So, after hundreds of games, countless tailgates, and many, many friendly debates about strength of schedule and the value of conference championships, we’ve reached the point where there are just two teams left standing in the college football season.
The two teams—the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide—meet Monday night at the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Kickoff is scheduled for shortly after 8 p.m.
While most college football observers believe we are left with the two best teams (sorry, Oklahoma and UCF fans), it’s also reasonable to cite the “eye test” as having played a role in setting up this matchup of the two Southeastern Conference (SEC) rivals in the championship game of the College Football Playoff (CFP).
For those unfamiliar with the machinations of the college football playoff system, suffice it to say that at the end of the college season the 13 voters on the CFP Selection Committee were free to rely on the “eye test’—which teams looked strongest to the naked eye (regardless of statistics or other esoteric metrics)—to pick the four teams that they believed would make for the most competitive and deserving playoff bracket. Georgia (which knocked off Oklahoma in a memorable Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day) and Alabama, an easier winner over last year’s champion Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, passed this eye test and have proven to be deserving of their playoff spots.
Further, the eye test is the simple reason Ohio State, winner of the Big Ten conference championship, sat out this year’s playoff because of its two losses, including a so-called 55-24 bad loss at Iowa in early November.
This said, VMAIL Weekend has gone back to its college football panel (VMAIL Weekend, Aug. 26, 2017) to get their views and predictions for the outcome of Monday’s championship game.Spoiler Alert:
our select but small panel is divided evenly on who they pick to win this game, with two votes for Georgia (winner of the SEC title) and two for Alabama (which did not win the SEC trophy this season) in a very close game.
Mark E. Schaeffer, OD
Schaeffer Eye Center
It has been a crazy final month of the season for the Georgia Bulldogs, including the semifinal game. It was quite the thrill ride with extreme highs and lows. Our family was commiserating over text messages regarding our first-half "performance" [in the Rose Bowl] and how it was getting difficult to watch.
However, the Dawgs kept grinding and pulled out a “W” behind our tandem back combination of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb (who now hold the record for most yards from scrimmage as a RB duo). This week is going to be tough being in the state of Alabama as a Dawg fan, but Alabama proved its worthiness by shutting down (24-6) a Clemson team that was solidly in the playoff. I think both teams, Ohio State and Bama, had imperfect resumes to play in the CFP and one fan base was going to be disappointed. If you're looking for the four best teams in a playoff, it is conceivable that two teams from the same division may be the best. I do have an SEC bias, but until all conference champs are guaranteed spots, you have to evaluate them differently. Even with 68 teams in the NCAA basketball bracket, there's always someone on the outside.
I'm trying to find tickets to go to the game. The last time UGA was in a championship-type game was in the early 1980s, and we won the college football title in 1980. Needless to say, there's a lot of happy Dawg fans who want to see them play on this stage, especially in their own backyard of Atlanta.
Prediction: Georgia, 27-24
Director, Digital Products, Regional Sales Manager
Jobson Medical Information
The easiest way to sum up 2017 Clemson football is a disappointing end to a fantastic season. Of course, losing to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day was a complete letdown, but Clemson certainly gave Tiger Nation a lot to be grateful for this year, including a 12-win season, another ACC Championship, and an appearance in the College Football Playoffs for the third year in a row.
What I am most appreciative of is the legacy and consistency that head coach Dabo Swinney is providing Clemson football. With his leadership and the integrity he has stamped on the program, I look to the future with a very positive outlook and can’t wait to see what’s next. I continue to be #AllIn.
Prediction: Alabama, 27-13
Keith M. Cross, R.D.O.
Director of Sales, The Americas/ANZ & Global Rx Technologies
Optical Monomers and Coatings
Well, as a true Notre Dame man, any season that ends without a trip to the National Championship is a disappointment. However, the thrilling victory over LSU on New Year's Day sure did feel great and gave the Fighting Irish faithful a lot to look forward to next season.
The spectacular one-handed catch made by Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin from backup QB Ian Book for a 55-yard game-winning TD was the perfect way to send us into the off-season. Always fun to win on New Year’s Day.
Let’s just hope next year ND is in the college football playoffs—Go IRISH!
With that—the Georgia vs. Oklahoma game was one of the best games of the season—a battle to the end. As a football fan, it was one of the best games of season and I really thought that both teams deserved to be in that game and either could have just as easily won it. With Georgia winning on a great special teams play and then a TD run to end it in overtime, I think the playoff committee got it right with those two teams.
As to the Alabama vs Clemson game, although Alabama won and the playoff committee might get a “pass” for picking them despite them not winning their conference, you could make a pretty good argument that Alabama shouldn’t have even been in that game. Again though, they proved why the committee picked them and beat Clemson pretty easily. My prediction going into the National Championship game: Georgia is riding a wave of emotions, has played in tough games all season and won. I think Alabama plays tough and keeps it close, but that Georgia wins a close game.
Prediction: Georgia, 24-17
Michael Cymbor, OD, FAAO
Nittany Eye Associates
State College, Pa.
The 2017 Penn State football season started strongly with seven wins in a row, including wins against Iowa, Northwestern, and Michigan. In mid-October, we were ranked No. 2 in the country, which was our highest ranking since 1999. For three quarters against Ohio State, it looked like we might get our eighth win. Unfortunately, Ohio State turned out to be the better team that day. We then stumbled a week later against Michigan State, and our goal of finishing in the [CFP] final four drifted away. We regained our composure and finished strong by winning our last four games, including against Washington in the Fiesta Bowl.
As I mentioned earlier in the fall, my daughter Avery began her freshman year at Clemson. We made the 10-and-a-half-hour drive from State College to Clemson to attend parents’ weekend, and we cheered Clemson on to victory against Boston College. It was fun to compare/contrast the tailgating and overall football experience vs. our beloved PSU. It felt a bit odd to watch football in near-100-degree weather. Despite the blast-furnace temperatures, we had fun, and Clemson quickly became our new #2 team. I even own a pair of Dabo Swinney socks.
While Clemson owned the No. 1 ranking for much of the second half of the season, it was difficult to watch the Tigers lose to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
While there were disappointments during each team’s season, I am grateful that my two favorite teams will finish in the Top 10. And even now, I am surprised about how quickly our family became Clemson fans.Prediction:
Alabama 28, Georgia 21