The Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) grabbed the No. 1 overall seed after winning their 25th-straight game over Florida. The Tide completely dominated Florida in the SEC Championship by a score of 54-16, marking their 12th double-digit win of the season.
The only suspense after Alabama was where the rest of the field would finish out. Clemson (12-1) claimed the No. 2 seed, despite Ohio State being ranked second overall before championship week. The Buckeyes (11-1), who are seeded No. 3, were penalized for not making the Big Ten conference title game.
Washington (12-1) rounds out the field with the No. 4 seed. The Huskies had the weakest non-conference schedule of the CFP field, but they crushed Colorado 41-10 in the Pac-12 Championship to seal their spot.
Perhaps the most-deserving team missing out is the Penn State Nittany Lions, who won the Big Ten Championship with a 38-31 victory over Wisconsin. They’re also the only team to have defeated the Buckeyes this year.
We’ll discuss Penn State missing out later, but first, let’s analyze the two CFP matchups along with betting lines on the games.
No. 1 Alabama (13-0) vs. No. 4 Washington (12-1) in Peach Bowl
GTBets.eu Line for Dec. 31 at 3:00pm EST:
Alabama -15.5 (-110)
Washington +15.5 (-110)
The only chink in the armor was defensive struggles against Ole Miss (48-43) and Arkansas (49-30), but this can be forgiven considering that they didn’t lose the entire season. Furthermore, Alabama has only allowed 8.3 PPG over the past seven games.
Alabama’s real bread and butter, though, is their offense, which is averaging almost 40 points a game. This team is dominant on both sides of the ball, they’re talented, and they look like repeat champions.
It’s no secret that Washington is the big underdog here. They lost to the same USC team that Bama dominated, and their strength of schedule has been bashed all year long. It was so bad that we seriously wondered if two-loss Michigan might still gain the No. 4 spot.
What propels Washington is their defense, which has held opponents to 17.2 PPG. The defense has been enough to overcome inconsistent play by the offense. This was especially apparent in the 26-13 home loss to USC, where QB Jake Browning and the offense really struggled.
For this reason, we don’t see the Huskies giving Alabama much of a test.
Score Prediction: Alabama 38 – Washington 17
No. 2 Clemson (12-1) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (11-1) in Fiesta Bowl
GTBets.eu Line for Dec. 31 at 3:00pm EST:
Ohio State -3 (-110)
Clemson +3 (-110)
Ohio State set a precedent by becoming the first non-conference champion to play in the CFP since it started in 2014. The Buckeyes quickly generated a buzz by crushing their first five opponents by 42.5 PPG, a span that included Big 12 champ Oklahoma (10-2).
Other quality victories include a 30-23 win over Wisconsin and a 30-27 (OT) win against Michigan. The only blemish is a 24-21 loss to eventual Big Ten champ Penn State, in which the difference was a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.
The Buckeyes are anchored by their defense, but their offense, led by J.T. Barrett, has played poorly at times. Clemson isn’t known for having an elite defensive unit, which will help Ohio State’s offense.
As for the Tigers, their beginning was the complete opposite. They got close wins against Auburn (19-13) and Troy (30-24) to start the season. Their offense finally got going after this, leading to a 42-36 win over then-No. 3 Louisville.
Clemson has lived on the edge with close victories against NC State and Florida State, followed by a demoralizing loss to Pitt (43-42). The Tigers rebounded from this to win their final three games, including a 42-35 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship.
We have no doubt that Clemson has the talent to beat Ohio State. But given their struggles against top competition, we have no idea which Tigers team will show up.
Score Prediction: Ohio State 33 – Clemson 24
The Biggest Snub: Penn State
Some might argue that Michigan getting left out is the biggest controversy, especially since they beat Penn State 49-10. But the Nittany Lions beat two teams (Iowa, Ohio State) that defeated Michigan, and they won the Big Ten title.
For this reason, they’re considered this year’s biggest CFP snub.
College Football Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said that it wasn’t an easy decision leaving Penn State out of the field. Here’s his explanation of the matter”
“We had spirited discussions in the committee selection room as well. Last night we met until approximately 1:30 a.m. this morning with that same [Penn State or Washington] conversation. It was detailed, it was difficult conversation and we looked at a lot of things. Obviously, we looked at two conference championship, Washington of the Pac-12, Penn State of the Big Ten. We looked at one-loss Washington, that loss being against a top-10 opponent compared to a two-loss Penn State team. One loss they were not competitive in that particular game, the other loss was to an 8-4 team
“We talked about strength of schedule. Obviously, strength of schedule favored Penn State. Had Washington had a stronger strength of schedule, I don’t think the conversation and discussion would have been as difficult. We looked at key statistical categories, which translate to performance on the field each and every week and the statistical categories that the selection committee sees value in that we discussed in detail last night and again this morning, Washington has the advantage. We talked to our coaches about what they saw in the performance of these two teams on the field not just in one particular game, but over the course of 13 games and Washington seemed to have the advantage there as well.
“So while it was challenging conversation, it was detailed conversation that went hours upon hours, coming out this morning, Washington deserves that No. 4 spot and the selection committee believes they’re a better football team when compared to Penn State.”
The final CFP field could’ve included a mashup of rankings beyond Alabama, or even included Penn State or Michigan over another team that got in. But the committee stuck by their rankings, which sets us up for some entertaining playoff action in late December and early January.