Pick Six: Picking the playoff and the national champion

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By Ralph D. Russo | The Associated Press

FILE – In this April 17, 2021, record photo, Georgia backmost JT Daniels (18) throws a walk during their NCAA assemblage shot outpouring crippled successful Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

At this clip past year, trying to marque predictions astir assemblage shot started with guessing whether the play would really scope a conclusion.

Only 60% of FBS conferences kicked disconnected successful September — which explains picking UCF to marque the College Football Playoff successful 2020.

Does it explicate picking Texas? There are lone truthful galore things 1 tin blasted connected the pandemic. (It should beryllium noted that the if-in-doubt-pick-Alabama strategy worked retired great).

College shot is trending backmost toward concern arsenic accustomed successful 2021. Fingers crossed. That should marque projecting who disappoints, overachieves, reaches the playoff and wins the nationalist title overmuch easier.

Right?

UNDERACHIEVERS/OVERACHIEVERS

Three teams that volition commencement the play unranked, but volition finished ranked:

TCU ( 40 points successful the preseason poll ): Coach Gary Patterson seems owed to person a astonishment Big 12 contender with breakout candidates astatine moving backmost (Zachary Evans) and receiver (Quentin Johnson). Beware 5 Big 12 roadworthy games.

Houston (five points). The American Athletic Conference is usually bully for astatine slightest 1 astonishing squad per play (see: Tulsa successful 2020, Navy successful 2019). The Cougars look the portion successful Year 3 nether Dana Holgorsen.

Kentucky (zero points). The Wildcats are a assemblage shot hipster prime to decorativeness 2nd successful the SEC East, with a viral video backmost successful Penn State transportation Will Levis.

Three teams that volition commencement the play ranked, but decorativeness unranked:

No. 13 Florida. The Gators mislaid a batch of firepower and request a large measurement guardant from a defence that was a messiness past season. Oh, look, Alabama’s connected the schedule, too.

No. 17 Indiana. The Hoosiers’ emergence has been a large communicative nether manager Tom Allen, but past season’s milestone wins against Michigan and Penn State volition beryllium pugnacious to repetition connected the road.

No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette. A tiny measurement backmost aft consecutive seasons of double-digits victories for manager Billy Napier’s squad is astir apt capable to relegate the Ragin’ Cajuns to unranked. If they commencement a 2nd consecutive play with a triumph astatine a Big 12 hostile — this clip vs. No. 21 Texas —- this prime goes retired the window.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

Atlantic Coast Conference: Clemson implicit North Carolina. The Tigers instrumentality location a seventh consecutive ACC rubric with a new prima backmost successful D.J. Uiagalelei and a antiaircraft enactment that brings backmost memories of the Christian Wilkins-led Power Rangers that won a nationalist rubric successful 2018.

American Athletic Conference: Cincinnati implicit Houston. The Bearcats marque it 2 consecutive AAC titles down QB Desmond Ridder and enactment unneurotic a superior lawsuit to beryllium included successful the College Football Playoff.

Big 12: Oklahoma implicit TCU. The Sooners marque it 7 consecutive league rubric against the astonishing Horned Frogs. How agelong tin a squad beryllium an outgoing subordinate of a conference?

Big Ten: Wisconsin implicit Ohio State. The Buckeyes person yet to suffer a Big Ten crippled nether third-year manager Ryan Day. Has to hap astatine immoderate point, right? A much explosive Badgers’ discourtesy with QB Graham Mertz breaks the Ohio State grip connected the Big Ten aft 4 consecutive titles.

Conference USA: Western Kentucky implicit UTSA. On the spot of a revamped discourtesy — the Hilltoppers imported a quarterback, 2 receivers and violative coordinator from FCS Houston Baptist —- WKU wins its archetypal C-USA rubric since 2016.

Mid-American Conference: Western Michigan implicit Kent State. The MAC is each astir parity. In the past 5 seasons, 9 antithetic teams person reached the title game. The Broncos person been adjacent the past 2 seasons.

Mountain West: Nevada implicit Boise State. Coach Jay Norvell mightiness person the Wolf Pack’s champion squad since Colin Kaepernick was tearing it up successful Reno. Behind NFL prospects QB Carson Strong and WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada wins its archetypal Mountain West title.

Pac-12: Oregon implicit Utah. The Ducks marque it 3 consecutive Pac-12 titles, with offense-wrecking pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux starring the way. But bash tin they bash capable to get the Pac-12 backmost successful the CFP?

Southeastern Conference: Georgia implicit Alabama. JT Daniels gives the Bulldogs the benignant of dynamic discourtesy they request to interruption done against the Crimson Tide aft 3 crushing losses successful the past 4 seasons.

Sun Belt: Appalachian State implicit Louisiana-Lafayette. App State had won oregon shared the erstwhile 4 Sun Belt titles earlier getting nudged from the apical of the upland past play by Coastal Carolina and ULL. The Mountaineers propulsion backmost this season.

COACHING CAROUSEL

The Southern California and Michigan jobs some travel open, with the bluish bloods each targeting Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. With NFL options, too, Campbell picks USC.

NEW YEAR’S SIX

Rose Bowl — Ohio State vs. Oregon.

Sugar Bowl — Alabama vs. TCU.

Fiesta Bowl —- Texas A&M vs. Cincinnati.

Peach Bowl —- North Carolina vs. LSU.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

Wait! A playoff without Alabama and Ohio State?

Orange Bowl semifinal — No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Wisconsin.

Cotton Bowl semifinal — No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Oklahoma.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Georgia vs. Oklahoma. The Bulldogs triumph that elusive archetypal nationalist title since 1980.

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