NCAA Football News

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.

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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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Fiesta Bowl 2014: Known Info Before Final Playoff Rankings Reveal

The Fiesta Bowl may not be part of the inaugural College Football Playoff, but all signs point toward an exciting matchup being put in place for one of the sport's top bowl games.

There is no question that a handful of fantastic teams will be left out of the CFP, and that means some of them could potentially land in the Fiesta Bowl. Based on recent history, those two programs promise to put on a great show.

This bowl has traditionally made for some high-scoring shootouts in recent years, and it won't be surprising if that is once again the case in 2014, since the teams involved will have nothing to lose.

Here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch the Fiesta Bowl, as well as a closer look at some of the possible participants.

 

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

When: Wednesday, Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Selection Process

The Fiesta Bowl is among the most intriguing marquee bowls outside the College Football Playoff this season since there are no conference affiliations involved.

According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, that means the selection committee will have full control over which teams play in Glendale, Arizona with no interference from the conferences.

 

Potential Bids

Arizona

Perhaps the best fit for the Fiesta Bowl would be the Arizona Wildcats. Not only have they enjoyed a spectacular season, but they would remain in state and almost certainly bring along a large rooting contingent to the contest.

The Wildcats have exceeded expectations all year long, and that has much to do with the play of freshmen such as quarterback Anu Solomon and running back Nick Wilson. Among those who have been particularly impressed with the play of Solomon is Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, per The Arizona Daily Star.

He's played like a seasoned veteran. There have been moments, freshman moments, I guess you could say that. But he's been a great competitor. I think he has a pretty good grasp on our offense and the encouraging part is his best football is still way out in front of him. One of his strengths is having a feel for the game, and he has one now naturally, but he'll be better in the next couple of years.

The Wildcats are an excellent team right now, but they figure to grow as the likes of Solomon and Wilson do. Arizona could be a national-title contender over the next couple of years, and playing in the Fiesta Bowl would be a big step in the right direction.

 

Boise State

Among teams that aren't in one of the power conferences, Boise State is the only one with a legitimate shot at playing in a top bowl. The Broncos have long been in this exact position, and they have proven to be an elite program despite playing in the Mountain West Conference.

The most impressive thing about Boise State is that it is a program that manages to evolve as key players and coaches leave. The Broncos were a passing team when Kellen Moore was at quarterback, but they have relied heavily on the run over the past couple of seasons.

Junior running back Jay Ajayi is having a spectacular campaign, and he put up numbers no running back has in nearly a decade even before Boise State's meeting with Fresno State Saturday, according to Jay Tust of KTVB:

The Broncos have played in and won several big bowls in the past, and that should help their case in the eyes of the selection committee.

 

Wisconsin

Boise State certainly leans on its running back to do the bulk of the work offensively, but Ajayi almost pales in comparison to Melvin Gordon's importance to the Wisconsin Badgers.

Wisconsin has gotten very little production from the quarterback position this season, but it has hardly mattered due to the fact that Gordon has rushed for well over 2,000 yards. In fact, Gordon has enjoyed one of the greatest seasons by a running back in collegiate history.

He may have a difficult time knocking off Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, but former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard is among those who intend to vote for Gordon to win the sport's highest honor, per ESPN College Football:

Running teams aren't always exciting, but the Badgers have bucked that trend due to Gordon's explosiveness. Wisconsin is a hot team nationwide this season because of Gordon's exploits, and it wouldn't be particularly shocking if the Fiesta Bowl attempted to make a play for it.

 

Michigan State

While Michigan State may come to lament a loss to rival Ohio State that knocked it out of College Football Playoff contention, the Spartans still have an opportunity to close the season on a high note if they are chosen for the Fiesta Bowl.

They have been rolling on both sides of the ball since that loss to the Buckeyes, and running back Jeremy Langford has led the charge. Despite having nearly 1,400 yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns, though, he wasn't honored as one of the Big Ten's top two backs, according to Richard Scarcella of The Reading Eagle:

Along with Langford, the Spartans have gotten solid quarterback play out of Connor Cook, who has 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Michigan State has a top-15 scoring defense too, which means it can do a little bit of everything.

The Spartans are arguably the best all-around team in the running for a Fiesta Bowl berth, and they would be a great addition to the game.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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College Football Playoff Selection Show 2014: Date, Start Time, Live Stream Info

All the guessing and projecting will be over on Sunday, Dec. 7. The college football universe will find out the teams that will participate in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

ESPN will broadcast the historic event exclusively. The program begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, but the announcement won't come until 12:45. In the event you can't watch it on TV, you can see the live stream at Watch ESPN.

