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College Football Playoff Championship 2015: Semifinals Bracket and Predictions

The inaugural College Football Playoff sure succeeded in causing plenty of intrigue across the nation. Following the conclusion of Championship Saturday, the case for a playoff berth could legitimately be made for six different teams; however, there were only four spots available.

Heading into Selection Sunday, debates raged on, as everyone wanted a final answer to one burning question: Who's in?

The esteemed members of the College Football Playoff selection committee have painstakingly dissected the resumes of all contenders in an effort to bring the official Top Four to fruition. With their job now done, here's a look at the bracket:

There we have it. No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Ohio State will represent the nation in the playoff. Unfortunately for No. 5 Baylor and No. 6 TCU, they are in the unfortunate positions of being the first two out after impressive seasons.

With the Top Four finally revealed, here's a look at the matchups, schedule and early predictions for the playoff's semifinal clashes.


Sugar Bowl

Matchup: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

When: Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN



There shouldn't have been any question over Alabama's No. 1 ranking. The Crimson Tide entered the SEC Championship Game as the top seed and went on to dismantle the Missouri Tigers by a score of 42-13. The victory extends the team's winning streak to eight games heading into the Sugar Bowl.  

Ohio State was the surprise team in the Top Four, leapfrogging TCU to earn a playoff berth. One big question surrounding this team was the loss of quarterback J.T. Barrett before the Big Ten Championship Game; however, Cardale Jones quickly quelled any doubts, leading the Buckeyes to an impressive 59-0 win over Wisconsin. That performance was certainly playoff-worthy.

While Jones was electrifying against the Badgers, he'll be severely challenged against an Alabama defense that ranks fourth in the nation, allowing an average of just 16.6 points per game. The Crimson Tide aren't a team that allows many big plays, and that could cause problems for a young quarterback who didn't need to sustain many long drives against Wisconsin—none of Ohio State's drives were longer than seven plays.

Although, Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com raises an interesting concern for Alabama:

Ohio State's defense is coming off a brilliant shutout performance, limiting Heisman hopeful running back Melvin Gordon to just 2.9 yards per carry and just his second game this season with fewer than 100 rushing yards.

It's difficult to predict how Jones will fare against a tough Alabama defense after just a small sample size. There's no doubt he's a talented quarterback, but he may not be ready for the defensive wrinkles head coach Nick Saban will employ against him. Expect the Crimson Tide to limit big plays from the Buckeyes offense while Amari Cooper and Co. chip away at Ohio State's 13th-ranked pass defense in a close game.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Ohio State 27


Rose Bowl

Matchup: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

When: Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015

Where: Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California

Time: 4:30 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN



Following Marcus Mariota's stellar performance against Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game, it was easy to factor the Ducks into the College Football Playoff immediately. Oregon's signal-caller accounted for five touchdowns in a huge 51-13 victory over a team that had given him issues in the past.

Florida State finally produced a more convincing showing Saturday, defeating Georgia Tech 37-35. While the Seminoles defense struggled to contain the triple-option of the Yellow Jackets, quarterback Jameis Winston put up one of his best games this season, passing for 309 yards and three touchdowns.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted a bit of extra motivation for both quarterbacks:

Winston will need another big performance if the Seminoles are to keep pace with Mariota and the Ducks. Florida State is ranked 49th in the nation against the pass and has allowed 20 passing touchdowns this season. The team has yet to face a quarterback nearly as dangerous as Mariota.

Through Oregon's 13 games this season, Mariota has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 3,783 yards, 38 touchdowns and just two interceptions while adding 669 rushing yards and another 14 scores. He's even scored on a 26-yard reception. That's a pretty impressive resume and gives him a strong case for the Heisman Trophy.

Winston will have room to throw against Oregon's 100th-ranked pass defense, but he's been far too inconsistent to warrant any kind of confidence in a big game. Meanwhile, Mariota has produced on a record pace this season, and that will be the difference-maker in a game that will produce some big numbers on the scoreboard.   

Prediction: Oregon 42, Florida State 35


All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of Dec. 7.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Odds on Who Will Win the First College Football Playoff

The first-ever College Football Playoff is set. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State will be battling it out to determine the national champion. But who will win it all?  

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer dishes out his odds on who will win the College Football Playoff.

Who will win the national title?

Check out the video and let us know!   

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Week 16 Rankings and Predictions

Coming into Sunday, there were six teams for four spots. Alabama and Oregon cemented their status as the nation's two best teams, taking their respective conference championships in impressive fashion.

After them? Pure anarchy. The College Football Playoff selection committee was tasked with separating four teams of relatively similar stature for the remaining two spots, each boasting its own convincing argument.    

Florida State, despite its numerous flaws, is the only FBS team without a loss. TCU's lone loss of the season came against a fellow Top Six team in Baylor, which has consistently pointed to its head-to-head win over the Horned Frogs for resume affirmation. Ohio State has survived season-ending injuries to two quarterbacks and still managed to obliterate Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

It was an unenviable assignment. No matter which way the committee swung its votes, two schools were going to leave disappointed. The Horned Frogs and Bears became those two teams Sunday, as Florida State and Ohio State joined Alabama and Oregon in the College Football Playoff.

