NCAA Football News

College Football Playoff Championship 2015: Matchups Schedule, Early Predictions

The moment that college football fans have been waiting years to see is nearly upon us. Instead of letting the computers decide one matchup, things will be settled on the field between the four best teams in the country in the inaugural College Football Playoff. 

Not everyone is happy with the top four chosen by the committee, but that was always going to happen (based on the way things played out). Sometimes unusual things happen in college football. It just so happened that the first year with a playoff provided more unusual things than normal. 

Since the committee wasn't going to make everyone happy, its only job was to make sure that it got the four best teams in the two semifinal games. The outside noise was always going to be loud from two schools, but now the focus belongs on what will happen. 

Here's the graphic released on ESPN, via College GameDay:

 

Early Predictions

The Committee Will Be Proved Right

When you have six teams for four spots, it's impossible to do something that will make everyone happy. Besides, since when are sports fans ever really happy? The magic of these games—even more than actually watching them—is the discussion it provides. 

Think of all the time that's been spent dwelling on Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor and TCU over the last few weeks. It may drive you mad, but there's no denying the impact it's had. 

Despite initial reservations about the way these rankings have played out over the last two weeks, the selection committee will be proved right by taking Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. 

According to ESPN's Football Power Index, which measures how many points above or below average a team is, the only playoff team outside the top seven is Florida State at No. 10. However, it was impossible to leave the Seminoles out because they are undefeated and the defending national champions. 

Oregon and Alabama rank first and second on the list, so it's no surprise they are the top two seeds (even if the order is reversed). The gap between Ohio State (No. 3), TCU (No. 5) and Baylor (No. 7) is seven tenths of a point. That's hardly a significant margin.

Therefore, the whole process becomes a matter of what you value in a team. Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com highlighted the difference between TCU and Baylor:

But after beating Kansas State, the Bears now have three victories over top-20 opponents (they also beat No. 20 Oklahoma), compared to TCU's two. And Baylor's head-to-head matchup over the Horned Frogs has to matter more now. So what if TCU controlled much of their game in Waco, Texas? Is the committee really going to penalize the Bears for staging one of the greatest comebacks in college football history, in which they came back from 21 points down in the fourth quarter to win?

Schlabach then offered an alternative choice for the committee, if it wanted to make the Big 12 when it failed to declare "one true champion."

There is an escape plan from this predicament for the selection committee -- it can simply choose Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the most unsightly loss among the contenders, falling to Virginia Tech 35-21 at home on Sept. 6. The Hokies went 6-6 and lost at Wake Forest 6-3 in two overtimes on Nov. 22.

Ultimately, the selection committee went with the "escape" by rewarding Ohio State for its dominating performance against Wisconsin (and gave us a matchup featuring Nick Saban and Urban Meyer in the Sugar Bowl). 

For all the debating, no one will care when the games start. All that matters is that there are two competitive semifinal games. Alabama and Ohio State is an incredible matchup on paper, highlighted by the reunion of Meyer and Saban on a field for the first time since the former left Florida. 

In the other game, who doesn't want to see the two most high-profile quarterbacks in the country at the Rose Bowl?

The committee didn't have an easy task, but the games will prove to be the right ones when all is said and done. 

 

Alabama and Oregon Is the Championship Game We Deserve

When you get right down to it, even though we all love the idea of a playoff, there will be great disappointment from most of the country if Alabama and Oregon aren't playing for a national championship. 

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk speculated on Twitter that the spreads for the semifinal games will be decisively in favor of Alabama and Oregon:

Think of the way college football has been played over the last five years. Are there two teams that better encapsulate it—and have redefined it—more than the Crimson Tide and the Ducks?

Alabama plays with an old-school style that emphasizes smash-mouth running in the trenches and a potent passing attack. The Crimson Tide have opened things up more this year, as Amari Cooper has become the nation's best receiver. 

Cooper also became the most prolific wide receiver in SEC history against Missouri, per the SEC Network:

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims keeps getting better—proving how silly that quarterback competition in spring camp was—culminating with a performance against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game that left the senior speechless, via Tony Barnhart of SECSports.com:

"It's hard to know what to say," said Sims. "There are so many people to thank, so many people who believed in me. This is an incredible team, and all of these guys had my back all season. This is just a great moment."

That doesn't even touch on an Alabama defense that ranks fourth in points allowed and held six of its 12 opponents to 13 points or fewer. 

On the other side, Oregon has been unstoppable since losing to Arizona on October 2. The Ducks avenged that loss in spectacular fashion in the Pac-12 Championship Game with a 51-13 shellacking.

More impressive than the 51 points in that game is the way Mark Helfrich's defense shut down an Arizona offense that averages 34.8 points per game. It's so easy to focus on what the Ducks do with the ball, but the defense has more than held up its end of the bargain. 

