It’s official. And it’s more than a little surprising to many.
The Jan. 1 College Football Playoff matchups: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Alabama in New Orleans and No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Georgia in Pasadena, California.
It’s that first one, of course, where the surprise comes in. The Crimson Tide (11-1) are in, and Ohio State (11-2) is out. The selection committee chose a second team from the SEC, along with league champion Georgia, but left out the winner of the Big Ten.
That will offend fans throughout Buckeye Nation to no end.
The debate about what’s going to happen is over. But the bitterness will endure.
I just want to say this about . . .
• The committee: Give it credit for following through on its stated aim to find the best four teams. Nos. 1-3 were easy. The safer, easier move from there would’ve been to break the “tie” between Alabama and Ohio State by rewarding a fourth conference champion. There probably would’ve been fewer complaints and criticisms from the national media.
Alabama’s résumé leaves a lot to be desired. Nick Saban and company undoubtedly received the benefit of the doubt based on reputation and past performance. It’s not altogether fair. But remember, the Tide were widely considered the No. 1 team in the country for most of the season. If they were matched against OSU in a bowl game, they’d be the clear favorites. Is anyone prepared to argue that the Buckeyes would’ve had a better shot to beat Clemson?
The whole thing is imperfect, no doubt. But that’s college football’s postseason for you. For the last two-plus decades, since the power conferences banded together to hoard television revenue, the postseason has been where logic goes to die.
• Ohio State: In 2014, the committee gifted the Buckeyes a spot in the first playoff. Despite the controversy that created, OSU silenced the critics with a brilliant two-game stretch against Alabama and Oregon and won it all. This is the crux of the argument a lot of OSU supporters make now. Why couldn’t it have happened again?
Well, it could have, but it would’ve been quite a long shot. The 2014 Buckeyes would’ve blown the doors off the 2017 Buckeyes.
• Alabama: Talk about pressure. Last year’s title game ended Clemson 35, Alabama 31. The previous title game ended Alabama 45, Clemson 40. The Tide basically have three options: win the rubber match, lose in another classic or get roasted as frauds by everyone.
• The Big Ten: Ohio State might want to rethink its losing-to-Iowa-by-31-points strategy. Wisconsin would’ve gotten into the playoff had it rallied to beat the Buckeyes in the league title game, but did anyone really need to see the Badgers get taken apart by Clemson? Maybe the 2011 UW team quarterbacked by Russell Wilson would’ve had a chance. The Big Ten will get into the playoff more often than not, but this time it wasn’t as strong at the top as the competition.
• The BCS … I mean the CFP: Two teams from the same conference in the playoff? You knew, I knew and Cousin Bubba darn sure knew the first league to pull that off would be the SEC. Doesn’t anyone remember that the playoff came about mainly in response to the SEC winning seven consecutive national titles (from 2006 to ’12) during the Bowl Championship Series era?
Question of the week
Who’s going to hoist the trophy Jan. 8 in Atlanta?
Wow, I’m not ready for that question yet. (So why did I ask myself it?) My head says Clemson, my gut says Georgia. My gut is bigger.
But it’s early. I reserve the right to change my pick.
“Wins and losses matter more than résumé.”
That was ESPN’s Jesse Palmer, noted college-football expert, perhaps not realizing that, to the vast lot of us in the kingdom of ridiculous sports jargon, “résumé” is a fancy word meaning, precisely, “wins and losses.”
Best bowl matchups
1. Rose: No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Georgia. The nation’s top QB, Sooners senior Baker Mayfield, against its eventual top QB, Bulldogs freshman Jake Fromm.
2. Sugar: No. 1 Clemson vs.
No. 4 Alabama. The beauty of Dabo Swinney and the Tigers? They actually prefer to rumble again with the Tide.
3. Cotton: No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 8 USC. Big Ten champ vs. Pac-12 champ? Sweet. A rose by any other name …
4. Fiesta: No. 9 Penn State vs.
No. 11 Washington. This one crept up on me in a sneaky-best-game-ever kind of way.
5. Orange: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Miami. Are the Badgers fast enough? Are the Hurricanes tough enough?
6. Citrus: No. 14 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 LSU. A second bowl victory over the Tigers in three years would be a nice feather in the cap of the Irish.
7. Peach: No. 7 Auburn vs. No. 12 UCF. OK, Knights, let’s see how that perfect record holds up against one of the big boys.
8. Camping World: No. 19 Oklahoma State vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech. No. 3 scoring offense (Cowboys) vs. No. 5 scoring defense (Hokies)? Giddyup.
9. Alamo: No. 13 Stanford vs.
No. 15 TCU. It would be great to see Cardinal running back Bryce Love running healthy again.
10. Music City: No. 21 Northwestern vs. Kentucky. Don’t sleep on the Wildcats. Or, for that matter, the Wildcats.
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