- Our projected final four teams at midseason aren't all chalk. Just our national champion.
Just before the 2017 season kicked off, SI’s writers and editors turned in predictions that balanced a healthy amount of respect for the trendy favorites with some bold guesses about this year’s best teams. Fast-forward eight weeks, and Alabama has drained the drama from our midseason projections. All seven staffers polled have the Crimson Tide winning their second national title in three years, and although there’s some variance within our playoff fields, none of us seem to have really left the door open for debate on who the best team in college football is.
Read on for our Midseason Crystal Ball, featuring predictions for each New Year’s Six matchup and our explanations for sending the trophy back to Tuscaloosa.
College Football Playoff
New Year's Six Bowl Matchups
Why We All Picked Alabama to Win It All
Andy Staples: As the season has gone on, I keep asking which team is the most complete. Who can pressure the quarterback, cover receivers and generate explosive plays on offense? Alabama and Penn State feel like the most complete teams so far, and Alabama feels more complete than Penn State.
Bruce Feldman: Urban Meyer vs. Nick Saban for a national title is a pretty tasty matchup. This time I think the Tide will do a better job against the Buckeyes’ run game than they did against Ezekiel Elliott in the semifinal three years ago. Ohio State has an interesting path to the title game, including a huge game two weeks from now against Penn State. Expect the Nittany Lions to get past Michigan, but the back end of their double is tricky: The Buckeyes will be out for revenge in Columbus coming off a bye week. Despite being down from where the conference was in recent years, the SEC will be the first league to get two teams into the final four after Georgia runs the table in the regular season before falling to Alabama in the SEC title game. Meanwhile, both the Pac-12 and the Big 12 get snubbed as the latter’s new title game ends up costing it a playoff spot.
Joan Niesen: I’m going all SEC now in my national title game, a decision I’m sure I’ll come to regret when Georgia loses to Florida or South Carolina. (This is one of those instances where I love everything I see on the field from the Bulldogs but can’t quite wrap my head around why I’m not fully on board.) Before the season, I had Penn State in Georgia’s place, but watching Ohio State’s offense lately, I think the Buckeyes will get in over the Nittany Lions—but I don’t think they’ll get past Georgia, which I’ve subbed in for a USC team that hasn’t lived up to my expectations. I’ve still got Alabama winning it all, though, because I’ve seen no evidence to the contrary yet.
Chris Johnson: This was an easy pick before the season, and it’s an easy pick now. The Crimson Tide have not played a close game yet. That may change when they face Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the Iron Bowl, followed by a likely matchup with Georgia in the SEC title game, but it’s not clear either of those teams are on Alabama’s level yet. We’ve grown accustomed to the Crimson Tide thrashing their conference competition during Saban’s tenure, but their 2017 season has been atypically devoid of drama. If this team has a fatal flaw, no opponent has exposed it yet. It seems doubtful that Gus Malzahn or Kirby Smart will.
Eric Single: Oklahoma’s loss to Iowa State came so close to midseason that it seems to have thrown many people off the Sooners’ scent, but to me Baker Mayfield is the only individual player with half a chance of throwing Alabama off its game the way other recent superstar quarterbacks have in toppling the Tide. But even if that defense survives a brutal Big 12 home stretch, it doesn’t look like it will have enough to contain Jalen Hurts and Damien Harris.
Molly Geary: Until the Crimson Tide give us any reason to doubt their status as the favorite, their dominant performance so far this season will speak for itself. It’s true that Alabama doesn’t have a win over anyone in the current Top 25, but let’s not forget that it was dominating Florida State even before the Seminoles’ season was turned on its head by the injury to quarterback Deondre Francois.
Scooby Axson: Only one team in the nation is close to being a complete outfit. Although Alabama can use its running game to beat up on most teams, it hasn’t yet been forced to win by throwing the ball. My other three projected semifinalists have quarterbacks that have the potential to give Alabama fits, but their defenses, especially Oklahoma’s, would be challenged to slow down the Tide. Alabama’s redemption tour has no other ending but the school’s fifth championship in the last nine seasons.