The star of the show for Oregon is Marcus Mariota, who likely sealed his Heisman win with five total touchdowns against Arizona. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports put Mariota's season into one pretty bow following the Pac-12 Championship Game:

However, until Oregon plays a team like Alabama, there will always be the lingering question of what this offense can do against an elite defense. With respect to Michigan State, which got waxed by the Ducks earlier this year, Saban's group is in a different category. 

Therefore, the best championship game (and the one that will happen) is between the top two teams in the country. Anything else would be a letdown in some respects. Alabama and Oregon run entirely different operations. 

Saban has built a program on elite recruits, routinely ranking in the top three on National Signing Day. Helfrich doesn't get that kind of high-profile talent out of high school, but no one maximizes the value of his players and gets them to buy into a system better than Oregon's leader. 

It's time to see which group is better on the biggest stage college football has to offer. 

 

Oregon Will Win the National Championship

When Oregon and Alabama meet in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on January 12, the Ducks will win the first national title in school history. 

That goes against the grain, since SEC teams are often given the benefit of the doubt in these games, but there's something about the journey Oregon has been on this season that feels like it's the Ducks' year. 

First, Oregon's offense is the kind that is going to give Alabama fits. The Ducks run the same spread-out style that Auburn did, and the Tigers put up 44 points and 630 yards on the Tide. 

Even though the SEC Championship Game was a blowout, Missouri found success throwing the ball down the field the same way Auburn did, via SEC Network:

Alabama isn't lacking for speed on defense, but the secondary has been vulnerable against offenses that aren't as good as Oregon. Mariota has been tremendous at making plays with his arm, as well as limiting mistakes. The Heisman favorite has two interceptions in 372 pass attempts this season. 

Oregon's defense will have problems matching the power Alabama has on offense, especially with the tandem of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry out of the backfield wearing opponents down. 

The best counter to Alabama's power is speed, as has been proven in the last two years. Auburn beat 'Bama with it last year and nearly did it this year. Oregon has the perfect formula to defeat the Crimson Tide and will do so on the biggest stage in college football. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter.

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Winners and Losers of College Football's Selection Sunday

We have our playoff. And not surprisingly, we have both happy and unhappy teams, coaches, players and fans.

Only four teams make the inaugural College Football Playoff, and that quartet was announced on Sunday as the first piece of the 39-game bowl schedule that will unfold between Dec. 20 and Jan. 12. The ones who made it were deemed by the 12-member selection committee as the best and most deserving in the nation.

Those who didn't? Well, that's a sore subject for certain fanbases.

There's no perfect way to make such choices, but this is what we've got for this season. The four teams chosen are pleased, and plenty of others are disappointed.

Check out our winners and losers from Sunday's bowl announcements, which will be updated throughout the day as further bowl pairings are unveiled.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to Final Reveal

There weren't any major upsets on championship weekend, but the circumstances surrounding the best teams' victories sparked plenty of debate ahead of Sunday's final College Football Playoff rankings.    

The reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles capped off an undefeated season, 37-35, over Georgia Tech for the ACC title, which was expected to be enough to qualify for the Top Four. However, the Ohio State Buckeyes thrashed Wisconsin, 59-0, to win the Big Ten, while Baylor defeated Kansas State, 38-27, to join TCU as Big 12 champions.

In the end, the selection committee opted to plug in Ohio State as the final playoff program. Here is a look at the complete postseason bracket, per SportsCenter:

CBS' Brad Johansen weighed in on the polarizing rankings:

Alabama remaining in the top spot on the strength of an SEC title over Missouri isn't a surprise, nor is Oregon at No. 2 due to its vengeful, 51-13 dismantling of Arizona, the only team the Ducks had lost to this year. The Crimson Tide face the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl, and Oregon will tussle with Florida State in the Rose Bowl.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports feels the coaching battle between Alabama and Ohio State will be a cause for serious buzz:

As for the other playoff tilt, ESPN.com's Brett Edgerton alluded to an interesting fact about oddsmakers counting on the Seminoles to lose:

It has to be shocking for a team like TCU—inside the playoff picture in last week's edition—to win, 55-3, over Iowa State and see itself tumble out of national title contention so suddenly.

ESPN personality Skip Bayless shared his opinion, hinting at name recognition playing a role in TCU's steep drop:

Matt Winer of ESPN wondered whether the prior releases mean anything in light of how far the Horned Frogs fell:

On the other hand, Ohio State's triumph over Wisconsin was nothing short of spectacular. Former third-string quarterback Cardale Jones succeeded two injured potential Heisman contenders in Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett and played as well as could've been expected in the blowout win.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany spoke after the game and summarized what the selection committee had to be thinking, via ESPN's Brian Bennett:

Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution feels OSU's resounding statement in the Big Ten title game may lead to a trend in the coming years:

A poor nonconference schedule harmed Baylor's chances, and its head-to-head victory over TCU has been a perpetual bone of contention for the selection committee.

