College football playoff: Looking back at top moments for all four semifinalists
No. 1 Clemson (13-0)
Eye-opening win: Clemson didn’t just shut out Miami on Oct. 24. The Tigers blew away the Hurricanes 58-0 and handed them their worst loss in school history. The win showed how serious a threat the Tigers were in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Worst win: While Clemson went undefeated, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some close calls for the Tigers. The game on their resume that didn’t look the prettiest was the September game with Louisville, which Clemson barely escaped 20-17.
Season-defining game: The Tigers found themselves on the verge of suffering an upset to in-state rival South Carolina. Clemson built an 18-point lead before the Gamecocks cut it down 28-25 in the fourth quarter. But quarterback Deshaun Watson set up a huge final drive and scored his fourth touchdown of the game to put it out of reach.
Memorable moment: It was definitely the year of Dabo Swinney and he gave one of the best speeches after the Tigers’ rainy win over Notre Dame. “Bring Your Own Guts” became the quote of the season.
Team MVP: Deshaun Watson. The quarterback bounced back after having ACL surgery last December and turned Clemson into one of the nation’s top offenses. Watson threw for 3,517 yards and 30 touchdowns during the regular season. He also added 887 yards on the ground alongside 11 touchdowns.
Play of the season: Clemson allowed Notre Dame to score with less than 10 seconds left. But the Tigers defense stepped up and stopped a two-point conversion to hold on to a 24-22 win over the Fighting Irish.
No. 2 Alabama
Eye-opening win: After its loss to Ole Miss, a few had written off Alabama's season. But two weeks later, Alabama rolled over Georgia 38-10 in Athens. The 28-point win was the largest by the Tide against a top-10 team on the road.
Worst loss: September's 43-37 loss to Ole Miss dropped Alabama out of the top 10. It was the first time Alabama lost in Tuscaloosa to the Rebels since 1988. Yet, it served as a wake up call for the Crimson Tide, who cruised through the rest of the season without another loss.
Season-defining game: Any seed of doubt about Alabama was erased with its 30-16 win over LSU. The Tide defense stuffed Leonard Fournette and held the running back to only 31 yards on 16 carries. The game separated Alabama and LSU in the SEC West and pushed Alabama back into the national title picture.
Memorable moment: Derrick Henry gave a heartfelt speech at the Heisman Trophy ceremony, thanking his mentor Nick Saban and his teammates.
Team MVP: Derrick Henry. Henry led the nation with 1,986 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. The running back broke numerous school and conference records, including the SEC single-season rushing record held by Herschel Walker.
Play of the season: Alabama struggled in the first half against Arkansas on Oct. 10. But a 81-yard touchdown to Calvin Ridley, who finished with 140 yards, sparked a comeback for the Tide to avoid the upset.
No. 3 Michigan State (12-1)
Eye-opening win: Michigan State held off Pac 12 power Oregon 31-28 to avenge its 2014 loss to the Ducks.
Worst loss: The Spartans suffered their only loss after some questionable calls in the final seconds against Nebraska. But Michigan State bounced back with four straight wins to finish the season.
Season-defining game: Michigan State put together one of the most Improbable final drives against Iowa in the Big Ten Championship. It took the Spartans 9:04 and 22 plays to march 82 yards down the field. With a playoff bid on the line, LJ Scott punched it in from the one-yard line to seal the comeback and send Michigan State to the semifinals.
Memorable moment: Michael Geiger knocked through a 41-yard field goal attempt to upset Ohio State in Columbus. The kicker had one of the most entertaining celebrations of the season. The win essentially sent the Spartans to the Big Ten title game.
Team MVP: Connor Cook. Cook battled a shoulder injury for the latter half of the season but still racked up 2,921 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. When it mattered the most, the Spartans could always count on Cook to connect with his targets, especially wide receiver Aaron Burbridge.
Play of the season: In-state rival Michigan lined up to punt with just seconds left but mishandled the snap. Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up the fumble and brought it back 38 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
No. 4 Oklahoma (11-1)
Eye-opening win: Bob Stoops and the Sooners strung together their best performance of the season in the 44-34 win over Baylor. Baker Mayfield and Sterling Shepard once again proved to be an unstoppable combination and Oklahoma looked like a legit playoff contender.
Worst loss: Oklahoma's only defeat from 2015 came at the hands of its biggest rival. The Sooners lost the Red River Rivalry to Texas in a shocking 24-17 upset. Instead of falling into a slump, the Sooners bounced back in November with wins over Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU.
Season-defining game: Oklahoma let its lead slip away in the fourth quarter and TCU was seconds away from giving the Sooners' their second loss. But Steven Parker broke up TCU's two-point conversion attempt and the Sooners held on 30-29. The win kept Oklahoma in the running for the Big 12 title and a playoff berth.
Memorable moment: Oklahoma knows how to throw locker room celebrations. Whether the team busts out its dance moves or Bob Stoops wearing a Yoda mask, it's always entertaining to see the Sooners just enjoying a win as a team.
Team MVP: Baker Mayfield. The walk-on transfer shined in the spotlight and led comeback after comeback for Oklahoma. Mayfield finished with 3,389 passing yards along with 35 touchdowns to only five interceptions.
Play of the season: Oklahoma fought its way back down 17 points to force overtime against Tennessee. Mayfield hit Shepard with a touchdown to force overtime and the two connected on the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime.