One month before Signing Day, about nine months before the start of the 2017 season, and almost a full calendar year before the next College Football Playoff kicks off, let's go ahead and sketch out the sort of thing we might be looking at next time around.
Clemson won this year's edition, but will the Tigers make it back next time, likely minus QB Deshaun Watson?
Below are some guesses based on likely returning rosters, out-of-conference schedules, general eyeballin', coaching situations, and so forth. These could change wildly between now and August, and if the idea of guessing about such a thing this far in advance disturbs you, please do not email me about it. Leave a comment below on this website.
Next year, the Playoff is back to its original rotation: the Rose and Sugar on New Year's Day. This is good for many reasons. Those are the best and biggest stages, New Year's Day is college football's day, and this frees up the other New Year's bowls a little bit better than the 2015 or 2016 rotations did. Next year's title game is set for Atlanta.
|College Football Playoff|
Jan. 1, Pasadena, CA
|#2 Ohio State||#3 Florida State||Playoff semifinals|
Jan. 1, New Orleans
|#1 Alabama||#4 Oklahoma||Playoff semifinals|
Jan. 13, Atlanta
|Alabama||Ohio State||Rose winner vs. Sugar winner|
|New Year's Six bowls|
|Louisville||Georgia||ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND|
And you know what else is set for Atlanta? A season opener between Bama and FSU. Those two teams are Nos. 1 and 2 in the super early 2017 title odds, meaning Vegas would not at all be shocked if the two teams got an in-season rematch in the same building to close the season.
Ohio State as the No. 1 seed looks pretty wobbly, and I considered changing it after the Buckeyes lost, 31-0, to Clemson in the Fiesta. But Urban Meyer seems to be shoring up his coaching staff nicely, the Bucks return a lot from a rebuilding team, Meyer's gonna use "31-0" as a monstrous motivational tool all offseason, and they have one of the very few rosters that can compare to Bama's in raw talent. Plus, Michigan should take a step back in the Big Ten East.
No, I'm not writing off Penn State. PSU could easily be considered the East favorite. PSU-OSU is in Columbus, FWIW.
This would mean the Pac-12 missing the Playoff for a second time. USC would probably be my early pick to win it over Washington and make it in, if I weren't dodging the question by just throwing them both in at-large bowls.
Oklahoma seems like an automatic choice to win the Big 12.
I like Georgia to give the SEC East a little bit of pride back, with a lot returning from a decent team, including a rising sophomore QB in Jacob Eason and a recruiting class that could include instant contributors.
Lamar Jackson's Louisville needs some stability and consistency, but should be a popular pick all offseason.
USF should be this year's Washington, aka the team that surprises people who take a look at the early rankings and were only paying minimal attention the year before. The Bulls under Willie Taggart had one of the country's best offenses, and if new head coach Charlie Strong can build up the defense enough to counter any offensive losses, the Bulls should be the AAC favorite.