Its the time of year when I unveil my college football final four and teams to watch. I’ll blindly predict who will be in the college football playoff. When I say blindly. I mean blindly.

I haven’t seen any of these teams play a game. I couldn’t if I wanted to because practices are closed to most everyone. Even if I could I couldn’t gather much from practice because after all it is just. Practice.

Let’s get this out of the way right away. Alabama is No. 1 in just about every preseason poll. They should be. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. The Crimson Tide have one of the best coaches of all time in Nick Saban and have had 10 top 10 finishes and won five of the last nine national championships.

According to the Alabama media guide, the Crimson Tide return 12 starters, seven on defense, three on offense and two specialist. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but believe me Bama has players, as will quickly become obvious against the University of Louisville on Saturday.

The only thing that could disrupt the Crimson Tide is the two quarterback system of junior Jalen Hurts and sophomore Tua Tagovalloa, the hero of last years national championship game. The Crimson Tide still hasn’t decided on a starter, but it doesn’t matter. Bama is Bama.

Alabama plays in the toughest conference in college football, Southeastern. The West Division has lots of firepower with Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Arkansas.

The SEC East has power as well with Georgia, the runner up to Alabama in last seasons championship. Florida, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina should be good. No I’m not an SEC cheerleader like ESPN’s Paul Finebaum. I’m just being realistic.

Clemson is second in my poll. The Tigers have been one of the top defensive fronts in all of college football returning. Coach Dabo Swinney returns 15 starters and according to Phil Steele’s Football Yearbook is stronger this year than a year ago and have a shot at their second title in three years.
The Tigers lost to Bama in last years national semifinals. They have a defense line that is rated as the best in the country in Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant and Kendall Joseph.

No Atlantic Coast Conference team has won four consecutive conference titles since 1992 when Florida State dominated.

Clemson and Albama are solid and should be near or at the top all season. I like Georgia as my No. 3 team. Coach Kirby Smart’s club lost to Bama in last years national champship. The Bulldogs return quarterback Jake Fromm who passed for 2,615 yards, 24 touchdowns and connected on 62.2 percent of his passes.

With all the problems in Columbus, Ohio it’s tough to put the Buckeyes at No. 4. But I will. Coach Urban Meyer. I don’t know what to say about him. He’s arrogant and will be suspended for three games for the Zach Smith situation. The rest of the teams you can put them in a hat and toss them in the air and which ever one comes down put them in that order.
I hate to admit but there are no more than eight teams that could win the national title.

Others that could factor into the national title run are Oklahoma, Washington, Miami, Florida, Penn State and Michigan. I like Auburn as a dark horse. They have a coach in Gus Malzahn that is a rising star. The Tigers are the only team to beat Alabama last season.

It will be interesting to see how Notre Dame, Southern Cal and Florida State do this season. West Virginia and Central Florida should be good again. Remember the Golden Knights claimed the national title after going 13-0 and beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

Should Central Florida have been in the national playoffs? Maybe. But if the powers that control the playoffs were smart they would go to an eight team format. Teams outside the Power Five Conferences would have a chance. The Atlantic Coast, Southeastern, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 rule now. But why not add the American, Mountain West and Conference USA?

Notre Dame needs to be in the ACC in football while Brigham Young should be in the Mountain West. Army should go to the AAC Let’s get everybody in a conference.  I’ll want to watch Purdue (7-6 last season) and coach former Louisville quarterback Jeff Brohm after he helped. lead the Boilermakers to a win over rival Indiana and a victory in the Foster Farms Bowl.

My final four are Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Georgia. It should be a fun and interesting season.

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By Ed Peak

Ed Peak has covered UofL sports since 1973, as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and United Press International, as well as ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.