ESPN College Football highlighted the resumes of the Big 12 co-champions and Ohio State, and it was evident that strength of schedule played a part in the Buckeyes getting the nod:

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com suggested another factor that seemed to carry a lot of weight:

Due to the competitiveness of the jockeying for the fourth and final marquee postseason berth, there will likely be talk of making tweaks to the system.

Rivals.com's Josh Helmholdt hinted at that in his analysis:

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports noticed a certain theme in the committee's rhetoric, which may be seen as an attempt to quiet uproar over the rankings:

But The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre feels the circumstances actually hurt the possibility of an expanded playoff field:

Perhaps the most fascinating part about this new four-team playoff is that the winners of the first games on New Year's Day will have to prepare for an unprecedented challenge. While there is ample time to get up to speed on their opponent ahead of Jan. 12's national title showdown, playing back-to-back opponents of elite caliber is such a rare phenomenon.

The matchups should be excellent, as Alabama will take on an Ohio State team that traditionally has trouble with the SEC. Jones won't be as much of a surprise, because the Tide actually have game tape on him, a luxury Wisconsin didn't have.

As for the Oregon-Florida State battle, it will pit Ducks signal-caller and 2014 Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota against defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in one of the best QB duels in recent history.

Instead of having to shoehorn two teams into the grand finale, this College Football Playoff allows two of the top four teams to play two games in deciding a champion. That should create a ton of anticipation as the other bowls play out, and it ought to prove to be the most authentic way to date of determining the best NCAA football team.

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College Football Playoff Championship 2015: Dates, TV Schedule, Live Stream Info

The conference title games have been played. The champions have been crowned. After a long, dramatic, unbelievable season, the final four teams have been announced and the inaugural College Football Playoff has its bracket.    

Oh, happy day! SportsCenter on Twitter postd the four teams that made the cut:

Below, we'll take a look at the full schedule and the teams that qualified for the postseason. For the first time, we have a playoff and more than two teams actually deciding the national championship on the field. Get pumped!

 

Games

All contests will be live streamed on WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app.

 

Analysis

There were more than a few unknowns heading into Sunday. But one thing that seemed assured was that Alabama and Oregon would finish the season as the top two seeds. 

Last week's No. 1, Alabama, handled its business in the SEC title game, rolling over Missouri, 42-13. And now, after surviving the brutal SEC West, the Crimson Tide are a dangerous, battle-tested side that fully deserve their spot in the playoff.

Safety Landon Collins talked about the team's mentality after the game, per Chris Low of ESPN.com:

The only thing on our minds was us. We knew ever since that loss to Ole Miss that every week was our season, and that’s the way we played—relentless. It’s going to be the same way in the playoff. We don’t care who we play. We don’t care where they put us. We just want a chance to win a championship, and we got it.

They'll certainly be a tough out. Nobody is doubting that.

Oregon is going to be tough to top as well. The Ducks absolutely smoked Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, winning 51-13 over the team that handed them their lone loss earlier in the year. That left more than a few teams impressed with the squad, including NBC's Tony Dungy:

After the top two, things got interesting. Still, it seemed inconceivable that an undefeated Florida State team that won the national championship a year ago would be left out of the playoff, especially after the Seminoles padded a flimsy resume with a 37-35 win over No. 11 Georgia Tech.

It hasn't been pretty for the Seminoles this year, but they've showed grit and resilience and always pulled it out in the end despite a slew of close games against inferior competition, a trait that will serve them well in the playoff. 

With the first three teams easy enough to predict, that left Ohio State, TCU and Baylor all more than qualified to earn the final spot.

In the end, it was Ohio State that earned the nod. The Buckeyes absolutely smoked Wisconsin, 59-0, answering any questions about how the absence of J.T. Barrett would affect them. While the Buckeyes had a horrible loss against Virginia Tech at the beginning of the season to overcome, impressive wins over Michigan State and Minnesota on the road, along with the romp over Minnesota, made them tough to leave out.

And so the field is set and now the real fun begins. Well, it begins in a few weeks, at least. There was controversy, there was drama, but now we have our four teams and a champion will be crowned on the field.

It's hard to top that. 

 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Week 16 Playoff, AP, Amway Standings Revealed

The selection committee has announced its final rankings, and Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State are the four teams that will play in the first inaugural College Football Playoff. SportsCenter posted the results on Twitter:

Let the debate begin.

Below, you'll find both major polls (including Bleacher Report's) and a look back at the weekend that ultimately helped determine the committee's decision. One thing is for certain: With six deserving teams for this year's playoff and so many talented teams near the top of the rankings, we can count on a memorable bowl season. 