This is the first year the FBS national championship will be decided in a tournament format. Some people, like former WWE Superstar John Bradshaw Layfield, are already criticizing the process.

While a four-team field isn't ideal, it's a step in the right direction. What the FCS schools do to determine their champion is what many major college football fans fantasize about being adopted by the FBS.

Imagine what a 24-team field would look like in the FBS? Even a 16-team field with 12 conference champions getting automatic bids, and four more going to wild-card teams.

That tournament would take over the American sports scene for a month. Perhaps one day in the future that will become a reality.

For now, we must settle for football's version of the Final Four. Here's the panel who will decide the top four teams:

  • Arkansas Razor Backs athletic director Jeff Long
  • Southern California Trojans athletic director Pat Haden
  • Clemson Tigers athletic director Dan Radakovich
  • Wisconsin Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez
  • West Virginia Mountaineers athletic director Oliver Luck
  • Former Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne
  • Former Stanford Cardinal, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Washington Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham
  • Former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese
  • Former NCAA vice president Tom Jernstedt
  • Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
  • Former USA Today sportswriter Steve Wieberg
  • Former Air Force superintendent and retired Lieutenant General Mike Gould
  • Former Mississippi Rebels quarterback Archie Manning (had to step down due to health issues, but will not be replaced)

 

The Games

The two national semifinals will still carry the names of two of the premier contests from the Bowl Championship Series. One will be the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California and the other the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Per the College Football Playoff official site, the teams will be sent to the bowl games based on a few factors.

Geography will weigh the heaviest.

The teams with the higher seeds will be sent to the most advantageous locations. For example, the USC Trojans—should they be in contention in the future—would have a larger turnout of their fans in Pasadena than they would in New Orleans.

Should they receive a higher seed, the Trojans would almost certainly be headed to the Rose Bowl. 

The same would be the case with the LSU Tigers in the Sugar Bowl.

Both semifinal games will be played on New Year's Day. The national-championship game will be played on January 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Check out the selection show to find out which four teams will be vying for the title.

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Predictions for Final Poll

Now is the time we wish the College Football Playoff Committee good luck.

The battle for the coveted fourth playoff spot was fierce on championship Saturday. No. 3 TCU dominated Iowa State as expected, rolling to a 55-3 win behind a four-touchdown, 460-yard masterclass from quarterback Trevone Boykin.

The win earned them a share of the Big 12 title with No. 6 Baylor, who defeated a strong Kansas State team 38-27 and is holding out hope that the playoff committee recognizes their 61-58 win over the Horned Frogs from earlier in the season.

Ohio State essentially tried to end the Wisconsin football program in the Big Ten championship game, rolling over the Badgers 59-0 behind a three-touchdown performance from quarterback Cardale Jones and a suffocating defense.

Florida State did what they've done all season long, scraping out a win over Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game to preserve their undefeated record. 

Here are my predictions for the final Top 25 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

No. 2 Oregon looked like a good bet to take the top spot with their dominant 51-13 win over Arizona in the Pac-12 championship on Friday, but No. 1 Alabama put in a brilliant, suffocating performance of its own in a 42-13 trouncing of Missouri in the SEC championship game. 

Forget the controversy that is sure to surround the final playoff spot; just be glad these two teams have proved they are the cream of the crop in the NCAA. A Ducks-Crimson Tide game is a matchup any non-partisan football fan should be eager to see. 

Marcus Mariota had five total touchdowns against the Wildcats on Friday. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compared Mariota to a current professional star after his brilliant performance:

Wide receiver Amari Cooper was his usual brilliant self for 'Bama in the SEC championship, putting up 12 catches for 83 yards and setting an SEC record in the process, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon put up two rushing touchdowns each, while Blake Sims was nearly perfect throwing the football, completing 23-of-27 passes for 262 yards and two scores.

Determining the final two playoff spots is going to be an unbelievable headache for the playoff committee considering the resume's of the teams in contention. 

Florida State was arguably less impressive this season than any of the other teams in the Top Six heading into Week 15, but it would be an absolute absurdity to freeze out the undefeated defending champions. They are just as much a lock for a playoff spot as Oregon and Alabama.

Ohio State has a considerable edge over the Big 12 schools with an outright Big Ten championship to its credit. Their thorough demolition of Wisconsin with the third-string Jones at the helm was the single most impressive performances of the season.

