Two of the four teams in the College Football Playoff a year ago were first-timers — Michigan and Cincinnati — but most predictions don't see that happening this season.
Athlon Sports recently published its preseason college football magazine, and judging by its own projection, expect to see more of the same this fall.
College Football Playoff prediction
According to Athlon Sports
Fiesta Bowl: Georgia vs. Ohio State
Peach Bowl: Alabama vs. Clemson
There are certainly no first-timers among this group, all of whom have won a national championship in the College Football Playoff era.
Alabama leads the way with three CFP titles, followed by Clemson at two, while Ohio State won the first in 2014-15, and Georgia the most recent.
And all four represent arguably the best group of rosters in college football this season, including the best sets of skill position players in the country.
National Championship Game: Alabama vs. Ohio State
National Champion: Alabama
Clemson and Georgia go down in their semifinal games, according to Athlon's predictions, setting up another matchup between the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes.
With the final edge going to the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, the defending SEC champions who lost to Georgia in the national title game a year ago.
Ohio State returns the core of an offense that ranked No. 1 in college football last season, led by Heisman finalist CJ Stroud at quarterback, but major structural questions remain around the Buckeyes' defensive alignment after the unit proved costly in losses to Oregon and Michigan in 2021.
Few of those questions hover over Alabama's defense, the bulk of which returns with an expected eight returning starters, including linebacker Will Anderson, arguably the single best player in the nation at any position, who ranked No. 1 in sacks and TFLs.
+ Alabama remains the consensus No. 1 team in most preseason college football rankings, armed to the teeth with arguably the most talented roster in the nation. Watch for a road trip to Texas in Week 2 and a mid-October date at home with a resurgent Texas A&M. Win those games, and the Tide could easily be undefeated going into the SEC Championship Game.
+ Clemson is still the most talented team in the ACC, but has structural questions at both coordinator positions and at quarterback after DJ Uiagalelei struggled through a 9 TD, 10 INT outing last fall. And there are games at Notre Dame and against NC State and Wake that will determine if this team stays in the College Football Playoff race.
+ Ohio State should be the kings of the Big Ten again this season with Michigan losing premier playmakers and what should be an improved Buckeye defensive unit under first-year coordinator Jim Knowles. Not to mention the core of what a year ago was the No. 1 total offense in college football. Notre Dame comes to Columbus in Week 1, though.
+ Georgia is college football's reigning national champion for the first time since 1980, and though it loses most of its historically-dominant defense, Kirby Smart has recruited more than well enough for the unit to return plenty enough speed and skill to keep the Bulldogs undefeated en route to what should be another SEC East title.
College Football Playoff records
Alabama leads the way with seven CFP appearances, followed by Clemson at No. 2 with six bids, and Ohio State and Oklahoma tied for third with four appearances.
The Crimson Tide also own playoff records with nine total victories and three national championships and are third with a .692 win percentage.
LSU leads all College Football Playoff teams with a 1.000 win percentage since going 2-0 during its national championship run in 2019.
SEC teams lead the way with 10 appearances and 13 wins, followed by the ACC with eight appearances — Clemson owns six of those — with the Big Ten placing third at six playoff bids, four of which belong to Ohio State.
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