The new College Football Playoff automatically doubles the number of teams in contention for the national championship, but it also ensures at least one of the big five major conference champions will be left out. Here’s our pick for the four who will make it there:
How the Seminoles will get there: Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston returns to a victory tour that should contain a bumper crop of victories in ACC play.
Hurdles they face: Losing NG Timmy Jernigan and CB Lamarcus Joyner are big blows to a defense that led the nation in scoring. All-American CB Ronald Darby and LB Terrance Smith will have to compensate.
How the Gamecocks will get there: Dylan Thompson leads South Carolina to the top of the contentious SEC East, even without Jadeveon Clowney.
Hurdles they face: Georgia on Sept. 13 always sets the tone, and there’s at least one loss among trips to Auburn, Florida and Clemson.
The Gamecocks can make the CFP semifinals if they win the East, then the SEC Championship Game over Alabama. Hey, we can’t go all chalk.
How the Ducks will get there: Marcus Mariota quarterbacks another explosive offense, a job he could parlay into a CFP berth and the Heisman.
Hurdles they face: Don Pellum replaces retired defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, and there were big losses in the front seven. The Ducks must survive the 1-2 punch of a trip to UCLA on Oct. 11 and a home game against Stanford on Nov. 1.
How the Sooners will get there: Bob Stoops is still smirking after popping the balloon of SEC superiority with OU’s 45-31 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Confidence counts for a lot, and the Sooners are rolling in it.
Hurdles they face: The must-win game of the year in the Big 12 will be Nov. 8 when Baylor invades Norman.
The Sooners can add a CFP title if Trevor Knight can be the next great OU quarterback.