The computer projected USC, Indiana, Miami and LSU as the Final Four at the end of the 2021 season. Opening week could quickly determine if the computer was hit with a virus, or if the landscape of college football will change this year.
Since the inception of the playoff format in 2014, LSU is the only team among those four to land a spot. Of course, the Bayou Bengals made the most of that opportunity by winning the 2019 title. The only PAC-12 team to ever be included was Oregon in 2014, Ohio State is the lone team from the Big 10 to make the playoffs, and Clemson is the only traditional ACC team to be invited. (Notre Dame made it last year as one-time, COVID-era ACC member).
Alabama (3) and Clemson (2) have combined to win five of the seven playoffs. Ohio State (2014) and LSU are the only schools that have interrupted the Tide-Tiger domination.
Miami gets the best opportunity to make its case in week 1 when the Hurricanes face mighty 'Bama on Saturday in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic at 3:30 ET on ABC. Oddsmakers installed Nick Saban's troops as a 17.5-point favorite at the open and the line had moved as high as 19 on Monday. The computer has Miami by 1.30. The last two times these teams met, they split the 1990 and 1993 Sugar Bowls.
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Two days prior to that contest, Ohio State (-14) visits Minnesota on Thursday night at 8:00 ET on Fox with the computer once again going opposite the 'experts' and taking the visiting Golden Gophers by 3.55 points. Since 1982, Minnesota has defeated the Buckeyes once (2000) and that happened during a season in which Ohio State finished 8-4. Ironically, that's the record the computer has projected for the Buckeyes this season.
The computer also saddles Notre Dame with an 8-4 forecast, but favors the Irish by 3.99 in the opener at Florida State on Sunday at 7:30 on ABC. This game opened at 9.5 for the Irish, but had since dropped to as low as 7 on Monday. The Irish won the last two meetings in 2018 and 2020 to trim the FSU lead in the series to 6-4.
Moving back to Saturday, Clemson will face Georgia in the Duke's Mayo Classic in Charlotte at 7:30 ET on ABC. Both teams are picked by everyone, including the computer, to win their respective division. Everyone, except the computer, expects the Tigers to win the ACC championship. Still, the computer has Clemson by 10.04 points over the 'Dawgs which is well above the 3-point spread.
The FWAA/NFF Super 16 Poll ranks the 8 teams playing in those games in the following order:
4) Ohio State
8) Notre Dame
NR) Florida State
Other games of note this week include Friday's UNC-Virginia Tech clash in Blacksburg. The list of quality matchups on Saturday features Boise State at UCF, Indiana (the computer's predicted Big Ten champ) at Iowa, Stanford vs. Kansas State (at Arlington), LSU at UCLA, Michigan State at Northwestern, Oklahoma at Tulane, Northern Iowa (FCS) at Iowa State, Penn State at Wisconsin, and San Jose State at USC.
An under-the-radar game to watch is UTSA at Illinois on Saturday.
The Labor Day weekend wraps on Monday with Louisville vs. Ole Miss in Atlanta in a second Chick-fil-A Kickoff game.
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The computer's top-ranked team, James Madison, opens at home against Morehead State as a nearly 20-point favorite, while second-ranked Sam Houston State is an 11.2-point choice at Northern Arizona.
North Dakota State, the computer's favorite on the MVFC, is a nearly 20-point choice at home over Albany.
No. 4 Alabama A&M gets a tough opening draw by hosting South Carolina State as a 6.56-point computer play.
Meanwhile, 5h-ranked Montana is one of 38 FCS schools that will open against a FBS program and the Grizzlies are whopping 29.69-point underdogs.
2 teams will play 2 FCS teams this fall (UConn and UMass), and 115 teams will play 1 FCS school for a total of 117 such matchups.
There are a whopping 38 FBS-FCS games over the Labor Day weekend.
Last year, 30 FBS teams played a total of 34 games against FCS schools with the FBS going 33-1. Since we began tracking this in 2003, the FBS teams are now 1,469-128 (.920) through August 28, 2021.
This was the only FCS win vs. the FBS in 2020:
October 23: Jacksonville State 19, FIU 10
In 2019, FBS teams were 111-3 (.974) in such games. These were the only FCS wins that season:
August 29: Central Arkansas 35, Western Kentucky 28
September 7: Southern Illinois 45, Massachusetts 20
September 14: The Citadel 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT)
ALABAMA - Won 14 straight games overall (FBS longest).
Last: Won 52-24 vs. Ohio State in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Miami Gardens on January 11.
Next: vs. Miami in Chick-fil-A kick-off in Atlanta on Saturday, Sept. 4.
OHIO STATE - Won 21 straight conference games (FBS longest). Won 9 straight road games (FBS longest). Won 21 straight regular season games (FBS longest).
Last: Lost 52-24 vs. Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Miami Gardens on January 11.
Next: Visits Minnesota on Thursday, Sept. 2.
CLEMSON - Won 28 straight home games (FBS longest).
Last: Lost 49-28 vs. Ohio State in College Football Playoff Semifinal in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
Next: vs. Georgia in Duke's Mayo Classic in Charlotte on Saturday, Sept. 4.
NEW MEXICO - Lost 13 straight road games (FBS longest).
Last: Won 49-39 vs. Fresno State in Las Vegas (New Mexico's adopted home) on Saturday, December 12.
Next: Hosts Houston Baptist (FCS) on Thursday, Sept. 2.
AKRON - Lost 12 straight road games (FBS second-longest).
Last: Lost 56-7 at Buffalo on Saturday, December 12 at Buffalo.
Next: at Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 4.
KANSAS - Lost 13 straight overall (FBS longest), 6 straight home games (tied with Rutgers for FBS longest).
Last: 16-13 loss at Texas Tech on Saturday, December 5.
Next: Hosts South Dakota (FCS) on Friday, Sept. 3.
UTEP - Lost 15 straight conference games (FBS longest).
Last: Won 30-3 at New Mexico State on Saturday.
Next: Hosts FCS member Bethune-Cookman on Saturday, Sept. 4.