It shows that Ohio State might be the most well-rounded team in the nation, considering one can't point to a single player as the impetus for most of their success.

TCU and Baylor earned a share of the Big 12 title, but the lack of a championship game in their conference just might hurt them in the eyes of the playoff committee. Bears coach Art Briles was upset with the decision to have co-champions after his team won the head-to-head matchup against the Horned Frogs earlier this year.

"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, via ESPN.com's Max Olson. "Don't say one thing and do another."

The playoff committee isn't getting any help in sorting out this mess from Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, either.

Baylor closed out the season with two close wins over Texas Tech and Kansas State; a blowout performance in the latter would have earned them greater consideration.

TCU pummeled Iowa State, but they could suffer by not finishing off the season against a marquee opponent like Ohio State, FSU and Baylor did.

"I feel like we did everything we needed to do on our end to be one of those top four teams," said Boykin after the game, via The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde noted a potential line of thinking for the committee, one that would shut out the Big 12 from the playoff:

This scenario just might play out when the decisions are in. It's tough to punish TCU for winning by 52 points on Saturday, but it's equally as tough to lock out a Buckeyes squad that was one of the hottest teams in the country down the stretch. These two squads are the proverbial rock and hard place boxing in the playoff committee after Saturday's results.

Any way you slice it, there are six teams deserving to go to the inaugural College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, there are just four spots. The committee will have no choice but to disappoint two programs and their fanbases when the final selection comes out, but it's best that they stick with a host of outright conference champions and as soon as the decisions are in, cue the campaign for an eight-team playoff.



Rankings listed in text are courtesy of CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

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Alabama vs. Missouri: What's Next for Each Team After SEC Championship 2014

Perhaps we should stop suggesting that there is no dominant team this college football season.  While parity has dominated for much of the season, a peaking Alabama squad is clearly becoming the nation's top team, a notion it reaffirmed by demolishing Missouri, 42-13, in the SEC Championship Game.

The Crimson Tide continued their ascent into a terrifying offensive powerhouse, piling up 504 total yards.  Despite hanging on for much of the first half, the Tigers were largely helpless to stop Blake Sims and Co., who had a 13:26-minute edge in time of possession.

Neither team's season is over yet, however, as the Tide's victory has important postseason implications for both squads.  Obviously Alabama will have higher stakes to play for in the playoff, but Missouri's bowl game aspirations will have future consequences as the Tigers continue building their profile three years into their SEC membership.  After bringing home a Cotton Bowl victory last January, another premier victory over a Power Five conference would further assimilate Mizzou into the SEC.

Putting a forward-looking lens on the SEC Championship Game, let's analyze how both teams may fare in the postseason based on their performances on Saturday.

 

Missouri: Build the Program Profile

The Tigers have been an underrated squad during Gary Pinkel's tenure, having won double-digit games in five of the past eight seasons.  Nevertheless, Missouri has never quite been able to get over the hump into a premier bowl game, as Saturday's loss put them in some ignominious history:

With the defeat, the Tigers will most likely head to a second-tier bowl for an SEC school. The Outback and Citrus (formerly Capital One) Bowls have both traditionally chosen teams from the SEC East, so one of those two appears like the most likely destination for Missouri.

The Tigers would subsequently play a Big Ten or ACC opponent, with Clemson, Maryland, Notre Dame and Minnesota standing out as the most probable selections.  Missouri figures to be favored over all except perhaps Clemson, whose quarterback, Deshaun Watson, led the Tigers to their first victory over arch-rival South Carolina since 2008 despite playing on a torn ACL.

Nevertheless, with two consecutive conference championship game appearances, the Tigers have almost totally erased the black sheep label that emerged after their dismal 5-7 debut season in 2012.  With four losses and a plus-172 point differential in conference play over the past two seasons, there is little doubt that the Tigers have passed the fallen empires of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Next year will provide a bit of a rebuilding challenge; along with All-American Shane Ray's likely early defection for the NFL, the Tigers are losing eight senior starters, including their top three receivers.  But quarterback Maty Mauk will be back for his junior campaign, and even if Ray leaves, Missouri will return seven defensive starters.  Thus, expect the Tigers to finally receive some respect in the preseason forecasts next summer.

 

Alabama: Reestablish the Dynasty

Like the rest of the SEC, Missouri is striving to reach the standard Nick Saban has established in Tuscaloosa.  Championships are the expectation in Alabama, and whether the trophies come in the form of crystal balls or leg lamps, the Tide will need to capture their fourth national title in six seasons to call 2014 a success.

