College Football Playoff to feature Alabama, Oregon, FSU, Ohio State
After a season's worth of debate, the College Football Playoff field is finally set. The selection committee unveiled the four teams that will compete for the national championship on Sunday.
No. 1 Alabama will play No. 4 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 2 Oregon will face No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Baylor and TCU, Big 12 programs that both went 11-1, were left out.
Here are the top six teams in the playoff committee's final rankings.
A few quick thoughts:
• Entering Sunday, most people wanted to see how the selection committee would rank Baylor and TCU in the playoff pecking order. As it turned out, neither finished among the committee’s top four. The Horned Frogs were No. 3 in the rankings last week, with the Bears sitting at No. 6. But last week’s No. 5 team, Ohio State, jumped to No. 4 following its 59-0 thrashing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. TCU fell to No. 6 despite routing Iowa State 55-3. “Ohio State’s performance in a 13th game gave them a quality win against a highly ranked team that allowed them to move into that fourth spot,” committee chair Jeff Long told ESPN on Sunday.
Consider it a sign that conference title games matter to the committee. TCU and Baylor shared the Big 12 title, but the Big 12 does not stage a championship game, which seems to have played a role in the league’s omission in the four-team field.
• The Big 12’s snub was not the only interesting aspect of TCU and Baylor’s final positions. The Bears ended up climbing above the Horned Frogs to finish at No. 5, proving head-to-head results did indeed factor into the committee’s decision.
This was a point of contention over the last several weeks, as TCU remained ahead of Baylor despite losing to coach Art Briles’ team 61-58 on Oct. 11. The Bears ultimately got the nod, though it’s little consolation after missing the cut.
• Ohio State’s playoff hopes seemed lost when quarterback Braxton Miller went down with a season-ending injury during fall camp. But the Buckeyes rallied behind backup J.T. Barrett and compiled an 11-1 record prior to the Big Ten title game. However, the Buckeyes also lost Barrett to a fractured ankle in their regular-season finale against Michigan, an injury that seemed to doom them so late in the year.
It didn’t. Ohio State routed Wisconsin behind third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. The Buckeyes lost to a mediocre Virginia Tech squad 35-21 on Sept. 6, but their effort against the Badgers -- coupled with wins over Navy and Cincinnati out of conference -- were enough to convince the committee of their worth. That's pretty remarkable given the loss of two Heisman Trophy-caliber passers.
• Despite finishing the season as the undefeated champ of a Power Five league, Florida State landed at No. 3 behind two one-loss conference champions, Alabama and Oregon. That means the committee regarded the bodies of work of both the Crimson Tide and the Ducks more highly than that of the Seminoles. Florida State often struggled against inferior opponents like NC State, Boston College and Florida. A similar performance against Oregon could spell trouble for the ‘Noles.
• After losing at Ole Miss 23-17 on Oct. 4, Alabama seemed like a long shot to finish atop the rankings. Throughout the first half of the year the Crimson Tide had yet to get the most out of starting quarterback Blake Sims, and coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense had yet to fully click. But Alabama responded in the second half and looked dominant as ever on Saturday, ripping through Missouri for a 42-13 win in the SEC Championship Game. Sims and the offense are firing on all cylinders as they prepare for a matchup with Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.