FOOTBALL

Playoff bound

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

The excitement about the start of the college football season is just so much more palpable when there's a playoff at the end of the tunnel.

The playoff changes everything. It gives way to matchups that would have never happened if the BCS was still here being the bane of my existence.

Ohio State would have never even sniffed a championship last season. They went from being the final team to get into the playoffs to being crowned the best team in college football.

So, who is this year's Ohio State?

Well, I think that will be Ohio State. Of course, their journey to the championship will be much different.

They're no longer the hunter; they're the hunted.

Either way, you have to have the Buckeyes as the favorites heading into the season.

There is no way they will get complacent as long as Urban Meyer is their coach.

While teams like LSU have trouble finding one good quarterback, they have three guys that could legitimately win the Heisman Trophy.

I think they'll go with Cardale Jones as the starter--the guy that won them the national title--but even if they go with sophomore J.T. Barrett, they're in great hands.

Ezekiel Elliot returns at running back. He's a guy that rushed for 696 yards in Ohio State's three postseason games.

He'll be running behind an offensive line that returns four starters.

Though the Buckeyes lost deep threat Devin Smith, explosive quarterback Braxton Miller will transition to receiver. I see him doing big things in his new position.

Defensively, they bring back three big-time pass rushers in Joey Bosa, Darron Lee and Joshua Perry.

Looking at the schedule, the Buckeyes' only tough games look to be a home matchup against Michigan State and away game at Michigan the next week.

I think TCU will also be in the playoffs.

The Horned Frogs are extremely motivated after being left out of the playoffs last season.

Trevone Boykin will be back to lead them at quarterback, along with top receivers Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee and top running back Aaron Green.

Defensively, TCU lost six starters. However, Gary Patterson defenses always seem to come up big.

The Horned Frogs also have the schedule in their favor. They get both West Virginia and Baylor at home.

I see a lot of people high on Auburn this year, but I think they're being a little overrated.

Will Muschamp will improve their defense. He's a great coordinator, but he's not a miracle worker.

Their defense in 2014-15 was pretty lackluster. I just don't see them going from 8-5 to playoff bound.

Though, I think Alabama will find a way to squeeze into the mix.

They did lose Amari Cooper and quarterback Blake Sims, but they return a solid offensive line and scary backfield with Derrick Henry and Kenyon Drake.

They'll break in a new quarterback, but I think both Jake Coker and Florida transfer David Cornwell are good enough to win games. As seen last year, Lane Kiffin is a pretty darn good play-caller.

Defensively, their front seven is arguably the best in the country.

Their schedule is brutal--like the schedule of any SEC team--but I think they could squeeze into the playoffs with one loss.

I think Oregon is being a little underrated this season after making a run to the championship game last year.

Yes, they lost their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, but they're in good hands with Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams. I definitely see him being in the Heisman mix throughout the season.

The Ducks also bring back their top two running backs in Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner and a dangerous weapon at receiver in Bralon Addison.

I think their defense will also be a solid unit.

The only concern is their schedule.

The Pac 12 will be a minefield once again, and they will have to visit Michigan State, Arizona State and Stanford. They'll also host a very good USC team.

I think TCU's emergence will cancel out Baylor. Their matchup is in Fort Worth, and there is no game the Horned Frogs want to win more after last year's bitter loss to the Bears.

Florida State lost 11 starters to the draft, and let's be honest, they were lucky to win a lot of their games last year.

A lot of those wins were due to the clutch play of Jameis Winston. Everett Golson is a very good quarterback, but he's no Jameis Winston.

I think it will eventually be Ohio State and TCU squaring off in the national title game, and it's hard for me to go against the Buckeyes.

They have it all--a Hall of Fame coach, championship quarterback, great running game, great pass rush, speed and beaucoup athletes.

I hate to go chalk, but I don't see anyone beating Ohio State this season. They're the most complete team in the country.