ATLANTA — Alabama locked up the No. 1 seed (is college football even using that word, “seed”?) in the playoff Saturday. The Crimson Tide’s 42-13 annihilation of Missouri in the Southeastern Conference championship game ensured the nation’s top team will be in New Orleans for the first round (is college football even using that word, “round”?) of a postseason spectacle.
Oregon has an ironclad grip on No. 2, putting the Ducks in Pasadena, Calif. Most everyone in college football circles would agree at this point that an Alabama-Oregon finale is the best possible game left on the schedule.
But what is the semifinal matchup that would rev engines like no other? Clearly, the answer is Alabama against unbeaten, reigning national champ Florida State. It would be larger than the overused “epic,” whatever the right word is. And yet it would be bad on bad, evil on evil, the Yankees of college football against the most controversial Heisman Trophy winner in history, Jameis Winston.
Who wouldn’t want to see that?
• But there are questions galore heading into the playoff selection committee’s critical announcement on Sunday. Does No. 4 FSU — which has survived a parade of close calls, including 37-35 over Georgia Tech for the Atlantic Coast Conference title — really belong in the top four? The answer to that is it doesn’t matter; the Seminoles will be in. But will they stay at No. 4 or move up and into a date with Oregon?
And what happens with No. 3 TCU, co-champ of the Big 12 with No. 6 Baylor — to which the Horned Frogs lost this season? The teams have the same record, and their résumés are strikingly similar otherwise. Many in the national media have been calling for the Bears to knock TCU out of the playoff, but now we’ve seen No. 5 Ohio State destroy Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game. It seems to change everything. Or nothing.
Haven’t the Buckeyes, who’ve made it to 12-1 with a second-string quarterback and then a third-string quarterback, proved themselves? I think they have. And that this is the litmus test for the committee: If Ohio State gets in, then college football’s claim that this would be all about the “best four” vs. the “most deserving four” is legitimized. If OSU is left out, then we’ll know the committee was driven instead by rationalities.
• Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will win the Heisman Trophy by one of the largest margins in the history of the award. His main competition, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, was completely shut down by the Buckeyes. Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper had a relatively quiet Saturday, as well. This thing is beyond over.