tigers have the opportunity to establish themselves early, playing Georgia at home to begin the season Aug. 31.
The other evident road bumps appear to be Florida State and South Carolina, the latter being a road date in Columbia, S.C.
Because Florida State has a history of entering a midseason lull, the Tigers should be the favorites in that contest, leaving only the matchup with intrastate rival South Carolina as a barrier between the Tigers and an undefeated season.
A date in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game would await against a bottom tier conference team from the Coastal Division.
College Football Playoff: By way of strength of schedule, the seeding order would begin with No. 1 Stanford, followed by No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Louisville.
That order would set up playoff games between No. 1 Stanford and No. 4 Louisville, along with No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State.
With Stanford’s seemingly impenetrable defense peaking at the right time, the Cardinal would easily defeat Louisville. And with Urban Meyer and his big-game experience leading Ohio State, the Buckeyes would earn a hard-fought victory against Clemson.
That would leave America with a national championship matchup of Stanford against Ohio State, a game that would certainly be more entertaining than last season’s bore of a title game.
While Stanford’s defense is a notch above Ohio State’s, the Buckeyes’ explosive offense, led by quarterback Braxton Miller, would put enough points on the scoreboard to squeak by the Cardinal.
But for now, we’re stuck with one more season of the BCS, though a date between Ohio State and Stanford in the Vizio BCS National Championship Game could certainly become a reality.