Behind The Scoreboard

College football contenders

The College Football Playoff National Champion­ship is not until January 2018, but some football experts have already projected the title match-up will be the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Florida State Seminoles, No. 1 vs. No. 2.

Alabama had so many key losses on defense after shipping off another group of elite talent to the NFL, but the Tide has been favored to win its second national championship in three years. Florida State won the title in 2013. The two teams will meet in Atlanta, Ga., in Week 1 as the regular season opener.

Here are contenders, including Alabama and Florida, with a quick glimpse at what each team’s road to the playoff looks like:

Alabama – The Tide could stand a loss against Florida State in week one, that is if they can storm through the SEC. The last three years Alabama is 25-2 in SEC play. LSU’s visit (Nov. 4) could be a shake-up, but the SEC West race should come down to the Iron Bowl at a much-improved Auburn (Nov. 25).

Florida State – The Seminoles’ opener against Alabama is the start of a difficult month in September, which includes visits from Miami (Sep. 16) and North Carolina State (Sept. 23). The ACC Atlantic title and likely a playoff spot will hinge on the trip to Clemson (Nov. 11).

USC Trojans – They will avoid Washington and will face Stanford (Sept. 9) at home in the PAC-12 play. The Trojans must overcome two major road tests - Washington State (Sept. 29) and Notre Dame (Oct. 21). USC has no bye week and could be running on empty by the time it enters its regular-season finale against cross-town rival UCLA.

Auburn Tigers – The trip to Clemson (Sept. 9) will offer an early test, but the month of October will determine the Tigers’ fate. Auburn will play host to Ole Miss (Oct. 7). Then, the Tigers will travel to LSU (Oct. 14) and Arkansas (Oct. 21). And if all goes well, Auburn will host Alabama (Nov. 25) with the SEC West title on the line.

Clemson Tigers – On Sept. 9, visiting Auburn will offer a chance at a big non-conference win early. And on Nov. 11, Clemson will host Florida State. But the Tigers’ ACC schedule remains a landmine, including road trips to Louisville (Sept. 16), Virginia Tech (Sept. 30) and North Carolina State (Nov. 4).

Holly Springs South Reporter

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