No. 1 Alabama will take on No. 4 Ohio State at the Sugar Bowl, while No. 2 Oregon travels to the Rose Bowl for a matchup against No. 3 Florida State. Here is a look at how the final six played out, per SportsCenter's Twitter feed:

The top-seeded Crimson Tide come into the playoff with no controversy surrounding their selection. Though their early schedule was a bit weak, they've taken down four Top 25 teams in their last five games and looked impressive on both sides of the ball.

Alabama raced out to a 21-3 lead and scored the final 21 points in its 42-13 win over Missouri on Saturday. T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Blake Sims each accounted for two touchdowns, and the Tide defense did an excellent job of bottling up a struggling Missouri offense. Nick Saban's team came into the week considered the nation's best team by the committee and numerous advanced metrics, which helped make them a 9.5 favorite over Ohio State, per ESPN's Darren Rovell:

"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."

Urban Meyer continued his dominant Big Ten run at Ohio State on Saturday with a playoff-clinching 59-0 win over Wisconsin. Third-stringer Cardale Jones threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns, and the Buckeyes defense held Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon to just 76 yards on 26 carries. Ezekiel Elliott, meanwhile, rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns, with Ohio State regularly picking up massive chunks of yardage.

"It was a huge statement," Jones told reporters. "I mean we played a great, great team, the No. 2 defense in the country and we put up 59 points on them. And they have the best running back in the country."

The Buckeyes' ascent is a surprise given how little the committee initially respected them. They were viewed as the nation's second-worst one-loss team from a Power Five conference in Week 11, ranked behind a Nebraska team that recently fired its coach. From the outset TCU and Baylor were significantly ahead of Ohio State; the committee's flip-flop will undoubtedly be the source of controversy in the coming days. 

Florida State, as has been the case all season, didn't have such an easy time. The Seminoles allowed 331 rushing yards and trailed at multiple points in the first half before holding on late for a 37-35 win over Georgia Tech. The last of Roberto Aguayo's three field goals proved to be the game-clincher, giving Florida State its first two-possession lead of the game and providing enough of a cushion to survive the Yellow Jackets' late comeback push.

After not allowing a team to come closer than two touchdowns last season, seven Seminoles contests have been within one possession in 2014. It's been a run that has frustrated many, confounded others and taken years off the life expectancy of Tallahassee's population.

It's also one of the most impressive streaks in recent college football history. Amid the near-constant controversy, highly variant play on both sides of the ball and every team offering their best shot, Florida State has won an ACC record 29 straight games.

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

Oregon boasts a player in Marcus Mariota who is a near-lock to overtake Winston as the Heisman Trophy winner this season. Mariota accounted for five touchdowns and again avoided turnovers, leading the Ducks to a 51-13 thrashing of Arizona. The junior quarterback has thrown for 38 touchdowns against two interceptions this season, adding 669 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.

For his career, Mariota has been picked off only 12 times and accounted for 129 touchdowns.

"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."

Oregon sits third in the nation in points per game and has developed into a better all-around team. Coming into this week Football Outsiders had the team's defense a solid 23rd nationally, a ranking that should move up given its thrashing of Arizona's high-powered attack. It also helps that the Ducks have an excellent special teams outfit that has the ability to change any game in one play.

TCU could argue that it's just as well-rounded and not be wrong. The Horned Frogs lead the nation in point differential, defeating their opponents by an average of 25.8 points. They are second nationally in scoring and 16th in defensive points allowed. Baylor is the nation's highest scoring team, defeated TCU head-to-head and has a Heisman candidate in Bryce Petty.

"I feel like we did everything we needed to do on our end to be one of those top four teams," TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin told reporters.

The Big 12 outfit, which one year ago went 4-8 and looked ill-equipped for its move to a Power Five conference, will again be left feeling it doesn't belong. 

From the outside looking in, TCU and Baylor will have their eyes transfixed on the Buckeyes. The conference's lack of definitive champion—the Big 12 considered Baylor and TCU co-champion—very likely cost one of them the final spot. Of course, Baylor coach Art Briles said he believes there shouldn't have been a controversy. 

"What country do we live in? America?" Briles told reporters this week. "If you and I race and you beat me, you're faster than me. We play a football game on the field, we win, we're the better team. We are and that's the way it is."

The committee disagreed, but held both teams out for reasons that will create a ripple effect across college football. The Big 12's lack of championship game should be atop the talking points list as they look to improve their national standing.     

Nonetheless, Ohio State and the committee will both be hoping they made the right decision come New Year's Day.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 15

We've reached the end of the line. The final polls are out, and the playoff committee has made its decision. To steal a quote from TCU head coach Gary Patterson, "I don't know what happens tomorrow, but bottom line is we've done everything we can do" (h/t Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com). 

Now, it's up to voters to sort it all out. 

As is customary every Sunday, The Associated Press and USA Today released their new Top 25 polls. Though neither of these polls is taken into consideration by the playoff selection committee, the polls may provide a glimpse into where teams stand. 

You can also check out the latest Bleacher Report Top 25 for comparison.

Which teams were appropriately ranked in the latest Top 25 polls? Which ones weren't? The answers are in the following slides.

Begin Slideshow

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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!



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



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. 


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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



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.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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.


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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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