Alabama fans are celebrating the team’s entry into the College Football Playoffs, but you might offend them if you suggest the got in through the back door.
The College Football Playoff is in its fourth season, and features the four best teams in college football as determined by a 13-member selection committee comprised of current and former athletic directors, coaches, players and university presidents.
Ohio State won the first tournament title in 2014, Alabama won in 2015, and Clemson won last year.
The committee makes its determinations by taking factors like strength of schedule, conference titles and head-to-head competition into account, namely when comparing teams with similar records.
It was announced on Sunday that this year’s semifinal playoff games will feature the No. 2 seed Oklahoma against the No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Jan. 1, and No. 1 Clemson against No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans that same night. The National Championship Game will be played Jan. 8, in Atlanta.
Clemson, OU and Georgia were easy choices once they won their respective conference championship games. The question, or maybe the debate, then surrounded which team should fill the fourth spot; Ohio State or Alabama.
Ohio State, with two losses, knocked undefeated Wisconsin out of the equation by defeating the Badgers in the Big 10 Conference title game. The Buckeyes had the better overall resume, with victories over Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, all ranked higher than any of the teams Alabama defeated this season.
Alabama, meanwhile, had just one loss (a 26-14 loss at Auburn), arguably a better loss than either Ohio State’s 31-16 defeat at home to Oklahoma or 55-24 beatdown at Iowa. Alabama head coach Nick Saban also argued that the team’s season-opening win against Florida State – then No. 3 before stumbling to a 6-6 record – would likely look far better had the Seminoles not lost quarterback Deondre Francois for the season. Good point.
Oklahoma and Georgia will feature a fascinating clash of styles. The Sooners’ high-flying offense is led by Heisman hopeful, quarterback Baker Mayfield, whose team is playing at its best right now. The Sooners have won eight straight games, including two victories over TCU in that time by a combined 42 points.
Oklahoma’s potent passing game, ranking third in passing yards per game (367.4) and fourth in points per contest (44.9), has proven difficult to stop this season. Georgia, on the other hand, plays a strong ground-and-pound offense and tight defense. The Bulldogs are fourth in the nation in yards allowed per game (270.9) and are giving up just 13.2 points per game (tied for third). If it’s a high scoring game, I believe OU will come out on top.
The Clemson-Alabama game is a bit more difficult to pick, as both teams play comparable styles and have managed to amass a lot of points this season. Clemson is the defending champion but Alabama has something to prove – that they belonged in the top four. I’ll give the slight edge to Clemson, and then will likely pick the Tigers to repeat as Champs.
None of this is scientific, and as the coaches like to say, “that’s why they play the games.”