Zach's Draft Corner: Breaking Down CFB Playoffs/What to Watch

Image Credit: Auburn Athletics

Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.

Last week, I walked through some scenarios for teams in the hunt for the College Football Playoffs. Throughout those scenarios, I indicated how important this week's rankings would be for numerous teams, as well as those not in the playoff hunt at all. Bowl games often have affiliations with particular conferences, taking the top available talent from each conference after the more prestigious bowl games get their pick. With only conference championships left on the schedule, this week I want to take a look at the rankings and what they might tell us about where the chips may fall.

The Playoff Hunt is Down to Seven Teams

With Alabama and Minnesota losing last week, the only teams with a chance at the Playoffs are Ohio State, LSU, Clemson, Georgia, Utah, Oklahoma, and Baylor. Two of those teams will likely be eliminated in the conference championships, with LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Baylor going after two conference championships. However, that may not be set in stone.

Ohio State and LSU Could Make the Playoffs With a Loss

It's no secret that the SEC and the Big Ten are widely considered the top conferences in college football. Say, for argument's sake, that Ohio State and LSU lose their conference championship games, while Clemson, Georgia, Utah, and Oklahoma all win. Clemson and Georgia would for sure be in the Playoffs. Now, the committee would be left with an interesting situation. Ohio State's one loss would have come against a top-10 Wisconsin team. LSU's one loss would have come against a top-2 Georgia team. Utah's one loss was against a 22nd-ranked USC, while Oklahoma's loss was against an unranked Kansas State. Does the committee feel that the conference championship should hold so much weight that they get two less talented teams with worse losses into the Playoffs over two more talented teams with better losses? It would be a fascinating scenario, however unlikely it is to happen.

The Big 12 is on the Outside Looking In

If Ohio State, LSU, and Clemson all win, as expected, then Utah is the team with the first shot at the Playoffs. Utah has crushed teams down the stretch, while Oklahoma and Baylor have each played close games that they have had to escape by the skin of their teeth. A win by one of Oklahoma or Baylor, no matter the score, likely will not be enough to overcome a Utah victory over Oregon. Oklahoma and Baylor each need Georgia and one of Utah or Clemson to lose if they want to feel safe going into Sunday.

Some Team is Going to Get Crushed by Alabama

Alabama dropped all the way down to 12 in the rankings after their loss to Auburn. However, remember the affiliations I talked about? If LSU defeats Georgia, leaving Georgia out of the Playoffs, Alabama would actually be the fourth ranked SEC team needing a bowl game. That would mean Georgia likely goes to the Sugar Bowl, with Florida going to the Citrus Bowl. This would push mighty Alabama all the way down to one of the Liberty Bowl against the 5th- or 6th-ranked Big 12 team (likely Iowa State or Oklahoma State), the Belk Bowl against 4th-ranked ACC team (likely Pitt or Louisville), the Music City Bowl against the 5th-ranked ACC team (again Pitt or Louisville), the Outback Bowl against the 4th ranked Big Ten team (likely Minnesota), the TaxSlayer Bowl against the 6th ranked Big Ten team (likely Michigan), or the Texas Bowl against the 4th- or 5th-ranked Big 12 team (Texas, Iowa State, or Oklahoma State). These teams want no part of ‘Bama, Tua or not.

Other Observations

The Rose Bowl will be Ohio State, Wisconsin, or Penn State against Utah or Oregon.

The Sugar Bowl will be LSU, Georgia, or Florida (on the off chance both Georgia and LSU make the Playoffs) against Oklahoma or Baylor.

The Orange Bowl will be Virginia against Ohio State, Georgia, Florida, Wisconsin, or Penn State.

If you think talent disparity doesn't exist amongst the conferences, this year is not your year. The Big Ten leads the nation with six teams in the top 25. The SEC is next with five, all of which are in the top 12. The Big 12 and Pac 12 each have three teams, with the ACC coming in last with two. Six teams are from outside the power five. If anything, this season confirms what we already know: the SEC is your conference if you like juggernauts, and the Big Ten is your conference if you want the deepest conference from top to bottom. No other conferences are in the conversation.

