The debate is over. The 2016 College Football Playoff is now set and the four teams making the final field are the ones that have been predicted for weeks.
That means the Crimson Tide will take on the Huskies in the Peach Bowl semifinal (Atlanta), while the Tigers face the Buckeyes in semifinal action at the Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Arizona). The winners will square off in the CFP National Championship in Tampa, Florida.
|Peach Bowl (Dec. 31)||National Championship (Jan. 9)||Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 31)|
|No. 1 Alabama (13-0)||No. 2 Clemson (12-1)|
|No. 4 Washington (12-1)||No. 3 Ohio State (11-1)|
It also means No. 5 Penn State (10-2) was left out of the top four after making a convincing case by winning nine straight games including the Big Ten Championship Game in epic comeback fashion late Saturday. Michigan checked in at No. 6, giving the Big Ten three of the top six teams in the CFP Rankings.
Alabama, of course, was the obvious overall No.1 seed after laying waste to its schedule this season, finishing 13-0 and champion of the SEC. Clemson, as expected, jumped Ohio State for the No. 2 seed. The Tigers lost only to Pittsburgh this season on their way to a 12-1 record and an ACC title.
The Buckeyes played the toughest schedule of anyone in the rankings with four games against top 10 teams, three of which were on the road, and compiled a 3-1 record against those teams. Ohio State didn't win the Big Ten, but clearly, the Buckeyes were the league's best team. Washington held its spot from last week at No. 4 in the rankings after beating Colorado 41-10 for the Pac-12 championship to end the season with a 12-1 record.
Penn State jumped Michigan for the No. 5 spot in the rankings, which was actually a little surprising given the fact that the Wolverines won the head-to-head matchup so decisively, but this is a case where the committee rewarded the team with a better record and the conference championship over the head-to-head result. The committee showed something similar last week in ranking Florida State ahead of Louisville, although there is no conference championship or better record involved in that case.
As we complete the third year of this system, we are still learning about what matters and what doesn't in certain situations to the committee. This year's lesson is one that has been true all along, but never demonstrated -- this is a tournament of the four best teams, not the four best conference champions. You have to be open minded enough to accept the idea that two of the four best teams may be in the same conference and at least one of those will not be a champion. You have to be open to the idea that the best team in a conference, for one reason or another, may not win its championship.
Conference championships are decided by performance over two-thirds to three-quarters of a team's schedule, and they're often based on an unbalanced schedule. However, the entire season counts. Ohio State is in the playoff because of its performance over the entire season. Penn State missed out for the same reason. There is no point in playing nonconference games if they don't mean anything.
For those of you who still feel that all that should matter is that Penn State beat Ohio State head-to-head and won Ohio State's league, let me ask if you would feel the same way had Florida found a way to upset Alabama last night? Would you really think Florida should be ahead of Alabama because the Gators would have won head to head and won Alabama's league? Didn't think so.
All that's left to be decided is how the rest of the New Year's Six and the remaining bowl games will be slotted.
We have been projecting the bowl games all season with our final predictions now out ahead of the announcements, which should begin at 2:30 p.m. for the New Year's Six and the rest of the top 25 of the rankings.