My picks for the first College Football Playoff: Michigan State, Florida State, South Carolina and UCLA
National champion: Michigan State
Why Michigan State will win it all: QB Connor Cook showed what he was made of in leading MSU to victories to end last season over Ohio State and Stanford in the Rose Bowl. ... RB Jeremy Langford is back after rushing for 1,422 yards and 18 TDs ... MSU also returns 7 of its top 8 receivers ... Defensively, MSU still has defensive coordinator extraordinaire Pat Narduzzi and FS Kurtis Drummond (91 tackles, 4 INTs in 2013), DE Shilique Calhoun (7.5 sacks in 2013), MLB Taiwan Jones and CB Trae Waynes (3 INTs in 2013). ... I think MSU wins at Oregon on Sept. 6 and then goes undefeated in B10 play and beats Wisconsin in the B10 title game.
Why Michigan State won't win it all: MSU has to replace three starters on the offensive line. ... The defense has to replace 6 starters. ... If the Spartans lose at Oregon on Sept. 6, that will gut MSU's momentum.
The rest of the Final Four:
Why FSU makes the playoff: Seminoles aren't the lock for this year's playoff that they seem to be. But FSU's offense is loaded with the O-line back, protecting Jameis Winston and opening holes for RB Karlos Williams (730 yards, 11 TDs, 8.0 ypc). Leading WR Rashad Greene (1,128 yards receiving, 9 TDs in 2013) is also back. ... The defense has to replace 5 of its top 6 tacklers. But when you look around the ACC for potential threats, Clemson, North Carolina and Miami (Fla) are all breaking in new QBs.
Why FSU won't make the playoff: The magic of Winston has worn off, and the chemistry isn't there to defend the title, allowing a team like Notre Dame or Florida (or both) to rise up and knock the Seminoles off.
Why South Carolina makes the playoff: The Gamecocks avoid Alabama and LSU from the SEC West and get Texas A&M at home (Thursday). SC also gets Georgia at home, where the Gamecocks haven't lost since 2011. ... SC has one of the best O-lines in college football. ... QB Dylan Thompson is a senior who led SC to a win at Central Florida last year (UCF's only loss). He can play. ... RB Mike Davis is one of the best in the country. ... SC also returns 9 of its top 10 pass catchers from last year, including WRs Demiere Byrd and Shaq Roland. ... The defense has key returning talent at every level of the D, including stud OLB Skai Moore, the team's leading tackler in 2013.
Why South Carolina won't make the playoff: Dylan Thompson proves unready to handle the big stage.
Why UCLA makes the playoff: The Bruins return 17 starters from a 10-win team. ... Bret Hundley is the best QB in college football because of his ability to run (748 yards rushing, 4.7 ypc, 11 TD) and the fact he's a 67 percent passer who threw for 3,000 yards and 24 TDs and 9 INTs in 2013. ... UCLA returns its top 4 rushers, including two-way player LB-RB Myles Jack, who posted 75 tackles while rushing for 7 TDs last season. ... UCLA has a veteran O-line, and on defense, 4 of its top 5 tacklers return, including leading tackler Eric Kendricks (106 tackles in 2013). ... UCLA gets its toughest games at home vs Oregon, USC and Stanford (even Texas is a home game at Jerryworld).
Why UCLA won't make the playoff: The Bruins don't handle the hype and lose their edge.
Big 12: Baylor
Big Ten: Michigan State over Wisconsin
SEC: South Carolina over Ole Miss
Pac-12: UCLA over Stanford
ACC: Florida State over North Carolina
MY UPSET CALLS THIS SEASON:
* Wisconsin over LSU at NRG Stadium in Houston Saturday
* Michigan State wins at Oregon on Sept. 6
* Kansas State beats Auburn in Manhattan on Sept 18
* Miss State over LSU in Baton Rouge on Sept. 20
* Ole Miss over Alabama in Oxford on Oct. 4
* Maryland over Ohio State (at Maryland) on Oct. 4
* Texas over Oklahoma in the RRS on Oct. 11
Thoughts? Flame away.
Chip's predictions for 2014 CFB season
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