TV Guide

The sheer amount of college games on at any given time can be completely overwhelming. Every week, in the TV Guide section of my column, I will choose the top two games at any given time slot and outline the various prospects you can watch in those games. That way, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and hit the “Previous Channel” button on your remote to toggle between games chock full of pro prospects. Here is your guide for the conference championships (all times Eastern, playoff rankings in parentheses).

As a reminder, we have a new format for the TV Guide this season. I’m going to list all of the draft eligible players that will impact the games themselves, meaning the lists will be pretty long. Then, I'll summarize each team by showing the players seriously in contention to be drafted at this point in time. However, it's important to know that one exceptional season can cause an impactful player to become a draftable player, so these names are still good to monitor.

Friday, December 6

(5) University of Utah vs. (13) University of Oregon at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, 8:00 PM, ABC

Utah

Tyler Huntley, Senior Quarterback, #1

Zack Moss, Senior Running Back, #2

Darrin Paulo, Senior Tackle, #77

Viane Moala, Junior Defensive Tackle, #98

John Penisini, Senior Defensive Tackle, #52

Leki Fotu, Senior Defensive Tackle, #99

Bradlee Anae, Senior Defensive End, #6

Francis Bernard, Senior Linebacker, #13

Jaylon Johnson, Junior Cornerback, #1

Julian Blackmon, Senior Safety, #23

Utah was predicted by many to be here, but the way the team has put themselves in playoff contention was not foreseen by many. While Utah’s top offensive prospect has always been Zack Moss, quarterback Tyler Huntley has had a strong senior season and is now in the draft conversation. Taking Utah to the Playoffs would only help his cause. The strength of Utah’s team, though, is easily their defense. Utah has one of the top secondaries in the conference, led by Blackmon and Johnson, as well as a strong defensive line with Fotu and Anae.

Oregon

Justin Herbert, Senior Quarterback, #10

C.J. Verdell, Redshirt Sophomore Running Back, #7

Juwan Johnson, Senior Wide Receiver, #6

Jacob Breeland, Senior Tight End, #27

Calvin Throckmorton, Senior Tackle, #54

Brady Aiello, Senior Tackle, #66

Shane Lemieux, Senior Guard, #68

Dallas Warmack, Senior Guard, #75

Jake Hanson, Senior Center, #55

Jordon Scott, Junior Defensive Tackle, #34

Austin Faoliu, Junior Defensive Tackle, #52

La'Mar Winston Jr., Senior Linebacker, #32

Isaac Slade-Matautia, Redshirt Sophomore Linebacker, #41

Troy Dye, Senior Linebacker, #35

Deommodore Lenoir, Junior Cornerback, #6

Thomas Graham Jr., Junior Cornerback, #4

If anyone was going to represent the Pac 12 in the Playoffs, many predicted it would be Oregon. However, with two losses, they are now trying to play spoiler to Utah. You should know by now that Justin Herbert and Shane Lemieux are first round talents, the Oregon offensive line as a whole is nothing to take lightly, and everyone else on offense should get drafted at some point. On defense, it’s the linebacker duo of Dye and Slade-Matautia that you should keep your eye on.

Saturday, December 7

(7) Baylor University vs. (6) University of Oklahoma at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, 12:00 PM, ABC

Baylor

Charlie Brewer, Junior Quarterback, #12

JaMycal Hasty, Senior Running Back, #6

Denzel Mims, Senior Wide Receiver, #5

Chris Platt, Senior Wide Receiver, #14

Jake Fruhmorgen, Senior Tackle, #63

Johncarlo Valentin, Senior Guard, #57

Sam Tecklenburg, Senior Center, #52

James Lynch, Junior Defensive Tackle, #93

Bravvion Roy, Senior Defensive Tackle, #99

James Lockhart, Senior Defensive End, #9

Blake Lynch, Senior Linebacker, #2

Jordan Williams, Senior Linebacker, #38

Jameson Houston, Senior Cornerback, #11

Chris Miller, Senior Safety, #3

Starting off the day is the Big 12 Championship in Jerry World, where we get a rematch of Baylor-Oklahoma from a few weeks ago. Oklahoma certainly has more talent and goes into this game as the favorite. This is shown by Denzel Mims being the only draftable prospect here. Matt Rhule has brought Baylor out of irrelevancy quicker than anyone thought, and has a potential playoff berth to show for it. A win here keeps the Bear playoff hopes alive.

