It seems like only yesterday we were getting ready for the marquee matchups of Labor Day Weekend and just like that College Football is at the halfway mark in the 2023 season. The majority of the teams have navigated their non-conference schedule and are fully entrenched in the battles of conference play. The cream is starting to rise to the top as we get closer and closer to the first College Football Playoff Poll. So let’s take a look at the current projections for the final field of four in 2023 College Football Playoff.
Sugar Bowl (College Football Semi-Final) #1 Michigan Wolverines vs #4 Washington Huskies
Why Michigan is the #1 Seed: The Wolverines are 7-0 to start the season again, but have played a weak non-conference slate and their early Big 10 matchups have lacked an ability to put fear into J.J. McCarthy and company. But the Wolverines have been dominate this season allowing less than 7 points per game. Blake Corum is fully back and is looking tougher than he did in 2022. J.J. McCarthy has taken a huge step forward in his game. The Wolverines have looked like the nation’s best team, but they will need to prove it against a difficult slate to end the year. They are on the road to Penn State and Maryland prior to the Buckeyes traveling to Ann Arbor for the annual showdown.
Why Washington is the #4 Seed: Michael. Pinnix. Jr. He is the current favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy in the last year of the Pac-12. The Huskies looked amazing during the classic matchup against Oregon. With the running game starting to come together with Dillon Johnson carrying the load and “Bend, don’t break” defense, Washington is poised to make some noise. They still have a gauntlet of a schedule in the month of November, but right now they are one of the four best teams in the country.
Rose Bowl (College Football Semi-Final) #2 Florida State vs #3 Oklahoma Sooners
Why Florida State is the #2 Seed: FSU is currently the class of the ACC. Outside of the Week 9 matchup against the Duke Blue Devils, the rest of the schedule is very manageable. Jordan Travis is going to be the one who gets all the headlines and hype, but how big has Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman been for the Seminoles? When Coleman and Johnny Wilson are on the field together, they are a matchup nightmare for any defense in the country. Florida State should cruise into the ACC Conference Title game undefeated with UNC waiting for them. The Tar Heels will present the best test for the Seminoles to determine if they are truly playoff ready.
Why Oklahoma is the #3 Seed: Oklahoma got their marquee win of the season in the classic Red River Rivalry game against Texas. Texas was easily considered one of the best teams in the nation and could be waiting for their rematch with the Sooners in the Big 12 Title Game. Dillon Gabriel is showing his true potential from when he transferred from UCF. His comeback from multiple injuries is just a great story. Brent Venables has transformed the Sooners defense into a turnover seeking machine. They boast a +11 turnover margin through 6 games. They’ll need to keep playing Oklahoma Football, but right now it’s easy to pencil them into the field of four.
Teams just on the Outside of the Playoff Picture
#5 Ohio State Buckeyes
In most year, Ohio State would already be in the field of four, but they still need to slay the two dragons in front of them. Kyle McCord is showing signs of improvement but the real deal is the how impressive the Ohio State Defense has been. In the past two years, the Buckeyes defense has been decent, but not spectacular. This year, they are down right dominant. The adjustments that get made throughout the games have shown that the Buckeyes are able to snuff out any offense in the 2nd half of games. The playmakers need to get healthy but everything is still in front of Ohio State.
#6 Penn State Nittany Lions
The path for Penn State is clear. Travel to Columbus and beat the Buckeyes. This is easier said than done for James Franklin and company. The Nittany Lions have looked fantastic to start the season and may be James Franklin’s best team. But if they want to be taken seriously in Happy Valley, they need to start by beating the Buckeyes. Singleton and Allen have been as good as advertised in their rushing attack to support Drew Allar.
#7 Georgia Bulldogs
A lot of people will disagree with ranking the two time defending National Champions this low. That’s fine, but let’s be honest, this is not the Georgia team of 2021 or 2022. It’s tough to make a case involving the results of the 2023 season that Georgia is one of the four best teams in College Football. Their schedule has been average at best. Currently, their two best wins on the season are against UT Martin and Kentucky. Plus they’ve allowed a combined 47 points to a terrible Auburn and Vanderbilt. It’s time to admit a hard truth: It’s a down year for the SEC and for the Georgia Bulldogs. That being said, they win out and they’ll make the field of four.
#8 UNC Tar Heels
Drake Maye has been fantastic this season in leading an offense that has scored under 40 just twice so far. Their win against Miami was just impressive and the emergence of Omarion Hampton has really helped out the Tar Heels. The biggest strides though have come on the defensive side of the ball. Kaimon Rucker has been a wrecking ball from his linebacker spot, averaging a sack a game. North Carolina will still need to beat Duke and Clemson before they are truly ready for the test that is the Florida State Seminoles.
#9 Texas Longhorns
Here is the crazy thing, Texas may have one of the easiest paths back into the field of four. Texas should roll through the remaining matchups on their schedule with one goal in mind: to get revenge on Oklahoma in the Big 12 Title game. Quin Ewers and Jonathan Brooks will continue to light up the score board for the Longhorns as they’ll have the style points to keep them in the conversation late into the season. If they can get their revenge on Oklahoma, the committee will almost promise Texas a spot in the College Football Playoffs.