 

AP Poll

 

Coaches Poll

 

B/R Poll

 

Analysis

There were three possible outcomes over the weekend when it came to determining this year's four playoff teams:

  1. Two of the top six teams in action could have lost, making the selection committee's job truly easy.
  2. More than two of the top six teams in action could have lost, sending college football into disarray (let's be honest: secretly, this is the scenario most people not only predicted but also wanted). 
  3. All six teams could win, making the committee's ultimate decision—and need to shut out three deserving teams—truly tragic.

And so we were left with tragedy.

There was never going to be tragedy for Alabama and Oregon, of course. Both teams romped in their conference title games and thoroughly deserve their places in the playoff. Both topped excellent conferences (the SEC and Pac-12, respectively), have legitimate Heisman candidates (Amari Cooper and Marcus Mariota, respectively) and are prestigious football programs.

While Nick Saban has established a dynasty at Alabama, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich is still making a name for himself. Part of what has to make this year's conference championship so sweet is that it further removes him from the long shadow of former coach Chip Kelly, now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I've wanted to win this year for a lot of reasons," offensive coordinator Scott Frost told Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports. "But I wanted to win so bad for Mark Helfrich. People were going to be quick to judge Mark no matter what happened because of the success Chip had. Maybe people will finally realize what a great coach they do have coaching here at Oregon."

If he leads Oregon to a national title, something Kelly never did, one would guess the Oregon faithful would absolutely realize that.

Of course, Alabama fans already know they have a gem in Saban. And this year may be remembered as his finest triumph of all, as Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report notes:

We all left 'Bama for dead when they lost to Ole Miss. So much for that, right?

And so with the top two secured, that left Florida State, Ohio State, TCU and Baylor—all with warts, and yet all deserving of playoff spots.

Florida State was undefeated, the defending national champions and amid a 29-game winning streak, but they struggled all season against inferior competition and always seemed to survive by the skin of their teeth. Ohio State came on strong late but had the worst loss of the contenders against Virginia Tech. TCU had a strong resume and was playing well down the stretch but lost to Baylor. And the Bears had that head-to-head win over TCU but played a pitiful non-conference schedule. 

The committee couldn't really go wrong, though it couldn't really go right, either. Ultimately, it made its choices, and Baylor and TCU are left to try to accept that they simply didn't do enough to get into the playoff this year.

And the rest of us are left eagerly to await the first College Football Playoff.

 

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College Football Playoff 2014: Final Official Selection Committee Rankings

Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Florida State came into conference championship weekend with a simple edict: Win and assume you're in. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State were each playing opponents ranked no lower than 16th in the country, and TCU had separated itself three spots from Baylor, the team with the best argument to pass the Horned Frogs.     

All four teams came away this weekend with victories. Unfortunately for Baylor, its win was not deemed good enough to make the inaugural College Football Playoff. Sunday's selection show revealed that No. 1 Alabama will take on No. 4 Ohio State, while No. 2 Oregon will take a trip to the Rose Bowl against No. 3 Florida State.

TCU and Baylor, the subjects of so much discussion in recent weeks, were left as the final two teams on the outside looking in. Here is a look at how the six played out, per SportsCenter's Twitter feed:

This season marks the first playoff system in college football's bowl subdivision. The BCS rankings determined bowl game matchups from 1998-2013, replacing the conference affiliations that previously set premier matchups.

Following Saturday's slate of games, it felt like only Alabama and Oregon had locked themselves into their respective playoff spots.

The Ducks sent a loud and clear message in their 51-13 walloping of Arizona, atoning for their lone loss and arguably turning in their best overall performance of the season. Marcus Mariota accounted for five total touchdowns and Oregon had already opened a 30-0 lead before the Wildcats could even get on the board.

"If this guy isn't what the Heisman Trophy is all about, then I'm in the wrong profession," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich told reporters. "If you want your son or daughter to have a role model, pick this guy."

Alabama had a bit more trouble with Missouri. The Tide held a 21-3 halftime lead but had allowed Missouri to climb back within a 21-13 deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Three unanswered touchdowns later, however, and Nick Saban clinched a chance to play for his fourth national title at Alabama and third in the last four years. 

Running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon tallied two touchdowns apiece on the ground, while Blake Sims added another pair through the air. After being held out of the initial Top Four, Alabama has earned its top seed by taking down four Top 25 teams in its last five games. By earning the top seed, the Tide were able to choose whether they wanted to make a trip to the Sugar or Rose Bowl. The national championship will be played on Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

"All everyone wants to talk about is the playoffs," Saban told reporters. "It's tough to win (in this conference). It's tough to win your division and this game."