Oklahoma

Jalen Hurts, Senior Quarterback, #1

Trey Sermon, Junior Running Back, #4

Kennedy Brooks, Redshirt Sophomore Running Back, #26

CeeDee Lamb, Junior Wide Receiver, #2

Lee Morris, Senior Wide Receiver, #84

Marquis Hayes, Redshirt Sophomore Guard, #54

Creed Humphrey, Redshirt Sophomore Center, #56

Neville Gallimore, Senior Defensive Tackle, #90

LaRon Stokes, Junior Defensive End, #96

Kenneth Mann, Senior Defensive End, #55

Kenneth Murray, Junior Linebacker, #9

Caleb Kelly, Senior Linebacker, #19

Mark Jackson Jr., Senior Linebacker, #42

Tre Brown, Junior Cornerback, #6

Parnell Motley, Senior Cornerback, #11

Oklahoma needs either to win big or get a Utah loss if they want a shot at the Playoffs. Thankfully for them, they’ll know what they are up against before kickoff due to Utah playing on Friday. Jalen Hurts may have fallen behind Joe Burrow in the Heisman conversation, but he’s still in the conversation for being a first round quarterback. This offense is running on all cylinders, led by CeeDee Lamb and Creed Humphrey as first round locks. Sermon, Brooks, and Hayes all are draftable prospects on day 2 or 3. On defense, Gallimore and Murray are the only hopefuls, but they are looking better and better as time goes on.

University of Louisiana-Lafayette at (21) Appalachian State University, 12:00 PM, ESPN

Louisiana

Elijah Mitchell, Junior Running Back, #15

Raymond Calais, Senior Running Back, #4

Trey Ragas, Junior Running Back, #9

Ja'Marcus Bradley, Senior Wide Receiver, #2

Robert Hunt, Senior Tackle, #50

Kevin Dotson, Senior Guard, #75

Ken Marks, Senior Guard, #67

Rico Robinson, Senior Guard, #66

Bennie Higgins, Senior Defensive Tackle, #15

Joe Dillon, Senior Defensive End, #3

Jacques Boudreaux, Senior Linebacker, #59

Michael Jacquet, Senior Cornerback, #11

Kamar Greenhouse, Senior Safety, #9

The alternative game in this time slot is the Sun Belt Championship. The fact that the trophy is not a wrestling belt with a sun on the front is a crime. Louisiana might not have a ton of talent, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have one of the best team names in the country. The only draftable player here is Hunt, an interior line prospect that will ultimately be a day 3 or undrafted guy.

App State

Zac Thomas, Junior Quarterback, #12

Marcus Williams, Junior Running Back, #26

Darrynton Evans, Junior Running Back, #3

Jalen Virgil, Junior Wide Receiver, #11

Keishawn Watson, Senior Wide Receiver, #13

Corey Sutton, Junior Wide Receiver, #2

Collin Reed, Senior Tight End, #87

Victor Johnson, Senior Tackle, #75

Jordan Fehr, Senior Linebacker, #59

Akeem Davis-Gaither, Senior Linebacker, #24

Noel Cook, Senior Linebacker, #20

Josh Thomas, Senior Safety, #7

Desmond Franklin, Senior Safety, #6

Appalachian State has been impressive ever since they received the bump from FCS to FBS in 2014. While they may be at the top of their new conference, they still only have one prospect to consider: Akeem Davis-Gaither, a day 3 or undrafted linebacker.

