College football’s final regular-season weekend was full of wild endings, upsets, and curb-stomping defeats. From Notre Dame becoming a dumpster fire against Clemson, the shootout between Alabama and Florida in the SEC Championship, Ohio State’s eventually claiming the Big Ten after a slow start, and to Cincinnati staying undefeated season, the headlines were everywhere.
Let’s start “where the money reside” and take a look at the selection committee’s semifinal matchups. The question that floated through the air all morning was after Alabama and Clemson, who earned the No. 3 spot and who is justified being at No. 4? With the entire bowl picture coming into focus today, there’s plenty to discuss.
College Football Playoff Rankings
11. Indiana Hoosiers
12.Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
19.Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
22.San Jose State Spartans
New Year’s 6 Bowls: UNC vs. Texas A&M (Orange), Oregon vs. Iowa State (Fiesta), Oklahoma vs. Florida (Cotton), Cincinnati vs. Georgia (Peach)
AP Top 25
9.Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
16.Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
19.San Jose State Spartans
11.Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
17.Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
20.San Jose State Spartans
21.Oklahoma State Cowboys
Other teams receiving votes: Oregon 115; Army 61; Auburn 27; Colorado 16; Ball State 13; Washington 11; Wisconsin 10; Southern Methodist 10; Buffalo 9; UAB 5; Boise State 4; Utah 2; Nevada 2.
Everyone expected a shootout between Florida and the Crimson Tide. And that’s exactly what we got. The Crimson Tide’s 52-46 win locked Bama into the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Even though Kyle Trask’s 408 yards passing and 3 TDs should raise some real questions about their secondary. Kyle Pitts also put on a show (7 receptions, 129 yards, and 1 TD) in his last game as a Gator. The game does raise some questions about Alabama’s ability to matchup with a high powered offense. All season long, they’ve demonstrated the ability to be relentless on offense and having a well-enough defense to make another run at the College Football National Championship Trophy. And if Najee Harris has a repeat performance from last night (245 total yards and 5 total TDs), I like their chances, especially against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the semifinals.
Florida’s loss, in the battle of Heisman quarterbacks, didn't drop them too far in the polls or rankings. They remained in the top ten in the polls.
The other top-tier team in the CFP flexed their muscles this weekend. Clemson beat Notre Dame 34-10 for the ACC championship. The game also locked Clemson into the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. The revenge matchup, from the Tigers’ overtime loss to the Fighting Irish in November, was quite different with Trevor Lawrence under center. Lawrence had 412 yards of total offense. Travis Etienne also ran for 124 yards and 1 TD. It wasn't all great news in the Notre Dame massacre. Clemson will be missing safety Nolan Turner for the Tigers semifinal matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes after a targeting call.
Notre Dame’s dismantling made things dramatic and complicated when fans and analysts started breaking down playoff projections on Saturday night. The Irish, after all are 10-1 entering the postseason and beat four teams with winning records (Clemson and North Carolina). In contrast, they looked like they didn't belong on the same field as Clemson. It also reinforced the belief that in big and do-or-die games, the Brian Kelly-led Fighting Irish always seem to falter. They’ll get their chances to turn that tide against Alabama in the semifinal.
The team on the outside looking in, sure took care of things on their end yesterday. Texas A&M destroyedTennessee 34-13. They end the regular season at 8-1. The Aggies made their case for a playoff appearance with eight SEC wins, including Florida, and their one loss to Alabama. However, their wins didn't push the Aggies far. They remain locked at 5 in the rankings.
One team locked, although questionably, into the playoffs are the Ohio State Buckeyes. Coming off a game in which the Northwestern Wildcats made them sweat for three quarters. OSU took a 13-10 lead into the third quarter and eventually added to it with a final of 22-10. Justin Fields’ lackluster performance (114 yards and two interceptions) was saved by Trey Sermon. The Oklahoma transfer ran for 331 yards on 29 carries. Sermon ran his way through Northwestern’s top-tier defense, OSU into a semifinal matchup with the Clemson Tigers, and to third in the polls.
Speaking of the Sooners, their second-half of the season resurgence continued in the Big 12 Championship. They beat the Iowa State Cyclones 27-21 and won the Oklahoma’s sixth consecutive Big 12 championship. The win avenged their loss to the Cyclones earlier in the year. ISU made it interesting when they drew within a field goal under the five-minute mark. But they couldn't get the defensive stop to complete the comeback. The Sooners rank 6th in the CFP and 8th in the polls. ISU is ranked 12th.
The Bearcats hit a game-winning field go to beat Tulsa 27-24 and to take the American championship. They also seized an automatic bid to a New Year’s Six bowl. The long-shot team in the CFP, and the only team to rank in the top-20 in scoring and total offense, did not get the shot to play for a National Championship. They are currently ranked 6th in the AP Top 25. The CFP committee didn't seem to share the same love for the Bearcats. They booted them from the top 6 spots. They passed the eye test but I guess their resume didn't hold up with the panel.
USC was the lone unbeaten team in the Pac-12. Their winning ways collapsed on Friday when they lost 31-24 to Oregon. The loss eliminated the Trojans from New Year’s Six contention. It also dripped them to 21 in the polls. Oregon’s victory was good enough to put them back in the rankings at 25.
The No. 18 Miami Hurricanes will play in the Cheez-It Bowl against the No. 21 Oklahoma State Cowboys. The game will take place at Camping World Stadium, where the Canes played the Gators in 2019, on Tuesday, December 29 at 5:30 pm EST. You can drop your thoughts on the matchup below and if you think the playoff committee got things right.