Reputation confirmation aside, Alabama and Oregon were low on the totem pole of teams to watch. They were the two teams with win-and-you're-in lock status. Behind them, though, were four teams with anything but certain futures.

TCU had the easiest job Saturday, hosting a fangless Iowa State squad. The Horned Frogs overcame a less-than-stellar first half and put 31 points on the board in the third quarter en route to a 55-3 win. But while Trevone Boykin and Co. were ending their season with a largely anonymous game, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor were going out with a bang.

The Buckeyes assuaged any concerns the committee should have about the loss of J.T. Barrett in their 59-0 win over Wisconsin. Ohio State's defense held Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon to 76 yards on 26 carries, and third-stringer Cardale Jones threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns. It was as dominant a single-game performance as any team has put on against a ranked opponent all season.

"I don't think there's any doubt we're one of the top four teams in America," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyersaid after the victory.

Selection committee chairman Jeff Long said on SportsCenter that the final score in Ohio State's win was a major factor in its selection, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

As Ohio State was running away with the Big Ten title, Florida State was doing Florida State things in Charlotte. The Seminoles defense folded time and again versus Georgia Tech's triple-option offense, trailing at points and never holding a lead of more than a touchdown until there were under five minutes remaining. 

Roberto Aguayo's third second-half field goal gave Florida State a 37-28 lead and would prove to be the game-winning score after the Yellow Jackets scored a desperation touchdown. Jameis Winston had one of his best performances of the season, throwing for 309 yards and three touchdowns without a pick. Freshman running back Dalvin Cook scampered for 177 yards and a score.

The win was Florida State's seventh by a touchdown or less. For comparison, last season, Florida State did not allow a team to come closer than 14 points during the regular season. Despite only one of their final four games coming against a ranked opponent (Georgia Tech), the Seminoles closed 2014 by winning those contests by a total of 14 points. 

"Last year's team was dominating, this year's team is more amazing," Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher pointed out. "It is really is...They compete together. They have had some struggles together and I think that's what makes them so tight."

Seminoles players also made waves after the game by calling out Alabama.

"We all want 'Bama," linebacker Reggie Northrup told reporters. "I'm tired of hearing all the ACC, SEC bull. It's every year. Not just that, we've played other SEC teams, but the main matchup everybody's been ranting about is us versus Alabama. So it'll be a great challenge. We would look forward to playing them."

The committee's last-second switch means Northrup's wish will have to come in a potential national championship game. 

Perhaps the most boisterous person after his team's win this week was Baylor coach Art Briles. The offensive guru left no stone unturned following the Bears' 38-27 victory over Kansas State on Saturday, slamming the Big 12 for its co-champions policy and saying Baylor deserved recognition for its head-to-head win over TCU.

"You know, if you're going to slogan around and say there's 'One True Champion,' all the sudden you're gonna go out the back door instead of going out the front?" Briles said, per Max Olson of ESPN.com. "Don't say one thing and do another."

Much of the debate coming into Sunday centered on how much each individual factor should play into the decision. Florida State, a Power Five conference team without a loss, seemed impossible to keep out. Even if the Seminoles were a worse team on paper, they got out of the regular season unscathed—something Baylor and Ohio State, which each lost to mediocre teams, could not say.

The Buckeyes could say they won their conference championship outright. Neither Baylor nor TCU could. It would be impossible to come to a conclusion that would satisfy all parties involved, and it appears Ohio State's championship-game domination was enough to sway those whose opinions mattered most. 

By keeping both Big 12 teams out, they avoid any appearance of downgrading head-to-head matchups. That will likely come as little solace to fans of TCU or Baylor, but it's hard to figure out the math when there are six deserving teams for four available spots.

Don't be surprised if we're hearing more clamoring than ever for a playoff expansion in the coming days.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 16 Rankings Released

The 2014 college football regular season and conference championships are in the books. Now, it’s time to look at the Week 16 Amway Coaches Top 25 poll to see how the action shook up the rankings.    

With Alabama, Oregon and TCU winning in dominant fashion and Florida State pulling off a close victory in the ACC Championship Game, the final weekend of the regular season lived up to the lofty expectations.

Here are the Week 16 Amway Coaches and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a breakdown of Week 15.

 

 

Breaking Down Week 15

There weren’t as many matchups on the Week 15 schedule due to conference championships, but the action on the field was just as unpredictable as it has been all season.

Starting with the teams in contention for the College Football Playoff, it was a week filled with high expectations and elite performances. The No. 1 team in the nation was the Alabama Crimson Tide, and they dominated the SEC Championship game by beating Missouri 42-13. Any doubts that the Crimson Tide were the best program were erased Saturday.

Another elite program that came to play in Week 15 was the Oregon Ducks. In a Friday night matchup against an Arizona team that beat Oregon earlier in the season, the Ducks found redemption and sent a message to the CFP voting committee, easily defeating the Wildcats by a score of 51-13.

