Eight Shakeups That Can Knock Chalk Out Of College Football In 2017

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The 2017 College Football Playoff picture is, in a word, chalky. 

Sporting News' predictions are full of chalk, too. Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and USC are the playoff picks in our bowl projections. Clemson, Penn State, Oklahoma, Washington, Michigan and Georgia round out the top 10 in our Preseason Top 25. Most of our predictions are chalk — because that is what has dominated in the College Football Playoff era.

MORE: SN's bowl projections

What could possibly disrupt that in the 2017 season? Here are eight scenarios that could knock some chalk out of the playoff picture. We're not saying these scenarios will happen. 

But just imagine what could play out if they do. 

Two losses in three weeks?  

Florida State and Clemson have traded the last six ACC championships, and Jimbo Fisher and Dabo Swinney bring top-five teams into this season. That could change quickly, however. By quickly, we mean within the first three weeks. What if Florida State falls to Alabama and Miami in  Weeks 1 and 3, respectively? Ditto for Clemson, which faces off against Auburn and Louisville In Weeks 2 and 3? Could both ACC powerhouses really have two losses by Sept. 16?

Such a scenario would open the door for Louisville, Miami and perhaps N.C. State, who faces the Seminoles on Sept. 23. The ACC would be wide open. Would the conference start counting on partial member Notre Dame at that point? 

MORE: Playoff in need of new blood?

Trojan horse  

USC is getting more love than any other team this offseason, and that's because of Heisman Trophy frontrunner Sam Darnold, who also is projected as the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Could anything hold back those endless choruses of "Fight On?" A tough September, maybe.

The Trojans open with three straight home games against Western Michigan, Stanford and Texas, and envisioning a split against the Cardinal and Longhorns isn't difficult. From there USC travels to Cal before a Friday night special at Washington State on Sept. 29. Remember, USC went 1-3 in September last year, and had to settle for "hottest team that didn't make it" status at the end of the season. They can't let that happen again. 

"Wildcats"

Remember the Northwestern bandwagon at March Madness last year? Constant camera shots of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The crying kid at the Gonzaga game. That unconditional love will return if the Wildcats throw a wrench in the Big Ten West race, which Pat Fitzgerald's team is more than capable of doing around star running back Justin Jackson. If the Wildcats get into November with a chance to win the Big Ten championship, then that bandwagon will fill up again. Can the "smart school" really crack the College Football Playoff? 

MORE: SN predictions for 2017

Last impression 

Oklahoma is 17-1 in Big 12 play the last two seasons, and a de facto "first four out" in early-season projections. Can somebody else in the Big 12 step up and become the second team from the conference to make the playoff? Seems like a golden opportunity for Oklahoma State, with quarterback Mason Rudolph. Perhaps it's Kansas State, rallying around Bill Snyder, West Virginia with Will Grier or TCU with Kenny Hill. Or is it Texas with first-year coach Tom Herman? There are at least a half-dozen teams you could picture winning the Big 12, and that's the most of any Power 5 conference. The best part for the Big 12 is, unlike the past three years, the champion will get to make one last impression in the conference championship game. That alone improves the conference's chances. 

Cowboys up 

A Group of 5 school likely won't make the College Football Playoff. The deck is stacked, and Western Michigan proved last year that an undefeated regular season doesn't even get you in the conversation. That's bad news for a school like South Florida, the popular pick to make that run this season. Boise State and Air Force have opportunities, but one school to keep an eye on is Wyoming. Josh Allen is generating NFL buzz, and the nonconference schedule includes a road trip to Iowa and a home game against Oregon. Wyoming also travels to Boise State and Air Force. That might make the discussions a little more interesting. 

MORE: Best Week 1 games

B1G controversy, Part II 

Remember last season when one-loss Ohio State made the playoff over two-loss Penn State, despite the fact the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten championship? Well, try this "What-if" on for size" What if Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State all finish 11-1, with identical 1-1 records in their Big Ten East round robin? That's entirely possible and probably a scenario the conference doesn't want to think about, given those are their three best playoff contenders. Would Ohio State — the preseason pick in the Big Ten and a school with a 61-6 record under Urban Meyer — somehow be left out? Our best guess if that happens: The winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game goes to Indianapolis. 

Two-loss chaos 

This is what the college football anarchists want. "Don't lose two games" is the golden rule in college football, and that's the mandate until the day a two-loss team makes the College Football Playoff. Consider that, since the start of the BCS era, LSU is the only two-loss team to play for a national championship, in 2007. The College Football playoff has featured three undefeated teams and nine one-loss teams through three seasons. Given the potential chaos we outlined in the ACC, the Big Ten East along with the wide-open Big 12 and Pac-12, this scenario is entirely possible. That's when fervor of CFP debates will reach never-before-seen-levels.

Down goes Bama? 

Notice it took us this long to get to Alabama? The three-time SEC champions are heavy favorites to win a fourth conference championship and advance to a fourth consecutive College Football Playoff. It's presumed Alabama will make it again, and it's gotten to the point where the season doesn't really start until the Crimson Tide lose.

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So, will the season start on Sept. 2 if Florida State knocks off the Tide in the greatest opener of all time? That would give Alabama back-to-back losses against two ACC powerhouses, and put the pressure on the Tide to run the table in the SEC. Would LSU, Auburn or somebody else put the nail in Alabama's coffin with that fateful, fatal second loss? We're not counting on it.

We picked Alabama — the chalkiest pick of all — to win it all. Unless somebody new joins the exclusive national championship coach fraternity of Nick Saban, Swinney, Fisher and Meyer, then that means we'll be having this discussion same time next year. 

Source : http://www.sportingnews.com/ncaa-football/news/college-football-playoff-shakeups-2017-northwestern-clemson-fsu-alabama-losse/1n082ag2a54zj1e69ydpeqh8p2

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