By Chris Murphy
With the season coming down its final weeks, it is crunch time for any and all College Football Playoff hopefuls. It is also crunch time for College Football Playoff predictions. Perhaps the question you will hear most over the next two weeks is “who’s in?”, and everyone has an answer along with an explanation.
If you take a survey of all these answers and write them down, you will probably end up with the following list of teams: Alabama, Ohio State, Washington, Clemson, and Penn State/Wisconsin. Of these 6 teams, some will have Penn State, some will have Ohio State, and some will have Wisconsin. But very few will have multiple Big Ten teams, even two seems a little much to have.
In a season of big risks and outlandish statements, I’m going to make one myself: Three Big Ten teams deserve to be in the College Football Playoff. Those three teams should be Ohio State, Michigan, and the winner of Penn State/Wisconsin. These three, combined with Alabama, should be the top four come the final Playoff Rankings. Along with this idea, I’m here to try and convince you why this Playoff scenario should be considered.
It’s Championship Week, and the picks are in! This week we have Sam Michaelson and Max Kaplan joining us for the first time. Last week, Jay Hashop was the only one to pick Atlanta, and therefore the only writer to get two games correct, bringing his record to 6-2 so far. This week he is sticking with them, while the other writers aren’t convinced.
If you’d like to see us justify a bunch of picks that were eventually wrong, here are last week’s picks.
Jay Hashop: Atlanta; Much of San Fransisco’s offensive success against the Packers followed as a result of their 8-for-13 mark on third down. That 62% rate seems anomalous given that the 49ers converted a subpar 36% on third down in Kaepernick’s regular season starts. Atlanta’s run game looked revitalized against Seattle, providing the necessary balance the Falcons will need to continue toward the Super Bowl.
Sam Michaelson: San Francisco; While everyone seems to be discussing Kaepernick’s record-breaking rushing performance, aside from his early interception, he was also nearly perfect through the air. Russell Wilson showed that the Falcons defense is susceptible to a scrambling/playmaking quarterback in the second half last week, and I fully expect Kaepernick to exploit these weaknesses as well. Matt Ryan will need a monster game against arguably the best defense in the league to keep up with the ‘9ers balanced attack.
Max Kaplan: San Francisco; The Falcons almost blew it last week. The 49ers, on the other hand, approached 600 yards. They already had a top defense (2nd to only Seattle in the regular season). The Falcons were the #1 seed and have home field advantage (7-1 in the regular season), but the 49ers just looked unstoppable against the Packers. Kaepernick runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, and the Niners will run their way into the Super Bowl.
Chad Horner: San Francisco; The 49ers are better than the Falcons in passing and rushing DVOA on both offense and defense. They’re simply the better team. If Atlanta is to win, it’ll have to be through the air – they’re 29th in rushing offense DVOA, while San Fran is 2nd in rushing defense. However, the Falcons are only 2-3 in games in which Matt Ryan throws over 40 passes. I think the Niners will run all over Atlanta and win big.