As the presumptive No. 1 seed, the Tide will likely play in the Sugar Bowl against either TCU, Florida State, Baylor or Ohio State.  The Horned Frogs and Seminoles appear as though they are the likeliest candidates, though TV politics have led analysts to take conflict stances on Alabama's likeliest semifinal opponent:

Regardless of who the Crimson Tide face, they have separated themselves as the best team in the country.  Football Outsiders' Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) not only rates the Crimson Tide as the top team in the nation, but Alabama is also the only squad to boast a top-five unit on both offense and defense.  Whether it be a defensive struggle or historic offensive slugfest, the Tide have shown the versatility to win through any method.

Most importantly, the last few weeks have validated Saban's controversial preseason decision to stick with Sims at quarterback over much-ballyhooed transfer Jacob Coker.  Sims ranked second in the country in QBR headed into the game, and with a massive 92.6 adjusted QBR rating against Missouri, the senior has established himself as one of the nation's top signal-callers.

The one missing ingredient in Bama's championship squads has been an explosive passing game.  With that element in tow as well, Alabama must be considered heavy playoff favorites, even with two stiff challenges remaining.

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Orange Bowl 2014: Known Info Before Final Playoff Rankings Reveal

Under the new College Football Playoff structure the top six bowl games rotate, serving as the national semifinals. Although the Orange Bowl will have to wait another year to fill that role, it should still receive a high-profile matchup for New Year's Eve.

The teams that will play in one of the sport's oldest bowl games will be determined by the selection committee based on its final rankings. The announcement will be made on Sunday afternoon at around 2:45 p.m. ET, according to the CFP's official site.

Before that happens, let's check out all of the important details for the 2014 Orange Bowl, along with a look at the selection process and the teams with the best chance to get picked for the marquee game.

 

Viewing Information

Where: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida

When: Wednesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Selection Process

The Orange Bowl is the only one of the non-semifinals being chosen by the committee with specific requirements. While the others will pit two at-large teams against each other, the showcase at Sun Life stadium is going to feature an ACC squad taking on one from either the SEC or Big Ten.

Notre Dame is also eligible for selection. Up until about a month ago, the Fighting Irish actually looked like strong contenders for the spot, but they proceeded to lose four straight games to finish the campaign, knocking them out of the mix.

 

Analyzing Potential Teams

On the ACC side, Georgia Tech is the likely selection, with Florida State heading into the College Football Playoff. The Yellow Jackets reached the conference title game after winning the Coastal Division by one game over Duke.

Being selected for the Orange Bowl would be a nice accomplishment for a team that didn't receive much preseason hype. In fact, athletic director Mike Bobinski explained to Andrea Adelson of ESPN that the lack of respect helped fuel their strong season:

I do believe the best thing that might have happened to us this year is when we got picked so low in the preseason.

We were already well on our way to having a good offseason and having a better locker room, having a group of guys that are more together and honestly care about each other, play for each other and push each other harder more than we had in recent years.

Adding that extra impetus of, 'Hey, we're not getting a whole lot of respect from folks' was a nice little addition to the mix.

As usual, it was the rushing attack leading the way for Georgia Tech. It ran for more than double the yards it passed for, which is amazing considering the direction the game has headed in recent years, with more and more teams relying on the pass from spread looks.

A lot of credit goes to head coach Paul Johnson and his staff for implementing a system that can power its way to success, even when the opponent knows what's coming.

Other options include Clemson and Louisville, but either one being slotted above the Yellow Jackets would be a surprise.

As for their opponent, two teams stand out from the crowd—one from each of the conferences involved (SEC and Big Ten).

From the SEC, it's Mississippi State. The Bulldogs finished second in the very difficult West Division behind only Alabama. They finished 10-2, which was highlighted by an extremely impressive three-game stretch in which they knocked off LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn.

The only downside is that their two losses came late in the campaign. Neither was a bad defeat, coming on the road to the Crimson Tide and rival Ole Miss. But the committee has put high value on current form, so losing twice in the final three weeks hurts.

That's why the edge probably goes to Michigan State out of the Big Ten. The Spartans were two spots higher in the rankings in the latest release. Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press thinks that will probably secure their Orange Bowl berth:

Michigan State also ended the regular season with a 10-2 record. Although the level of competition wasn't as high in the Big Ten as it was in the SEC, the committee seemingly believes the Spartans' numerous blowout wins down the stretch offset that.

