Final Thoughts: What's Going To Happen?

Fiutak from L.A. with the late thoughts on the two playoff games

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- The one takeaway from all else here – I’m in L.A. - is that from the coaches, to the players, to the media, to the buzz, to the atmosphere, to the conversations, no one is quite sure what to make of what this playoff thing really is. It’s the Rose Bowl, but it’s not a bowl in the traditional sense since it’s not a reward, it’s not an exhibition, and it’s not supposed to be the final destination. Neither team really seems interested in winning the Rose Bowl since the big prize in Dallas – even if both sides are saying they’re focused on winning in Pasadena first.

- Apparently, it’s a much, much different atmosphere in New Orleans. It’s more like a bowl game, and it’s more of a celebration. Here, the lead up to the Rose Bowl feels like an insurance convention.

- Actually, this feels like a really, really, really big non-conference game. It doesn’t feel like the Rose Bowl and it certainly doesn’t feel like the BCS Championship of last year. There’s no real celebration in any way about what this really is.

- It’ll be interesting to see how this morphs over the coming years, and I’ll be curious to see how things are in Dallas for the title game. This hasn’t taken on a college basketball Final Four life of its own quite yet.

- Los Angeles has been really, really cold, and it rained for most of the week, but that’s no big deal. What does stink is the location of the media hotel in the downtown area that’s cut off from the rest of human civilization.

- There L.A. Hotel is nice, the staff is awesome, and the media lounge area rules, but there aren’t any fans here. There are College Football Playoff and Rose Bowl signs, but take one step out of the hotel – which I’ve done once in three days to get Jimmy John’s – and you’d never know that college football exists. There’s no atmosphere, and there’s also not a lot of media since everyone is split in half between here and Louisiana.

- And I have yet to go 14 seconds so far without a caffeinated beverage of some sort and/or a snack from the media hospitality area.

- There are local teams covering both Florida State and Oregon, and many of the big national guys – Dennis Dodd, Pat Forde, Ralph Russo, Malcolm Moran, Bruce Feldman (but he’s local), and Tom Rinaldi – are in L.A. because of the Winston-Mariota angle, and because it’s a slightly more compelling matchup, but there’s no radio and there aren’t any local reporters from anywhere outside of Florida and Oregon/Washington.

- After everything that happened with Notre Dame beating LSU, TCU destroying Ole Miss, Georgia Tech running all over Mississippi State, and Boise State getting by Arizona – actually, I called that one – I’m not quite sure what’s about to happen in the two playoff games. I don’t know if there’s anything to take from the bowl season and apply it to the two big games, or if they’re simply going to be entities unto themselves. This has turned into a tough puzzle to figure out.

- But the anti-SEC backlash and narrative has quickly taken over, and rightly so. Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Arkansas did just fine, but no one seems to notice or care at this point. The SEC West lost three games to non-SEC West teams in the last 36 hours of 2014 after losing four all season.

- How do you possibly read Alabama now? The Crimson Tide struggled to put away Mississippi State, needed a miraculous late drive and overtime to beat LSU, and lost to Ole Miss. I’ve said to watch out and to not overthink or overrate Alabama based on blowing up on Auburn’s bad D and beating a mediocre Missouri, but I never, ever thought the games against the two Mississippi schools and LSU were in question.

- I have absolutely no real read on the Rose Bowl. Oregon might come out like TCU and bring a massive attitude, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Florida State looked like it was shot out of a cannon and overwhelmed the Ducks.

- I just don’t think Ohio State can get it done. I’m still not 100% sold quite yet on the Big Ten, and I’m not ready to buy into the idea that the Buckeyes’ wins were all that great. Obviously, that tune can be changed in a hurry.

- The AP’s Ralph Russo and I tried to make sense of the entire playoff process and what would be best for college football come late night on January 1st. We decided that while the idea of No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Oregon would be intriguing and certainly fun for most college football fans, but the far, far bigger storyline and the far more interesting narrative will be if Florida State wins the Rose Bowl.

- Think of how the discussion would change in a hurry if the Seminoles win. All of a sudden, this doesn’t just become a team that squeaked by week after week and probably should’ve lost two games, maybe more. This becomes a team on a 30-game winning streak shooting for its second straight unbeaten season and national title. This would then become all about Jameis Winston and – doorknob streak and all - the possibility of putting him on the Greatest College Quarterback short list.

- And if it’s Florida State vs. Alabama, there’s going to be plenty of national angst.

- According to almost every local Florida State media type I’ve talked to, this is a team full of good guys. The program and school might come across as slightly slimy after everything that’s been happening, and Jimbo Fisher doesn’t always get painted in the best of lights, and Jameis is Jameis, but the people who cover the program seem to like this team. This isn’t a team full of villains.

- Whatever happens will be overanalyzed and overscrutinized for future playoff teams. Nick Saban has supposedly been relatively lax on curfew and letting the players have a good time, but if Alabama lays an egg against Ohio State, you know that’s going to change.

- Florida State definitely seems bored with the process. Last year’s team was ultra-confident, super energetic, and seemingly just waiting to bust out and start playing. This year’s team is more business-like and matter-of-fact. It’s apparent that the Seminoles just want to play the game already.

- On the other hand, Oregon seems a bit more pumped. If it’s possible to read one team as hungrier, Oregon is it.

- If you’re looking for a Rose Bowl X and O factor, it’s all about conditioning for Florida State. Most of the players were ecstatic after getting a month off – Georgia Tech’s cut blocking and style of play is a killer – and the legs, the injuries, the bumps and the bruises are all fine. On the other hand, not playing a football game for so long could be a nightmare on the Seminole lungs in the fourth quarter.

- I don’t think either defense comes up with a stop. I’m expecting over 1,000 yards of total offense and lots and lots and lots of points.

- The Sugar Bowl is going to be a shootout, too. Alabama is going to dare Cardale Jones to have a big game, and he will.

- Crazy thought that might not be so insane if he has a huge game – with time, seasoning, experience and development, and with his massive deep-ball arm, Jones just might turn out to be the best pro quarterback prospect coming out of the 2015 College Football Playoff.

- By the way, no one is even remotely thinking that Mariota, Winston or Amari Cooper will be around for another year of college.

- The reporting has Braxton Miller as possibly thinking about Florida State, but Oregon is the more interesting option.

- Baylor might have some say in this depending on what it does against Michigan State, but after what TCU did, the screaming will be through the roof from Big 12 fans if Ohio State stinks it up.

- The final, official predictions? Oregon 38, Florida State 34, but even that’s probably way too low. It’ll probably be more like 45-40, while Alabama will figure it out in the second half and pull away just enough to be comfortable, but Ohio State will come up with a late score. Alabama 34, Ohio State 27.

- Happy New Year. Really. Have a happy one. Enjoy yourself. Eat more pie.

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