(20) University of Cincinnati at (17) University of Memphis, 3:30 PM, ABC

Cincinnati

Desmond Ridder, Redshirt Sophomore Quarterback, #9

Michael Warren, Junior Running Back, #3

Josiah Deguara, Senior Tight End, #83

Perry Young, Senior Linebacker, #6

Bryan Wright, Senior Linebacker, #11

Cameron Jefferies, Senior Cornerback, #14

It seems like just yesterday that we saw Cincinnati go into Memphis to play for supremacy of the American Athletic Conference. Don’t be fooled, though, as it was a full week ago that Memphis defeated Cincinnati to clinch home-field for the AAC Championship. We’re back at it, and Cincinnati is hoping for a better outcome this time around. Ridder has faced some tests, and his status as a redshirt sophomore makes it unlikely that he comes out this year. However, he’s played very well, and should be on the radar for future seasons. In 2020, Young and Wright are battling to hear their name called. A strong performance against an explosive offense like Memphis would help that quest.

Memphis

Brady White, Junior Quarterback, #3

Patrick Taylor, Senior Running Back, #6

Pop Williams, Senior Wide Receiver, #9

Damonte Coxie, Junior Wide Receiver, #10

Joey Magnifico, Senior Tight End, #86

Dustin Woodard, Senior Guard, #53

Jonathan Wilson, Senior Defensive Tackle, #38

Bryce Huff, Senior Linebacker, #55

T.J. Carter, Junior Cornerback, #2

Memphis is continuing their high-flying ways, keeping the little draftable talent they have on offense. Taylor is making plays out of the backfield for Memphis, and the magnificent Magnifico pulled a rabbit out of his hat to start garnering draft chatter in recent weeks.

(4) University of Georgia vs. (2) Louisiana State University at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA, 4:00 PM, CBS

Georgia

Jake Fromm, Junior Quarterback, #11

D'Andre Swift, Junior Running Back, #7

Brian Herrien, Senior Running Back, #35

Tyler Simmons, Senior Wide Receiver, #87

Matt Landers, Redshirt Sophomore Wide Receiver, #5

Demetris Robertson, Junior Wide Receiver, #16

Lawrence Cager, Senior Wide Receiver, #15

Charlie Woerner, Senior Tight End, #89

Eli Wolf, Senior Tight End, #17

Andrew Thomas, Junior Tackle, #71

Isaiah Wilson, Redshirt Sophomore Tackle, #79

Solomon Kindley, Junior Guard, #66

Ben Cleveland, Junior Guard, #74

Tyler Clark, Senior Defensive Tackle, #52

Julian Rochester, Senior Defensive Tackle, #5

Malik Herring, Junior Defensive End, #10

Monty Rice, Junior Linebacker, #32

Tae Crowder, Senior Linebacker, #30

Eric Stokes, Redshirt Sophomore Cornerback, #27

Tyrique McGhee, Senior Cornerback, #26

J.R. Reed, Senior Safety, #20

Richard LeCounte III, Junior Safety, #2

Here it is. Our afternoon delight comes in the form of the SEC Championship game, which is one of the biggest games every season. Georgia has seen this scene play out before over the past few seasons. They stroll through the SEC East, dropping an easy game along the way, and now go into the SEC Championship against a juggernaut from the SEC West hoping to stay in the Playoffs. Swift and Thomas will absolutely have first round grades at the end of the day. Led by Fromm, their offense is stacked for college. However, Simmons, Landers, Robertson, Woerner, Wilson, Kindley, and Cleveland are probably closer to day 3 prospects at this point than first rounders. The defense is not quite as stacked as far as quantity, but they do have quality safeties in Reed and LeCounte. Herring, Rice, and Stokes round out the defensive side of the ball as late round hopefuls.

