2024 CFB Preseason Polling: Man vs Machine vs Vegas

Jon Joseph Editorials

With the longest off-season in college and professional sports, preseason college football (CFB) top-25 predictions are ubiquitous. And now with a 12-team playoff on the horizon, so are predictions of the 2024 CFB Playoff field. Mr. FishDuck and I had quite the discussion about these predictions, that is once I could pull him away from studying the Cardinals NFL Odds, and the NFL Combine Betting Preview.

The first way-too-early CFB top 25 prediction was most likely released on January 8, 2024, as Bill Hancock was congratulating Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on Michigan’s resounding 34-13 victory over Washington.

But Wait a Minute! On January 10, 2024, Nick Saban resigned from the Alabama head coaching position that he had occupied since the 2007 season. On January 12, 2024, Kalen DeBoer resigned from Washington and was hired to replace Saint Nick. On January 24, 2024, Jim Harbaugh departed Michigan to take over the LA Chargers head coaching job.

This was an unprecedented CFB turnover; two Playoff coaches left CFB and one left his Playoff team to coach another Playoff team. (And the other Playoff coach, Steve Sarkisian, had his salary bumped to $10M a year plus bonus.)

Some preseason polls have yet to react to this coaching turnover. But not ESPN and Las Vegas. On February 13, 2024, The Man, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, revised his 2024 top 25. Shortly thereafter, ESPN’s Machine, Bill Connolly‘s SP+ was released. Vegas, with real money and not simply a best guess on the line, responded almost immediately to Saban’s and Harbaugh’s departures and to DeBoer taking the Bama job.

Oregon’s stock has shot up due to the transfer of Dillion Gabriel. (Screenshot from On3 Video)

With a 12-team Playoff, using the Man, the Machine, and Vegas’s top-15 (is there any reason to rank a top 25 any longer?) how do the three preseason prognostications agree and differ?

The Man –

1. Georgia/ 2. Ohio State/ 3. OREGON/ 4. Texas/ 5. Notre Dame/ 6. Ole Miss/ 7. Missouri/ 8. Penn State/ 9. Alabama/ 10. Utah/ 11. Arizona/ 12. LSU/ 13. Michigan/ 14. Oklahoma/ 15. Florida State

I like Mark Schlabach, he does a great job in his appearances on the B1G 10 Network the Tuesdays during football season covering not only the B1G but CFB nationally. I don’t mean to diss Mark but some of his rankings?

Seven SEC teams and four B1G teams ranked in his top 15 come as no surprise. Michigan at No. 13 is somewhat surprising but Harbaugh has left the building along with most of the starters on offense. It’s certainly debatable how Michigan under new coach Sherrone Moore, and with a more difficult schedule in 2024, will perform.

Jedd Fisch does not see the massive rebuild in front of him. (Screenshot from UW Athletics Video)

What I do not ‘get?’ Utah No. 10 and Arizona No. 11. Utah in four of the last five seasons excluding the Covid Season of the Witch, has lost four or more games. Utah has lost its last four bowl games including the 2023 Las Vegas Bowl to Northwestern; a game in which Northwestern controlled both LOS. Of course, QB Cam Rising did not play for Utah in this game but QB Bryson Barnes who engineered a regular season win over USC started, and was ineffective. There is no assurance of how QB Rising will play after a season on the bench.

Ditto, Arizona at No. 11, as Jedd Fisch is now the coach of Washington. He left Arizona QB Fifita and WR T-Mc behind but he took several starters with him to Seattle along with ten recruits who had committed to Arizona. New Arizona coach Brennan has not coached at the P4 level. Furthermore, the B12 will likely replace the Pac-12 as The Cannibal Conference.

There is a lot of parity among the B12’s sixteen teams and like the B1G, the B12 plays nine conference games. The B12 champion will make the 2024 Playoff field and likely be seeded fourth with a 1st round bye but I don’t believe the B12 champ will finish in the top 10.

The Machine –

1. Georgia/ 2. Ohio State/ 3. OREGON/ 4. Texas/ 5. Michigan/ 6. Alabama/ 7. Penn State/ 8. Ole Miss/ 9. Notre Dame/ 10. LSU/ 11. Missouri/ 12. Florida State/ 13. Texas A+M/ 14. Oklahoma/ 15. Tennessee.

Oregon will have a tougher post-season in 2024 by design. (Photo by Tom Corno)

The Machine thinks far more highly of Michigan than does the Man and also ranks Alabama higher, and Notre Dame lower than Mark Schlabach. Utah is SP+ ranked No. 17, and Arizona is No. 19. Seven SEC teams are ranked. Four B1G teams are ranked; there is no difference between Man and Machine regarding which conference comes in at the preseason top.

Kalen DeBoer best hopes that Alabama finishes No. 6 and not No. 9, as No. 6 would give Bama a No. 8 Playoff seed, and a 1st round home game. And Kalen, you better not come close to Saint Nick’s record of 7 and 6 in 2017.

Las Vegas – Ranked by Odds to Win the 2024/25 Playoff.

1. Georgia/ 2. Ohio State/ 3. Texas/ 4. OREGON, 5. Alabama/ 6. Ole Miss/ 7. Michigan/ 8. LSU/ 9. Florida State/ 10. Penn State/ 11. Notre Dame/ 12. Clemson/ 13. USC / 14. Texas A+M/ 15. Missouri. Seven SEC teams are in the fifteen with the best odds to win the title and five, with USC making an appearance, B1G teams are in the top 15.

Man, Machine, and Vegas, Oregon is predicted to be the B1G runner-up and if the predictions hold, would be the Playoff’s 5th or 6th seed. 5th would be the easier Playoff path as in all likelihood the Ducks would be playing the Group of 5 Playoff representative in Autzen.

These rankings will all likely be adjusted after the 2nd Transfer Portal go-round, Spring practice, and Summer practice. As of now, I like the Machine’s take, but give me your thoughts on the Our Beloved Ducks forum.

Jon Joseph
Aiken, South Carolina
Top Photo by Leo Visions on Unsplash.com

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