We were confident coming into Sunday that Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame would make the College Football Playoff in some order. The fourth spot was up in the air.
Oklahoma got the final nod. The Sooners made the Playoff over Georgia and Ohio State, and the order of the latter two teams is interesting. But we’ll touch on that soon.
This was probably the least controversial decision the committee could make, and whether or not it was the right one depends on your criteria. Most would agree that Georgia is better than Oklahoma based on eye test, but the Sooners have a better resume than the Bulldogs. Losses matter in this sport, and Georgia has two of them. That’s tough to overlook when you’re comparing it to Oklahoma.
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The Sooners have flaws, of course. The defense doesn’t inspire much confidence. But the offense is historically good, and it will be fascinating to see what Heisman candidate Kyler Murray can do against the Alabama defense. We know Georgia can compete with Alabama based on the past two years. But with the Crimson Tide offense not operating at the peak of its powers, the Sooners have a fighting chance. The defense is great, but we’ve seen better under Nick Saban, and OU will be able to score. Alabama should be the favorite, but it’s not an easy matchup.
It’s significant that the committee slotted Georgia in between Oklahoma and Ohio State. That means there was a clear gap between the two teams going into Saturday, even though some suspected the Buckeyes had an outside chance at the Playoff with a big win over Northwestern.
The lesson: the quantity of losses matters, but so does quality. Georgia lost to LSU and Alabama. Ohio State lost to Purdue in a game that was uncompetitive and didn’t have enough high-level wins to jump Georgia or Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the Sooners lost to Texas and would later avenge the loss.
Based on what we’ve seen, the committee is generally going to value resume over eye test. It would take a very special case (like Alabama last year) for that not to be true. It’s something to keep in mind going forward.
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Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State were the three main teams of interest going into the day, but it’s worth touching on No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame as well. It always seemed likely that those two schools would stand pat as long as Alabama beat Georgia. It would be really interesting to see what would have happened had the Bulldogs pulled off the upset; there’s a decent chance the Fighting Irish would have slid to No. 4.
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At any rate, this is going to be a fun matchup between two teams that are kind of similar. Neither has an obvious weakness. Notre Dame plays good defense, has a quality quarterback in Ian Book and has a really good offensive line. The same goes for Clemson, and Trevor Lawrence has balled out this year despite being a freshman. But their defensive line is the best position group on either side. That should give the Tigers an edge, and they’ve been on fire in the second half of the season. But it should be a fun one.
We have three of the same four College Football Playoff teams as last year, but the dynamics are different for every school. We have Murray instead of Baker Mayfield, Lawrence instead of Kelly Bryant, and so on.
The first CFP semifinal game can’t come soon enough.