Even after Southern California’s loss to Utah made things unnecessarily complicated, the College Football Playoff selection committee has rarely had things so easy.
With Ohio State ready to step in for USC, the committee simply had to bump the Buckeyes one spot to complete a very interesting four-team mix.
No. 1 Georgia will be the home team against No. 4 OSU in the Peach Bowl. Held in the Bulldogs’ backyard, this matchup will pit the two teams that ranked atop the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll for most of the regular season.
No. 2 Michigan will host No. 3 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. Even after losing in overtime to Kansas State, the Horned Frogs remained the third seed and avoided a very intimidating matchup against Georgia. Not that Michigan will be much easier — the Wolverines are rolling into the postseason with a second Big Ten championship in a row.
POSTSEASON LINEUP:Complete college football bowl schedule
Follow every game: Live NCAA College Football Scores
BOWL PROJECTIONS:Forecasting the entire 41-game postseason schedule
BULLDOGS INEVITABLE:Georgia is college football’s new Death Star program
HIGHS AND LOWS:Winners and losers from Week 14 in college football
Just outside the top four came No. 5 Alabama and No. 6 Tennessee, as the committee continued to ignore the Volunteers’ head-to-head win against the Crimson Tide earlier this season.
Despite having a very unconvincing argument for making the top four ahead of the Buckeyes, the Tide are the biggest losers from an easy selection Sunday:
As a gift for making the playoff, OSU gets to face off with the defending national champions — an opponent that does what Michigan does, only better. Last time we saw the Buckeyes, they were getting stampeded by the Wolverines’ physical style; the Bulldogs might do the same and then some. But there’s a pretty good track record among the previous three teams that backdoored into playoff:
- 2016 Ohio State was blanked by Clemson 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl;
- 2017 Alabama beat Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl and then topped Georgia 26-23 in overtime in the championship game;
- And last year’s Bulldogs lost the SEC championship game to Alabama before beating Michigan 34-11 in the Orange and defeating the Crimson Tide 33-18 in the rematch.
Sometimes, these late-season losses can force teams to exhale, take a step back and reevaluate things heading into postseason play. After a somewhat sloppy but still effective regular season, the Buckeyes could be recharged by the loss to Michigan.
The big fear for the Horned Frogs coming out of the narrow loss to Kansas State wasn’t whether they’d be jumped by Ohio State but whether the committee would give Alabama the benefit of the doubt at the Frogs’ expense. By keeping TCU at No. 3, the committee avoided making a historically bad decision that would’ve cast a dark cloud over the entire selection process. Better yet, TCU wasn’t docked for losing to one of the nation’s best teams — another very good decision by the committee — and will take a shot at exploiting a Michigan pass defense that has given up 715 yards through the air on 7.5 yards per attempt in the past two games.
Nick Saban made the rounds Saturday across multiple networks to issue one final plea: Alabama lost two games on the final play against two elite teams, Tennessee and LSU, and were playing well at the end of the regular season. After all, he suggested, the playoff should be about which four teams can win the whole thing. A better option would’ve been to win just one of those two losses; the one-loss Crimson Tide were getting in ahead of OSU, but the two-loss option didn’t have the resume. Coming up short of the playoff leads into an intriguing offseason for the program, which could make staffing changes in addition to losing star quarterback Bryce Young.
The Bulldogs are the favorites to win a second straight national championship regardless of the number of Big Ten heavyweights in the playoff field. But the road is much more difficult with the Buckeyes’ late move into the top four, which presents Georgia with a far more difficult test than the other two options in that spot: USC, had the Trojans not lost Friday night, or TCU, had the committee not shied away from creating a rematch between OSU and Michigan.
Story Credit: usatoday.com