LSU

Joe Burrow, Senior Quarterback, #9

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Junior Running Back, #22

Lanard Fournette, Senior Running Back, #27

Derrick Dillon, Senior Wide Receiver, #19

Dee Anderson, Senior Wide Receiver, #11

Justin Jefferson, Junior Wide Receiver, #2

Stephen Sullivan, Senior Tight End, #10

Jamal Pettigrew, Junior Tight End, #80

Thaddeus Moss, Junior Tight End, #81

Saahdiq Charles, Junior Tackle, #77

Badara Traore, Senior Tackle, #74

Adrian MaGee, Senior Guard, #73

Damian Lewis, Senior Guard, #68

Lloyd Cushenberry, Junior Center, #79

Breiden Fehoko, Senior Defensive Tackle, #91

Tyler Shelvin, Redshirt Sophomore Defensive Tackle, #72

Rashard Lawrence, Senior Defensive Tackle, #90

K'Lavon Chaisson, Redshirt Sophomore Defensive End, #18

Andre Anthony, Junior Defensive End, #46

Justin Thomas, Junior Defensive End, #93

Jacob Phillips, Junior Linebacker, #6

Patrick Queen, Junior Linebacker, #8

Michael Divinity, Senior Linebacker, #45

Kristian Fulton, Senior Cornerback, #1

Grant Delpit, Junior Safety, #7

Todd Harris, Jr., Junior Safety, #33

It might be a surprise that LSU is here based on the preseason predictions, but only because many thought Alabama would be here yet again. LSU was always thought of as a good team, but we had no idea they would be this good, especially on offense. Joe Burrow is all but guaranteed to be the first overall pick in April, unless some other team who believes they have their quarterback wants Chase Young in that spot instead. He is getting help on offense from Jefferson, a top receiver in this class, and Charles. As always, the LSU defense is stacked with first round prospects in Lawrence, Chaisson, Fulton, and Delpit, with a trio of day 3 linebackers in Phillips, Queen, and Divinity.

(23) University of Virginia vs. (3) Clemson University at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, 7:30 PM, ABC

Virginia

Bryce Perkins, Senior Quarterback, #3

PK Kier, Junior Running Back, #6

Joe Reed, Senior Wide Receiver, #2

Hasise Dubois, Senior Wide Receiver, #8

Eli Hanback, Senior Defensive Tackle, #58

Charles Snowden, Junior Linebacker, #11

Jordan Mack, Senior Linebacker, #4

Bryce Hall, Senior Cornerback, #34

Brenton Nelson, Junior Safety, #28

Joey Blount, Junior Safety, #29

The ACC Coastal Division has done it. With Virginia winning the division this year, they have completed the ultimate circle of parity. In the past seven seasons, each of the seven teams in this division has played in the ACC Championship. As a reminder, Bryce Hall suffered a terrible leg injury and is out for the season, and likely some of next season. It’s a shame for the first-round talent, but Virginia is moving forward. Bryce Perkins has been solid, but he will need a very specific system to succeed. He is very mobile and can throw accurately downfield, but his processing and short accuracy needs work. He would be a perfect fit as a backup to a Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes, but may struggle in other precision-based systems. On defense, Snowden’s unique size and skillset makes him an intriguing mid-round guy.

