Playoff Bracket Busters: Six teams in best spot to create chaos in 2023
The NCAA Collegiate Basketball Tournament is just around the corner, and the pundits are always having fun identifying “grid busters”—lower-seeded teams that might go unnoticed but have a good chance of making a deep run. While college football may not have such an extensive postseason (yet), underdogs still play a big role in the postseason.
Considering most upsets come in the regular season. Only four teams qualify for the playoffs under the current system, so there’s little room for chaos after the semi-finals. So college football’s “bracket busters” may not actually have a bracket, but the same logic applies: lower-ranked teams that stand a good chance of frustrating college football playoff favorites’ hopes of even going that far.
Just think of TCU in 2022 when Cinderella ran through the regular season to make it to the national championship. Or Utah, which ruined USC playoff hopes not once, but twice.
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With that in mind, here are the college football teams that could make the difference in the 2023 playoff race:
Utah was a thorn in USC’s side last season, beating the Trojans in both the regular season and the Pac-12 championship. The Trojans are once again considered favorites to represent the Pac-12 in the college football playoffs, but Washington is in a better position to play Utah’s role and overtake them. Left-handed signalman Michael Penix Jr. is a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy after breaking out in 2022 in which he threw for 4,641 yards and threw for 31 touchdowns. Two of his favorite goals in Rome, Odunze and Jalen McMillan, also come back. Extreme rusher Bralen Trice can also destroy the opponent’s attack.
Ever since new Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell stepped onto campus, he’s quietly set to work rebuilding the roster in his own image. He inherited one of the best players in the entire country, running back Brelon Allen, and put SMU’s Tanner Mordechai through the portal. Mordecai doesn’t have to work hard to become the best quarterback in Wisconsin in nearly half a century. He has every opportunity to do so. Fickell has Wisconsin in a place where he should challenge the West’s Big Ten in his first year. The Badgers also receive Ohio State on October 28 at home, giving them a great opportunity to throw the key in a playoff race.
Tennessee actually finished first in the first poll of the 2022 College Football Playoffs and hovered in the top five for the remainder of the season. The Bulls also seem to be the only ones really standing in the way of Georgia and another playoff berth next season. The Bulldogs play most of their other potentially difficult games at home, like South Carolina and Ole Miss, but they need to travel to Knoxville to face a Tennessee team that is having its best season in two decades. This is designing as an influential game both within the SEC and nationally. The Tennessee offense will always be great under Josh Hupel – and quarterback Joe Milton has legitimate first-round potential if he puts it all together – but the defense has steadily improved over the last couple of years and should get even better thanks to strong recruiting and a strategic transfer portal. additions.
There may not be a single team in the Big 12 that stands out as a natural college football playoff competitor. But the Longhorns end their two-game streak by heading to Alabama, which is always ranked among the top four teams in the country. Texas nearly beat the Crimson Tide last year, but an injury to quarterback Quinn Ewers and some late-game heroics from Alabama’s Bryce Young saved the Crimson Tide. Evers returned to Austin and Young went to the NFL. This will be the second game for someone to fill the huge void left by Young, giving this game a lot of potential for frustration.
Penn State Nittany Lions
The bad news for Pennsylvania State is that it plays in the same division as Michigan and Ohio State, two perennial college football playoff contenders. The good news is that this Penn State roster looks like it has a chance of being the most competitive in a long time for coach James Franklin, with the potential to shatter one or both of the East’s big 10 college football playoff hopes. . Yes, the Nittany Lions are losing. Very experienced starting quarterback Sean Clifford, but Drew Allar could have been much better. Penn State also boasts arguably the best backfield in the country, with Nicholas Singleton and Kytron Allen bringing rock, so it’s a great safety net for a young signaler with no proven snaps. Potential first-round pick Olu Fashanu, a likely All-American offensive player, also returned to protect Allar’s blind side.
As for defense, it has never really bothered me lately. Penn State does lose some pieces like Joey Porter Jr, but Kalen King comes back to make up for the slack at cornerback. The Nittany Lions also boast a strong top seven, with stars like Chop Robinson and Abdul Carter making household names. Consider a transfer like NC guard Storm Duck and this is another very strong defensive unit with the talent to slow down the Ohio states around the world.
Florida State Seminoles
Florida State took a giant leap under coach Mike Norvell in 2022, winning nine regular season games and walking away with a hard-fought Cheez-It Bowl victory. Norwell needed this as the fans were getting impatient after two losing seasons in a row. Quarterback Jordan Travis set a career high with 3,214 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. He also had seven rushing touchdowns for the third consecutive season. Norvell believes he can become one of the best players in the country. He is probably right. The Seminoles are also bringing back forward Jared Vers, who is a strong candidate to lead the entire nation in sacks. If there is any team that can unseat Clemson’s dominance and become the first consecutive ACC team (Notre Dame not counted) other than the Tigers to make the college football playoffs since 2015, it’s Florida State.
“I’m thrilled that people are speaking well of the state of Florida on a national level,” Norvell said ahead of spring training. “They should. They should. This program deserves it. This program has earned it by the test of time. We’ve moved away from that a bit, but the work of the young people I coach and what they’ve done has brought us back into the national dialogue. I don’t plan to “It’s going to go away. We want it to happen. And that’s important to this program.”