Gone are the days of the BCS system, the worst poll system in the history of poll systems. Now, four teams battle for the (sort of?) clear-cut title of National Champion. Chosen by a committee rather than a computer system, the four “best” teams in college football earn a chance to compete for the national title. Who are those sleeper teams, those teams outside of the Top 10 that can sneak their way into the CFB Playoff? Here are my top three sleeper picks for the CFB Playoff.
Last year, Washington did not exactly shock the football world, ending the season at 7-6. Going deeper than overall record, Washington was less than stellar against teams that ended the season in the AP Top 25, with a 2-3 record. The inconsistency against top competition is directly related to the inexperience and growing pains experienced by then freshman quarterback Jake Browning. Still, Browning, the first true freshman to start at QB for Washington since Marques Tuiasosopo in 1997, put together an above-average year, ending with 2,955 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Washington also returns their leading rusher, Myles Gaskin, and third-leading receiver, Dante Pettis. Washington plays three teams ranked in the Pre-Season AP Top 25, #8 Stanford, #24 Oregon (just one week after Stanford), and #20 USC. The Pac-12 is slowly returning to perennial stardom, but a weak non-conference schedule will come back to hurt Washington in the end. Their best shot will be if they run the table, securing signature victories against Pac-12 powerhouses Stanford, Oregon, and USC. Even with that, a lot more needs to go right for the Huskies.
Lamar Jackson made the UNC-Charlotte defense look silly on Thursday night. Now, all he has to do is repeat that performance against ACC defenses. Easy enough right? In his second year in Bobby Petrino’s system, a system that is historically favorable for quarterbacks. Jackson already established himself as a legitimate threat when running, setting the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a career with 960 yards. Jackson seemed to make advances as a passer, albeit against a team that probably won’t win 5 games this year. The real test will come when Jackson has to face defenses like Clemson and Florida State. Signature wins against two preseason Top 25 teams in Clemson and FSU would all but solidify a spot in the playoffs for the Cardinals. A win against Houston in November would make that playoff birth a virtual guarantee. Can they do it? If Jackson continues to develop, there is a very strong chance we will see Louisville playing as one of the last four teams standing.
How can Georgia topple SEC power Alabama? Two words: Nick Chubb. Chubb can flat-out run the ball. When he’s healthy, which hasn’t been the case for awhile, Chubb is among the best running backs in the NCAA. In just six games last season, Chubb ran for 747 yards and 7 touchdowns. He averaged a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry. That is beyond video game numbers. As a freshman in 2014, Chubb was the SEC Freshman of the Year, and a Freshman All-American. He saw action in 13 games, but made just 8 starts. Still, he ran for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns. Imagine what he can do when he starts every single game for this Georgia team. The Bulldogs will be tested early, with three of their first 5 games against preseason Top 25 teams, including two in the top 15. If they can come out of that stretch at 4-1 or even 5-0, there really isn’t another team other than Florida that should give Georgia trouble. Then again, this is the SEC. Upsets are always lurking. But, with the combined experience of senior QB Grayson Lambert, and Chubb, a junior, the ‘Dogs can call upon their leadership to navigate a difficult opening schedule.
The best part about college football is the unpredictability. It’s what we love. This season, the race for the playoffs is as wide-open as ever. Get ready for a season worth of excitement.