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 Aug. 28.
Heisman contenders, breakout freshmen, conference winners -- it all will be covered as part of Insider’s Ultimate Season Preview.
Today's question: We polled 20 coaches and asked them, "Which teams do you predict will be in the inaugural College Football Playoff?"
We've analyzed the College Football Playoff pecking order in almost every way imaginable. I even started my deep dive back in January. All of the speculation will change this weekend, of course, when we have actual game activity on which to base our opinions.
In the meantime, however, I contacted as many coaches I could to poll them. Surely, they've seen, heard and know enough to gauge who will still be playing come January.
In fact, I’ll make a little wager. I’ll bet you an Austin street taco and a local brew that my group of 20 coaches nails all four playoff teams. I’ve got faith in this well-paid-yet-motley crew.
The only teams that didn't get a vote in my poll but still scare me as sleepers are Clemson and Miami from the ACC, Iowa from the Big Ten, Kansas State from the Big 12 and USC from the Pac-12. Clearly, those squads are on the far end of the probability spectrum, but so were 2013 Auburn and 2012 Notre Dame.
And if a playoff team does wind up being one not listed here, well, we’re in for a really fun year -- and I’ll buy you a dang taco and a beer, anyway.
In addition to the 20 responses, three coaches abstained. UCLA’s Jim Mora promptly responded that he "didn't have an opinion," which elicited a chuckle from me.
“I only think about two teams, UCLA and our opponent,” Mora said. “Classic coachspeak!”
Troll on, Jimmay. Your pops is proud as we enter this play-offff?! era.
And then there’s the Power Five coach who suggested this final four: Air Force, New Mexico State, Idaho and Eastern Michigan. There’s one in every crowd, isn’t there?
But on to more earnest efforts: There was a lot of chalk, and a lot of favorites. A ballot I particularly liked was one coach taking Florida State, South Carolina, Stanford and Wisconsin.
“Didn’t want to come with the typical BS,” he said. Perfectly plausible -- and original! Thanks, Coach.
As for the chalk, the coaches picked four conference favorites as the leaders to make the playoff: FSU (19 of 20 ballots), Alabama (16), Oklahoma (10) and Oregon (10).
Let’s cut through that to where the intrigue begins. I have a hunch that the next six teams chosen by the coaches, receiving between two and five votes, wind up being the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds. There will be surprises. And they’ll likely come from this group.