College Football Playoff teams are Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame

The two winners will play on Jan. 11 in Miami Gardens, Fla. The aching No. 5 spot, which in previous years had gone to Baylor, Iowa, ...



The two winners will play on Jan. 11 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The aching No. 5 spot, which in previous years had gone to Baylor, Iowa, Penn State, Ohio State, Georgia and Georgia again, with varying degrees of pain, went to Texas A&M (8-1), which had spent Saturday night as part of an argument for inclusion opposite mainly Notre Dame but also Cincinnati. The Aggies had beaten one ranked team (Florida); Notre Dame had beaten two (Clemson and North Carolina). The Aggies’ victims had a .375 winning percentage in the brutal SEC; the Fighting Irish’s victims had a .419 winning percentage in the not-quite-as-brutal ACC. The Aggies’ lone loss had been a 52-24 manhandling at Alabama on Oct. 3; the Fighting Irish’s lone loss had been a 34-10 manhandling Saturday in Charlotte in a rematch against Clemson.

“That probably came down to (Notre Dame) having an additional win against a ranked team,” committee chairman Gary Barta, the athletic director at Iowa, said on ESPN. With its 31-17 win at North Carolina on Nov. 27, the Fighting Irish became the only team in the mix with a road win over a ranked team. Notre Dame became the fourth team to reach the playoff without winning a conference, and the first to do so after losing a conference championship game.

Beyond that debate, another will flicker for years and center on Ohio State, which played fewer games than other rankings rivals because its conference practiced greater caution relative to the coronavirus that has killed at least 315,000 U.S. citizens and residents. Lurking in the Buckeyes’ six wins, however, were two triumphs over top-15 teams (Indiana and Northwestern), the same number as for two of the other three playoff choices. Ohio State’s six victims went 24-24, but the committee had a harder task this time around because the pandemic wreaked conference-only schedules that robbed the data of meaningful inter-conference outcomes.

“In the end, there was not dissension in the room about moving Ohio State into that third spot,” Barta said, having cited those two wins over ranked teams.

The No. 6 spot, sometimes a stinger itself through the years, went to Oklahoma (8-2), which vaulted up from No. 10 after its 27-21 hang-on against Iowa State in the Big 12 championship game. The Sooners wound up trending upward even as they wound up two slots below custom. Past committees have chosen the Sooners four times, meaning that Oklahoma, Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama have snared 20 of the 28 berths so far. Only six of the 130 FBS teams have ever won a playoff game — Alabama (6), Clemson (6), Ohio State (2), LSU (2), Georgia (1) and Oregon (1) — and four have won the title — Alabama (2), Clemson (2), Ohio State (1) and LSU (1).

Per playoff custom on the final day, the committee begins with the tops of its rankings. That meant it had not yet announced the placement of Cincinnati (9-0), which held down No. 9 last week. When the Bearcats finally played on Saturday night after two coronavirus-canceled weeks, they rode a walk-off field goal to a 27-24 win at home over then-No. 23 Tulsa in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

In sending Alabama to the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington, Texas, rather than New Orleans, Barta said, the committee exhibited its annual deference to the No. 1 seed. He cited the 16,000 fans allowed for Arlington next to the 3,000 allowed for New Orleans.

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Newsrust: College Football Playoff teams are Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame
College Football Playoff teams are Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame
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