The surprise team in the Top Four was the TCU Horned Frogs. Many fans thought Baylor or Florida State deserved the honor of being in playoff contention, but TCU did its best to prove the program earned its spot. In lopsided fashion, the Horned Frogs destroyed Iowa State, 55-3, and added another impressive win to their resume.   

One team that didn’t emerge victorious in such decisive fashion was the Florida State Seminoles. In the ACC Championship Game against Georgia Tech, Florida State managed to pull out a thrilling 37-35 win during the most entertaining battle of the week. While the Seminoles finished the season undefeated, the team won many games by close scores, and that hasn’t benefited the program in the eyes of the voting committee.

When asked about the difference between last year’s team and this year’s group, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters, “Last year's team was dominating, this year's team is more amazing. It is really is. ... They compete together. They have had some struggles together and I think that's what makes them so tight.”

Two teams looking to make a case to jump into the College Football Playoff were Baylor and Ohio State. Each team won its respective matchup and will put pressure on those voting on the Top Four teams in the nation—especially OSU, who dominated Wisconsin, 59-0, behind Cardale Jones following J.T. Barrett's season-ending injury last week.

Even if the Bears and Buckeyes don’t make the playoff, each has been part of a great season.

Not all the notable top-ranked teams in the league were able to win, however, as some talented programs took losses in crucial season-finale battles. Arizona, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas State faltered in the biggest moment of the season.

The college football regular season might be over, but fans can find solace in the fact that the next month will be spent watching entertaining bowl games and the inaugural CFP bracket unfolding.

If bowl season is half as entertaining as the regular season and conference championship weekend, college football fans will enjoy the most enjoyable month of the year.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

 

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Cold Hard Fact for Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fact: Ohio State's 59-0 win over Wisconsin is not only the biggest shutout win in a Power 5 Conference Championship Game, it's the only shutout.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Baylor Football's Twitter Made Final Push for Spot in College Football Playoff

Although the Baylor Bears weren't fortunate enough to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff, it wasn't for lack of effort.

The team hired a PR firm to make its argument a little more polished, and it showed in its Twitter account's American collage with just hours to go before the final announcement.

The 61-58 score on the four iconic patriotic images refers to Baylor's win over TCU, another potential playoff team that was also left out of the final four after occupying the No. 3 spot a week ago. 

Baylor's only loss this season came against unranked West Virginia.

[Twitter]

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 16 Rankings Released

While all anybody wanted to talk about on Sunday was the selection committee's picks to make the first inaugural College Football Playoff, there was more than one way to analyze the final rankings before the bowl season begins.

This week's Associated Press poll was a reminder of that.    

While the AP's poll ultimately has no bearing on the playoff, it's an interesting reminder of how a different group of people can view a season through a different lens entirely. Below, you'll find the AP and Bleacher Report polls along with a look back at the weekend that was.

 

 

 

Analysis

Oregon opened the weekend with a bang on Friday night, so we'll begin there.

The Ducks had little issue avenging an early-season loss to Arizona, smoking the Wildcats by a 51-13 score and emphatically winning the Pac-12 title. Once again it was the Marcus Mariota show, as the quarterback threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns and ran for three more touchdowns. That's 53 touchdowns total (one receiving score) on the season now for Mariota.

"If this guy isn't what the Heisman Trophy is all about, then I'm in the wrong profession," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich told reporters after the game. It's hard to argue with him.

Amari Cooper might have something to say about that, however. While he didn't reach the end zone on Saturday in Alabama's decisive victory over Missouri in the SEC title game, he did have 12 receptions for 83 yards, finishing the season with an SEC-record 115 receptions for 1,656 receptions and 14 touchdowns.

Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports was certainly impressed by the performance:

While all Oregon and Alabama had to worry about on Sunday was whether their star player would end up being the Heisman winner—since both were comfortably in the playoff picture—Florida State, Ohio State, TCU and Baylor all had far more to worry about.

The Seminoles left it close again on Saturday night, though once again they found a way to win, beating Georgia Tech 37-35. That's now 29 straight wins for the defending national champions, even if most of them weren't pretty this season.

But as the old saying goes, a win is a win. 

Baylor certainly ascribes to the above creed. The Bears finished their season with a solid win over a dangerous Kansas State side, the last chance they had to make an impression after they spent much of their season arguing that a victory over TCU made them the Big 12's best team despite the Horned Frogs spending much of the season ranked higher.

TCU, for what it's worth, reminded everyone of just how good they are, smoking Iowa State in their regular-season finale, 55-3, behind 460 yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Trevone Boykin.

Perhaps no win was more impressive than Ohio State's 59-0 romp over Wisconsin, however.

