Which teams will be left out of the playoff?

A conference champion is guaranteed to be left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

As we count down 50 days until the start of the 2014 college football season, ESPN Insider Travis Haney is answering at least one big question a day until South Carolina and Texas A&M’s kickoff on Aug. 28.

Heisman contenders, breakout freshmen, conference winners -- it will all be covered as part of Insider’s Ultimate Season Preview.

Today’s question: Will there be one or two teams with legitimate cases left out of the playoff?

No one is under the assumption that the new playoff format will suddenly eliminate debate from college football. If it did, I would have been vehemently opposed to the playoff. Conversation -- and consternation, at times -- have driven the sport, and fortunately it’ll continue to be that way. Deserving teams will be left out of the playoff; if it doesn’t happen this year, it will soon enough.

Playoff director Bill Hancock said as much when he met with us last week at ESPN. So did Arkansas AD Jeff Long, the selection committee’s chairman. There will be debate in November, even with the committee’s desire to be transparent in the process. In fact, that openness will invite more discussion.

So who will the debate be about? Which teams will be left behind?

My playoff choices since the first week in January have been Alabama, FSU, Ohio State and UCLA. I’m sticking with them, so they’re in and seeded in that order.

Projected records: Alabama (12-1; SEC champ), FSU (12-1; ACC champ), Ohio State (12-1; Big Ten champ), UCLA (11-2; Pac-12 champ).

That means one league champ doesn’t get in ... and it’s the league that doesn’t play a title game.

Team 1: Let’s say Oklahoma loses at Texas Tech and finishes 11-1, winning the Big 12.