Of course, the committee has already pulled off some surprising moves since the initial rankings were released back in October. Nothing is official until all of the games from championship weekend are taken into consideration.

All the teams with a chance will soon discover their fate.

 

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Sugar Bowl 2015: Known Info Before Final Playoff Rankings Reveal

Already one of the biggest bowl games on the schedule, the 2015 Sugar Bowl will take on an increased importance as it is one of the two semifinal games in the inaugural College Football Playoff. 

As the selection committee prepares to unveil its final rankings on Sunday, the pieces have been put in place for the matchup that will take place in Atlanta on New Year's Day. All that remains is making sure the committee doesn't try anything funny, which has happened more than once this season. 

While there's still more than three weeks to go before the game and a few hours before the matchup is officially announced, here is a look at everything that's set for this year's Sugar Bowl thus far. It's only appropriate to follow that up with an examination of the teams most likely to be playing in New Orleans. 

 

Teams in the Mix

Alabama Crimson Tide

As things are set up, the Sugar Bowl will play host to the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds in the College Football Playoff rankings. For the last three weeks, since defeating Mississippi State on November 15, the top spot has belonged to the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Nick Saban's team has shown some cracks at times this season. The offense was stagnant against LSU, while the defense gave up 630 yards and 44 points against Auburn. Through it all, they have come out with just one loss. 

ESPN Stats & Info put out numbers using advanced metrics, as well as the rankings, prior to the SEC Championship Game to show how good Alabama has been this season:

Everything has been set up for 'Bama to play in the Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide have taken care of their biggest rivals (LSU and Auburn) already this season. Blake Sims has had his ups and downs but stepped up in the biggest moment of his career in the Iron Bowl. 

Combine that with the committee's love of the Tide, and it's not going to surprise anyone when they are selected as the top overall seed. 

 

TCU Horned Frogs

Even though TCU rose up to No. 3 in last week's rankings, the committee could opt to knock the Horned Frogs back down due to a cupcake opponent in Iowa State on Saturday. 

Regardless, though, Gary Patterson's team is a lock for one of the two big bowl games. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com actually gave TCU the best odds of any team to make the playoff after last week's rankings came out:

TCU’s chances of making the playoff are now 96 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight model — up from 80 percent before the committee’s new rankings were released. Those odds might seem incredibly high, but TCU has a cupcake opponent in 2-9 Iowa State, against whom it’s a 97 percent favorite, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). TCU remains unlikely to make the playoff should it lose, but it looks safer in the event of a win. 

Based on the comments made by selection committee chairman Jeff Long after TCU was announced as the No. 3 team on Tuesday, it's clear the people in power love what they have seen from the Horned Frogs despite their head-to-head loss against Big 12 rival Baylor, via Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com:

We look at their losses. Baylor's loss is against a West Virginia team that's outside the top 25, and TCU's is against Baylor, who is No. 6 ... We look at many, many different things. Overall, the evaluation -- the human evaluation -- of this is what this committee is designed to do. And I think they've done that in this case with TCU and Baylor.

Saturday was basically a glorified coronation for TCU, as there was little doubt it would take care of business against Iowa State. The Horned Frogs aren't likely to move down after climbing up, though there is a logjam after the top two spots that warrants putting them here. 

 

Florida State Seminoles

Based on the current rankings, the Sugar Bowl matchup was set to be Alabama against Florida State. There was some controversy about the committee dropping an undefeated Seminoles team from third to fourth, though Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com has a theory about that:

"Dropping Florida State to No. 4 means a semifinal in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans against No. 1 Alabama," Adelson wrote. "That is the dream matchup everybody wanted to end last season, a delicious pairing between mentor Nick Saban and mentee Jimbo Fisher."

It's a good conspiracy theory, helped by the fact that Florida State wouldn't have to travel as far to get to New Orleans compared to Pasadena, California for the Rose Bowl. 

Even though their wins aren't always sexy, there's something to be said for the Seminoles always finding a way to come out on top. Per ESPN's College GameDay on Twitter, no other school in the country can match Florida State's combination of comeback wins and close wins:

Statistical analysis has taken over sports, and a lot of it is valuable, but sometimes it takes away from remembering the ultimate goal is to win a game. No one has done that more over the last two years than Florida State. 

 

Baylor Bears

There's a real argument to be made for Baylor to be ranked ahead of TCU already, as the Bears won a 61-58 shootout against their conference rivals on October 11. The committee didn't agree, slotting Art Briles' team in three spots behind the Horned Frogs before Saturday's games. 