The Buckeyes have overcome injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett this season but keep on keeping on, this time behind Cardale Jones, who threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns. 

It was quite the weekend. And if there is one thing that a memorable close to a memorable regular season promises, it's a bowl season we won't soon forget. Even if more than a few deserving teams didn't ultimately get their shot at the playoff.

 

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College Football Playoff Selection Show 2014: Live Rankings and Bracket Results

We made it. Today is the day.

The College Football Playoff committee released its final rankings, showing Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State as the top four teams.

Alabama and Ohio State will square off in the Sugar Bowl, while Oregon and Florida State will battle in the Rose Bowl. The respective winners will meet to decide the national championship.

Bleacher Report is providing immediate reaction throughout the show. Please add your thoughts in the comments section.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 16 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

All eyes are on the selection committee with the conference championships wrapping up business end of the 2014 college football season. With Sunday's final College Football Playoff rankings, all of the debate will end regarding the top four teams in the country.

Dissenters argued that a playoff would rob some of the drama from the best regular season in American sports.

That view couldn't have been any more wrong, as 2014 has been thrilling from start to finish. And even after the final week before the rankings are unveiled, nobody knows for sure who will even be in the playoff.

 

Week 15 Recap

With all due respect to the other teams in the Top 25 discussion, this weekend was all about which teams positioned themselves for the inaugural College Football Playoff. Those listed around seventh and below will by and large go without mention.

All of the talk coming in centered on which four teams would distance themselves from the pack and blow away the selection committee.

Alabama, Oregon and Florida State should be considered locks by now. The Crimson Tide and Ducks won the two best conferences in college football and finished with one loss apiece. They're not going anywhere. While the Seminoles looked a little shaky against Georgia Tech, the committee can't ignore FSU's unblemished record.

As Jimbo Fisher said after the win over the Yellow Jackets, "There ain’t no decision to be made," per Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated:

The question then becomes which of Ohio State, Baylor and TCU is the most deserving of the fourth spot in the playoff.

Let's break it down a bit and determine who should be ranked higher from the Big 12: the Horned Frogs or the Bears.

TCU has the better overall body of work, playing a tougher nonconference schedule. The Horned Frogs didn't hurt themselves, either, in a 55-3 win over Iowa State.

However, Baylor owns a victory over TCU from back in October. As CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli notes, that win invalidates almost any argument listing the Horned Frogs ahead of the Bears:

It would seem counterintuitive to argue that a playoff helps decide things on the field but then turn around and rank Baylor lower than TCU.

The selection committee also generally displayed the "What have you done for me lately?" attitude in past rankings. If that trend continues, Baylor's win over previously No. 9 Kansas State will carry more weight than TCU's win over the Cyclones.

The signs point to Baylor at the very least being ranked ahead of TCU. But you could just as easily see the committee placing the Horned Frogs ahead of the Bears. Since it's the first year, nobody really knows what to do.

For now, we'll eliminate TCU from the playoff hunt, leaving Baylor and Ohio State.

The Buckeyes shut out No. 13 Wisconsin, 59-0, and more impressively held Melvin Gordon to 76 yards rushing to win the Big Ten. In addition, OSU scored 59 points on the No. 4 scoring defense in the country with Cardale Jones at quarterback.

ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach made compelling arguments for why Ohio State should be in the top four:

The biggest red flag for the Buckeyes is a home loss to Virginia Tech, which finished 6-6 and lost 6-3 in overtime to Wake Forest. Ohio State fans will argue that it was early in the season and that J.T. Barrett was adjusting to the starting job.

While that's true, a loss is a loss, and losing to the Hokies is rather damning.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby doesn't want to take sides in the battle between TCU and Baylor, but he's more than happy to throw the Buckeyes under the bus, per CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon:

Yeah, I'm nervous. I want the best outcome for the Big 12. But I also have a stake in the playoff and I have confidence in the people in the room to do what they think is best. I'll be able to sleep tonight because I believe TCU has a much better loss than Ohio State.

If the playoff is truly about putting the four best teams in, though, Ohio State should be ranked ahead of TCU and Baylor. The Buckeyes also brushed aside any doubt that they'd struggle without Barrett at the helm.

As if that's not enough to get OSU in, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver argued that the selection committee might also be motivated to search for the cleanest option:

By selecting Ohio State, the committee would almost be passing the buck to the Big 12 as a cautionary tale in terms of honoring co-champions.

Bowlsby might not want to pick favorites now, but it could cost the conference big in the long run.

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College Football: Week 15 Recap, Pick Results and Bowl Projections

The College Football Selection Committee was probably hoping that more would be settled on the field during Championship Week, but that wasn’t the case at all. The top four teams, along with No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Baylor, all won their games and clinched conference titles.

