It looks fairly clear-cut, right?
Maybe that’s true. For now. For this week.
But even though the College Football Playoff semifinalists seem to be falling into place, that doesn’t mean we’re gong to have prefect symmetry for the remainder of this season. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that won’t occur.
History says so.
There are five unbeaten teams remaining — four from the Power Five conferences and one (Western Michigan) from the Group of Five.
Here are this week’s current favorites:
No. 1: ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
So Far: 8-0 (coming off a bye week; opened the season by defeating USC 52-6, Western Kentucky 38-10, Ole Miss 48-43, Kent State 48-0, Kentucky 34-6, Arkansas 49-30, Tennessee 49-10 and Texas A&M 33-14).
Synopsis: The Crimson Tide are the nation’s unquestioned dynasty. They have won 20 straight games and are putting up points in a flurry. Unless something drastic happens, Alabama will be positioned to play for its fifth national title in the past eight seasons.
Who’s Next: The Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 SEC) travel to LSU (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday night for a prime-time showdown in the SEC West. Alabama has five straight victories in the series, including a 21-0 victory in the BCS Championship Game to follow the 2011 season.
No. 2: CLEMSON TIGERS
So Far: 8-0 (defeated Florida State 37-34; opened the season by defeating Auburn 19-13, Troy 30-20, South Carolina State 59-0, Georgia Tech 26-7, Louisville 42-36, Boston College 56-10 and N.C. State 24-17 in overtime).
Synopsis: Clemson won its ninth consecutive road game and prevailed in Tallahassee for the first time since 2006 with an insane fourth-quarter performance. With remaining games against Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and South Carolina, the Tigers are solid favorites to finish 12-0 heading into the ACC Championship Game. There’s work remaining, but Clemson can see the finish line. The resume looks pretty good with wins against Auburn, Louisville and FSU.
Who’s Next: Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC) hosts the Syracuse Orange (4-4, 2-2). Syracuse, coming off a bye week, has a two-game winning streak with victories against Virginia Tech and Boston College. Clemson is 3-0 against Syracuse since the Orange joined the ACC, winning by an average margin of 18.3 points per game.
No. 3: WASHINGTON HUSKIES
So Far: 8-0 (defeated Utah 31-24. Opened the season by defeating Rutgers 48-13, Idaho 59-14, Fresno State 41-3, Arizona 35-28, Stanford 44-6, Oregon 70-21 and Oregon State 41-17).
Synopsis: Washington is taking advantage of a topsy-turvy year in the Pac-12 — Stanford and Oregon have disappeared; USC began very slowly — and appears to be marching toward what looks like a very monumental Apple Cup (the annual rivalry game against Washington State). The Huskies did it again Saturday, defeating a very good Utah team behind the continued excellent performance of sophomore QB Jake Browning.
Who’s Next: Washington (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) travels to California (4-4, 2-3) on Saturday. The Golden Bears, coming off a 45-24 defeat at USC, have followed a win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss pattern this season.
No. 4: MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
So Far: 8-0 (defeated Michigan State 32-23; opened the season by defeating Hawaii 63-3, UCF 51-14, Colorado 45-28, Penn State 49-10, Wisconsin 14-7, Rutgers 78-0 and Illinois 41-8).
Synopsis: Michigan won at Michigan State for the first time since 2007, finally getting a leg up in the rivalry that has been recently dominated by the Spartans.
Who’s Next: The Wolverines (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) host the Maryland Terrapins (5-3, 2-3), who are coming off a 42-36 loss against Indiana. In 2014, Maryland won at Michigan 23-16, which effectively closed the lid on the Brady Hoke era, but the Wolverines won 28-0 last season.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan (Peach Bowl) — Alabama is accustomed to this position. Michigan, despite its lofty history, is not. So it seems like a given to pick the Crimson Tide here, although Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines have the makings of a program that will get back to this playoff spot — again and again. Winner: Alabama.
No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Washington (Fiesta Bowl) — Clemson, after last season’s appearance in the national-title game, has been a target all season and seems to have it rolling after a somewhat pedestrian start. Washington hasn’t been a realistic national-championship contender since 1991, when it shared the title with Miami. Experience (and the savvy of Tiger QB Deshaun Watson) wins out. Winner: Clemson.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Clemson (Raymond James Stadium, Tampa) — Alabama coach Nick Saban has been in this high-level position before. Plenty of times, actually. Now it’s a rematch of last season’s title game, won by Alabama, 45-40. Clemson has waited an entire year for another opportunity, but the challenge remains daunting. Alabama, after all, is Alabama. Winner: Alabama.
WELCOME TO TAMPA
To get you in the mood for a potential trip to Tampa’s College Football Playoff championship game, we will offer a weekly primer in the city’s culture, folklore, cuisine and history.
The population of the Tampa Bay area — the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area — is nearing 3 million. About 200 people move to the area each day, accounting for about one-fifth of the total migration into Florida. The area’s population surpassed the 1-million mark in about 1970.