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Debate: Which four teams will make the College Football Playoff?

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Paul Vernon / Associated Press
Ohio State opens this season against the only team that it lost to last season, Virginia Tech.

Which four teams do CFB 24/7 experts foresee making this year's College Football Playoff? Will one of the final four from last season -- Ohio State, Oregon, Florida State and Alabama -- be making a return? Here is what our panel thinks:

  • Gil Brandt
  • Ohio State, Auburn must endure early road tests

    Ohio State plays at Virginia Tech in the opening game, and that is a very, very tough place to play. Virginia Tech beat Ohio State in Columbus last year, and OSU will be without four suspended players, including defensive end Joey Bosa. The rest of the Buckeyes' schedule is very favorable. The regular season ends at Michigan, but Ohio State gets Michigan State and Penn State at home.

    I'm picking Auburn over Alabama out of the SEC. Four of Auburn's last five games are at home, including Alabama. The toughest road test for Auburn will be on Sept. 19 at LSU. Auburn returns 12 starters, four of whom are on offense, where Jeremy Johnson takes over at quarterback. Johnson didn't play a lot last year, but Auburn has an offensive system that's good for his skill set. Last year, Auburn posted five games with more than 500 yards of offense.

    TCU has nine starters returning on offense -- including Trevone Boykin, who might be the best college QB in the country. The defense will need to be shored up, but head coach Gary Patterson does such a great job of coaching defense that he can overcome that fact. TCU opens on the road at Minnesota; the Horned Frogs also play at Oklahoma State and at Oklahoma before finishing the season at home vs. Baylor. The Baylor game might be the best chance to give TCU a run for its money.

    I like USC now that its nearly back up to a full complement of scholarships following NCAA sanctions. The Trojans have 14 starters returning (seven each on offense and defense). USC also has a favorable schedule, but plays at Oregon and at Notre Dame. Quarterback Cody Kessler is very undervalued.

  • Daniel Jeremiah
  • Depth of Pac-12 could cost conference a playoff spot

    Ohio State would be my first choice. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent and the schedule is very manageable.

    I'll go with Auburn as my second choice. I think the Tigers will emerge out of the SEC West because of a vastly improved defense.

    My final two spots go to TCU and Clemson. I love the athleticism/team speed for both squads. The Pac-12 is extremely deep this year, and I think they'll beat each other up and cost themselves a playoff berth.

  • Lance Zierlein
  • Irish could crash postseason party

    Ohio State is an obvious choice thanks to its talent base on both sides of the ball and an abundance of quarterbacks. With nine starters back for an offensive unit that can hang big numbers quickly and their matchup against Baylor at home, TCU will be in the final four.

    Auburn is re-loading at quarterback and running back, and has NFL-caliber talent on defense. Playing Alabama in Jordan-Hare doesn't hurt. Notre Dame is my final pick. The Fighting Irish might have a new quarterback, but they have more than enough at wide receiver and on their offensive line to help him out. Add defenders like Sheldon Day, Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith to the mix, and Notre Dame might have enough.

  • Charles Davis
  • Baylor will be playoff first-timer

    Ohio State -- The Buckeyes are pursuing another title in 2015, not defending 2014's. Ohio State is loaded, and has an excellent schedule.

    Alabama -- I know that Auburn has that "look" and the SEC West continues to be a weekly fistfight, but the head coach is beyond motivated, and his team will follow suit.

    Oregon -- If QB Vernon Adams passes his last exam at Eastern Washington, and assimilates quickly in Eugene, Oregon can return to the playoff. The Ducks also have an underrated defense.

    Baylor -- They know that they have to run the table, and win in Fort Worth late in the season. Their schedule sets up better than TCU's.

    Wild card? Clemson -- Precocious is sophomore QB Deshaun Watson's middle name, and it's time for the Tigers to take a big step forward.

  • Chad Reuter
  • Late-season games will serve as 'Elite Eight' round

    I believe four late-season games will act as an "Elite Eight" round to select the four College Football Playoff teams. On Nov. 21, Ohio State hosts Michigan State; the Buckeyes have too many playmakers for the worthy Spartan challengers to overcome. Baylor beats TCU for the third straight year on Nov. 27, with the Bears' experienced defense making just enough plays in Fort Worth to win the track meet.

    Alabama travels to Auburn for the Iron Bowl on Nov. 28 and takes the Tigers' best shot before coming out on top with a fierce defense and power running game. The Pac-12 Championship, held at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Dec. 5, will probably pit USC against Oregon. No matter who wins the contest in Eugene two weeks earlier, the Trojans' strong offensive line and defensive playmakers will mark the team's return to the national championship race.

  • Chase Goodbread College Football 24/7
  • ACC gets left out in the cold

    Without a crystal ball on the injuries and ball bounces that can quickly turn a promising season into a forgotten one, we'll start with Ohio State. The Buckeyes return the entire nucleus of last year's title team and could be even better offensively in 2015. Despite turnover at the quarterback position, Baylor is primed to take the Big 12 (without a co-champion) and possibly reach the playoff unbeaten. That leaves two more spots for Alabama, led by a suffocating defensive front, and USC, led by a true star at quarterback in Cody Kessler. Out in the cold: the ACC. The Big 12 will empathize.

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