Clemson

Trevor Lawrence, Sophomore Quarterback, #16

Travis Etienne, Junior Running Back, #9

Darien Rencher, Junior Running Back, #21

Tee Higgins, Junior Wide Receiver, #5

Justyn Ross, Sophomore Wide Receiver, #8

Diondre Overton, Senior Wide Receiver, #14

Amari Rodgers, Junior Wide Receiver, #3

Tremayne Anchrum, Senior Tackle, #73

John Simpson, Senior Guard, #74

Sean Pollard, Senior Guard, #76

Gage Cervenka, Senior Center, #59

Nyles Pinckney, Junior Defensive Tackle, #44

Xavier Kelly, Junior Defensive Tackle, #22

Jordan Williams, Redshirt Sophomore Defensive Tackle, #59

Justin Foster, Junior Defensive End, #35

Isaiah Simmons, Junior Linebacker/Safety, #11

A.J. Terrell, Junior Cornerback, #8

K'Von Wallace, Senior Safety, #12

Denzel Johnson, Senior Safety, #14

Tanner Muse, Senior Safety, #19

While the ACC Coastal Division has done the ultimate rotation, Clemson is here for the fifth season in a row. Only Clemson and Florida State have represented the Atlantic Division since 2009. They aren’t draft eligible, but the best prospects on Clemson are Trevor Lawrence and Justyn Ross. I would not be surprised if both are top ten picks in 2021. For the more immediate future, the first round talents include Simmons, Etienne, Higgins, and potentially Terrell. Simpson and Pollard give Clemson one of the best interior lines in the ACC. On defense, Clemson has tried to replenish the dominant defensive line class from 2019 with Williams and Foster, to modest results. Wallace and Muse are day 3 picks for the time being, but could see a rise.

(1) Ohio State University vs. (8) University of Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN, 8:00 PM, FOX

Ohio State

J.K. Dobbins, Junior Running Back, #2

Demario McCall, Junior Running Back, #30

K.J. Hill, Senior Wide Receiver, #14

Austin Mack, Senior Wide Receiver, #11

Binjimen Victor, Senior Wide Receiver, #9

Luke Farrell, Junior Tight End, #89

Rashod Berry, Senior Tight End, #13

Thayer Munford, Junior Tackle, #75

Jonah Jackson, Senior Guard, #73

Robert Landers, Senior Defensive Tackle, #67

Davon Hamilton, Senior Defensive Tackle, #53

Chase Young, Junior Defensive End, #2

Jonathon Cooper, Senior Defensive End, #18

Jashon Cornell, Senior Defensive End, #9

Malik Harrison, Senior Linebacker, #39

Pete Werner, Junior Linebacker, #20

Baron Browning, Junior Linebacker, #5

Tuf Borland, Junior Linebacker, #32

Jeffrey Okudah, Junior Cornerback, #1

Shaun Wade, Redshirt Sophomore Cornerback, #24

Damon Arnette, Senior Cornerback, #3

Jordan Fuller, Senior Safety, #4

Jahsen Wint, Junior Safety, #23

Speaking of division dominance, Ohio State is representing the Big Ten East for the fourth time in the six seasons since the Big Ten has had this division structure. They bring plenty of firepower into this matchup, with Young, Okudah, Wade, and maybe even Arnette and Fuller being first round picks in that ferocious Buckeye defense. Landers, Harrison, and Borland round out a Buckeye defense that is shaping up to be one of the most talented in the country. The offense is full of speed, including Dobbins, Hill, and Farrell. The offensive line is the weak spot, if there is one, on this Buckeye team, but Munford should be able to make a team.

Wisconsin

Jonathan Taylor, Junior Running Back, #23

Bradrick Shaw, Senior Running Back, #7

Quintez Cephus, Senior Wide Receiver, #87

A.J. Taylor, Senior Wide Receiver, #4

Danny Davis III, Junior Wide Receiver, #6

Jake Ferguson, Redshirt Sophomore Tight End, #84

David Moorman, Senior Tackle, #68

Cole Van Lanen, Junior Tackle, #71

Tyler Biadasz, Junior Center, #61

Isaiah Loudermilk, Junior Defensive Tackle, #97

Zack Baun, Senior Defensive End, #56

Chris Orr, Senior Linebacker, #54

Wisconsin is certainly the “We’re just happy to be here” team of the day. After losing to Illinois and getting crushed by Ohio State in back-to-back weeks, it looked like all was lost. However, Wisconsin surged, just so they could get crushed yet again by Ohio State. It should come as no surprise that a team like Wisconsin features studs at running back and the offensive line. Taylor and Biadasz are first round talents, but the rest of the offensive line will get drafted whenever they enter the process. Cephus is the rare Wisconsin receiver that has some talent. On defense, Baun and Orr have been impressive, and should both get drafted. Loudermilk has had a quieter season than expected, but still has a chance to get drafted.

You can follow Zach on Twitter here!

Stay tuned to 49ersHub for more great 49ers and Draft analysis!

© 2020 - 49ers Hub