Now it will be a battle for the fourth and final spot in the rankings between TCU, Ohio State and Baylor. The nation will find out the fate of these three talented teams on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Alabama should find itself at the No. 1 spot in the rankings for a fourth consecutive week with a convincing 42-13 win over East Division champion Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Besides three big passing plays from Maty Mauk to Jimmie Hunt, the Tigers were held in check the entire game.

Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims passed for 262 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Derrick Henry bruised his way through the Missouri defense and recorded a career-high 141 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Alabama wrapped up its 24th SEC title with 504 yards on offense and was an impressive 9-of-13 in third-down situations.

No. 2 Oregon faced off Friday night with No. 7 Arizona in what many predicted to be another competitive matchup in the Pac-12 Championship Game. While the Ducks were up only 6-0 after the first quarter, it got brutal as the game progressed for a Wildcats team that was out-gained 382 to 25 yards and failed to convert a third down in the first half.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota finished the game with 313 passing yards and five total touchdowns, which did more than lock up Oregon’s first Heisman Trophy in school history. Not only did Mariota have an impressive performance, but physical freshman running back Royce Freeman racked up 114 yards. The Ducks defense also shut down an Arizona offense coming in averaging 481.3 total yards per game to just 224 total yards.

Oregon got the revenge it wanted with a blowout 51-13 victory to earn its fourth conference title in six years.

With the Ducks locking up the Pac-12 Conference, fourth-ranked Florida State managed to get by a dangerous 11th-ranked Georgia Tech team in the ACC Championship Game, 37-35.  

Jameis Winston had his best overall game of the season, as he was 21-of-30 for 309 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Winston was able to get all the help he needed with wide receiver Rashad Greene (123 yards, two TDs) and running back Dalvin Cook (177 yards, one TD) giving the Georgia Tech defense problems the entire game. The Seminoles won their 29th consecutive game and will be one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.

All three teams in contention for the final spot in the playoff had solid performances on Saturday. No. 3 TCU dismantled an inferior Iowa State team at home with a 55-3 win. Quarterback Trevone Boykin finished the contest 30-of-41 for 460 yards with four touchdowns.

The other Big 12 team in the race is No. 6 Baylor, who took a share of the Big 12 title with a 38-27 win over No. 9 Kansas State. Bears quarterback Bryce Petty finished 34-of-41 for 412 yards with one touchdown.

The Big Ten Championship was the biggest surprise on Saturday with Ohio State third-string quarterback Cardale Jones destroying one of the best defenses in the country in his first start under center. Jones, who threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns, received a lot of help from running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Devin Smith.

Ezekiel racked up 220 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Smith had 137 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The Buckeyes' 59-0 statement win over No. 13 Wisconsin gives Urban Meyer his first Big Ten title at Ohio State.

 

Pick Results

Overall Record: 48-27

Week 15 Record: 3-2

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick

 

Prediction: Oregon 43, Arizona 27

Result: Oregon 51, Arizona 13

 

Prediction: Alabama 38, Missouri 20

Result: Alabama 42, Missouri 13

 

Prediction: Baylor 41, Kansas State 24

Result: Baylor 38, Kansas State 27


 

Prediction: Georgia Tech 28, Florida State 24

Result: Florida State 37, Georgia Tech 35

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 35, Ohio State 30

Result: Ohio State 59, Wisconsin 0

 

Bowl Projections

Regarding how to differentiate No. 3 TCU, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Baylor, there are few aspects to look at. 

TCU moved to the third spot last week, but there has appeared to be inconsistency each week the College Football Playoff rankings have been released. Teams continue to jump around each week, and it has gotten to the point where it’s almost unpredictable. The Horned Frogs are a dangerous team and have played well, but losing to Baylor head-to-head in a tough 61-58 loss has to be taken into account.

If TCU is selected based on strength of schedule because of its nonconference 30-7 home win over Minnesota, that wouldn’t make sense, either. Ohio State has an SOS rank of 45, while TCU has an SOS of 54. Baylor finishes last in this category with an SOS rank of 59. 

The Horned Frogs lose in both head-to-head competition and in strength of schedule, meaning Baylor or Ohio State should be selected as the fourth team in the College Football Playoff instead. 

 

College Football Playoff

Rose Bowl Jan. 1 Pasadena, Calif. Semifinal No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State Sugar Bowl Jan. 1 New Orleans, La. Semifinal No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

 

Selection Committee Bowls

Peach Bowl Dec. 31 Atlanta, Ga. TCU vs. Mississippi State Fiesta Bowl Dec. 31 Glendale, Ariz. Boise State vs. Kansas State Orange Bowl Dec. 31 Miami, Fla. Georgia Tech vs. Michigan State Cotton Bowl Jan. 1 Arlington, Texas Baylor vs. Ole Miss

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