One silver lining for Baylor is it had a chance to prove itself once again with a showdown against ninth-ranked Kansas State. The school tried to take necessary steps to get more publicity, including hiring a public relations firm, via SportsCenter:

While that's going a little overboard, as well as blurring the lines once again between college football and business, all Baylor really had to do is beat Kansas State to at least warrant consideration for one of the top four spots. 

The climb is steep because of the competition around them, but the Bears have put together a resume that can compete with anyone. There will be justified outrage if they don't get in and TCU does. Remember when the BCS formula was broken?

 

Ohio State Buckeyes

Even the most optimistic Ohio State fan will tell you that they didn't see a 59-0 drubbing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game coming. Certainly, it wouldn't happen without star quarterback J.T. Barrett. 

But it did, which leaves the selection committee with the unenviable task of having to leave out one of TCU, Ohio State or Baylor. Florida State could be included in that group since it was fourth last week, but there's no way to leave out an undefeated defending national champion. 

As crazy as it sounds based on the results from Saturday, Ohio State still seems like the odd team out. Think about what we know: The committee loves TCU, as evidenced by its ranking last week; Baylor has a head-to-head win over TCU and by matchup ranking had a tougher game on Saturday than the Buckeyes. 

Therefore, it comes down to what the committee prefers. Even with the win over Wisconsin, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com only gives Ohio State a 40 percent chance to make the top four, putting the Buckeyes fifth in its latest simulation. 

While being fifth is nothing to scoff at, it's not enough to get you into the playoff.  

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

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Rose Bowl 2015: Known Info Before Final Playoff Rankings Reveal

The Rose Bowl is traditionally one of the biggest games of the college football season, and that's no different this year, given the stakes.

Historically, the Rose Bowl generally featured the winners of the Big Ten and Pac-10/Pac-12 conferences.

Since the creation of the Bowl Championship Series, the Rose Bowl became a little more inclusive, serving as the national championship for a few different seasons and also featuring TCU and Oklahoma when the conference champions were otherwise occupied.

With the advent of the College Football Playoff, that changes a bit.

Until the selection committee unveils the last batch of College Football Playoff rankings, it's anybody's guess as to whom will play in the 2015 Rose Bowl.

Here's what we know so far heading into the New Year's Day clash.

 

When: Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream:WatchESPN

 

Where Rose Bowl Fits into Playoff

Since this is the first year for the playoff, some fans remain unaware how the Rose Bowl fits into this year's rotation. The game serves as one of two semifinals this year, with the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds facing off. The winner will play whomever wins the Sugar Bowl, with the national championship in Arlington, Texas.

In the old system, you had the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl fall under the BCS umbrella. One of the four would host the national championship, with the host rotating from one year to the next.

In the CFP, the Cotton Bowl and Peach Bowl are added to the prestigious list. Rather than switching the national championship, the six bowls rotate who hosts the two semifinal games. You can see the rotation schedule for the next three years below.

The Rose Bowl won't serve as the national semifinal at any other point in the next three years.

 

Who's Still in Play?

Nobody can say for sure right now who will play in the Rose Bowl. Between glancing at the Week 15 playoff rankings and results from Friday and Saturday's games, however, fans can get a good idea of at least which teams are in the discussion.

Three teams are essentially locks for the top four after the conference championships: Florida State, Alabama and Oregon. The Crimson Tide and Ducks won the two toughest conferences in the country, while the Seminoles are the only Power Five team still unbeaten.

Say what you want about Florida State's penchant for close wins. The only thing FSU needs as a playoff credential is its 13-0 record. Head coach Jimbo Fisher isn't sweating the committee's decision, per Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated:

It seems a safe bet that the committee will be weighing the resumes of Ohio State, Baylor and TCU as it fills out the playoff bracket.

The Big 12 is officially recognizing two champions, which makes the committee's decision that much harder:

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight wondered whether the members might save itself a major headache and simply send in the Buckeyes:

Say what you want about the Big Ten, but beating Wisconsin by 59 points in the title game was a major statement. According to ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach, it was the second-biggest shutout of a top-15 team ever:

Schlabach also crunched the numbers, and it's hard to vote against OSU:

Those fans without a dog in the fight shouldn't really get upset no matter who gets sent into the playoff. There won't be a bad semifinal matchup, and this system is miles better than the Bowl Championship Series.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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