Alabama-Clemson III? There's a wild ride ahead, so don't assume that's a lock

Be honest, when you're looking at the big picture of college football right now, you see No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and then the Grand Canyon to Penn State, Georgia, Washington and the rest of the pack.

You're not alone.

There have been columns written about it, segments dedicated to it on television and radio, and a general sense that what might feel inevitable now will stay that way for the next two months.

Stop. Just stop.

The Crimson Tide and Tigers have met in each of the last two College Football Playoff National Championships, played two classic games and each gone home with the championship trophy. A rubber match would be great for all of the obvious reasons, but this is college football. Things change quickly. Teams evolve -- and devolve.

So with that in mind, I remind you to enjoy the ride and see how the rest of the season plays out.

Enjoy the fact that the SEC itself has two teams -- No. 4 Georgia and No. 10 Auburn -- that not only look competitive but boast offenses that have shown signs of evolving into monsters on a weekly basis. If that happens, when combined with two stellar defenses, who's to say either or both can't topple the Tide?

Enjoy the fact that, in the ACC, Clemson still has to contend with an upstart NC State defensive front and potentially deal with the return of "The U" in the conference title game. Or just pay attention to the fact that Miami may well be back. Just because Florida State looks like it's the college football equivalent of a truck that's lost its brakes going down a mountain doesn't mean the ACC is down, its just different.

Take a look at a Big Ten that features the best player in the country in Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, an Ohio State offense that suddenly looks like it can stretch the field deep behind quarterback J.T. Barrett and a developing corps of wide receivers, and a constantly overlooked Wisconsin team that, quietly, is just chilling in the lucky No. 7 spot in the most recent AP Top 25.

Relish a wild Pac-12 that includes upstart No. 8 Washington State that has combined coach Mike Leach's offense with (whispers) a defense. Pay attention to Stanford running back Bryce Love, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, and the fact that, if USC gets right, can creep back into the national title hunt very easily despite the road loss to the Cougars. Also, do yourself a favor and stay up late to watch Chris Petersen and those fifth-ranked Washington Huskies. Myles Gaskin, Jake Browning and Co. are worth your time (and a little insomnia).

Have fun with a Big 12 that might only have one legit national title contender (No. 6 TCU) but is deep and wild enough to make things interesting on any given week (no, not you, Kansas). Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech all are sitting with one loss, and all have the makings of teams who can get hot enough to make a late charge. 

We are watching a sport in which 18-to-22-year olds are expected to play and act like professionals, and we often overlook the fact that college students are often times unpredictable. That's what makes the game beautiful and exactly why focusing in on Alabama-Clemson III is incredibly premature.

Let teams evolve, coaches adapt and players mature. If it results in a third straight meeting between the Tide and Tigers -- this time in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta -- fine.

But don't be disappointed if it doesn't. Because if it doesn't, you will have missed out on one helluva ride for whichever team or teams wind up there.

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, while also hosting on ESPNU on SiriusXM Radio channel 84, the... Full Bio

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