The Final Four…

The Texas flag in Morgantown. (Will Gallagher/IT)

The Texas flag in Morgantown. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Now that the Texas two-deep has been released (Shane Buechele is the starter “today” according to Tom Herman), we can begin to daydream prior to Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff against Maryland.

In researching this column while attempting to intelligently (term used loosely) determine who the final four college football teams will be this season, I discovered that one of the new members of the selection committee has strong OU ties and a dog named after former OU quarterback Sam Bradford.

Let the whining begin…

Seriously, I highly doubt, or at least sort of doubt, that someone would allow their personal allegiances or their dog to affect their football objectivity. Therefore, I’m going to ignore the dog and give you my top four:

4. Stanford –  This is probably silly, considering that the Cardinal lost all-everything back Christian McCaffrey and defensive end Solomon Thomas to the National Football League, but I still can’t take USC and Washington as seriously as I probably should. Washington’s quarterback is coming off surgery and I certainly wasn’t impressed with the Trojans’ defense in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. David Shaw’s team won their final half-dozen games last year, gets Washington at home and faces USC a week before the Trojans play Texas. The Cardinal also have four of five offensive line starters returning from last year, and that is a certifiable big deal. I see no one else on the Pac 12 schedule able to hang with Stanford, so if Shaw’s team can win against SC and Washington, I can totally see Stanford in the playoffs.

3. Florida State - Deshaun Watson isn’t walking through that door for Clemson, so Jimbo Fisher’s club will absolutely win the ACC. The Seminoles will also absolutely lose their early-season game to Alabama (more on the Tide later). However, a loss to Alabama will certainly not kill the Seminoles’ hopes to get into the playoffs, especially when you consider Fisher’s team will be able to redeem themselves later in the schedule with games against Louisville, Clemson, Miami and Florida. If Florida State loses to Alabama and then wins out, the Seminoles will without question be in the final four. Quarterback Deondre Francois is a playmaker who can turn and hand the ball off to another playmaker, running back Cam Akers. The Seminoles are the favorites to win the ACC, which many believe is the best league in the country. Chop-chop.

2. Ohio State - Not normally a fan of Ohio State, but I will make an exception in 2017. After all, the Buckeyes play Oklahoma on September 9, and will get a chance to embarrass Jim Harbaugh at the Big House in late November. Fortunately for Urban Meyer, his toughest game, Penn State, will be played at home. Another bit of good fortune for Ohio State? The Buckeyes will not face an always-tough Wisconsin team until, potentially, the Big 10 championship game. As for Michigan, the Wolverines are incredibly inexperienced, certainly too much so for even Harbaugh to fashion a championship team. J.T. Barrett is back for his eighth season as quarterback for the Buckeyes, who also have a 1,000-yard back in Mike Weber. Four starters return on the offensive line, and seven starters return on defense. Go ahead and dot the i.

1. Alabama - Duh. Every interview or press conference I see with Nick Saban since last year’s loss to Clemson, he seems either pissed off (big surprise) or extremely determined. Either way, it’s bad news for opponents of the Crimson Tide this year. Alabama’s toughest team on the schedule is Florida State, and if Saban’s team can win that one, there will be no remaining losses on the schedule (stop with the Auburn talk). Should lightning or Francois strike and the Seminoles somehow win against Alabama (they won’t), then Saban will be able to ride the Tide hard and successfully for the rest of the season. Jalen Hurts, who came within a whisper of winning the national championship last year, is back and will be improved at quarterback. Damien Harris averaged a cool 7.1 yards per carry last season. Defensively, the Tide will be worse up front, but better in the secondary.

Ho-hum…Alabama wins yet another national championship. You didn’t think Saban will lose two championship games in a row, did you?