2017-12-03 13:39:02
On College Football: College Football Playoff: Alabama Is In, Ohio State Is Out

13:39, December 03 50 0

INDIANAPOLIS — In the closest and surely the most controversial decision in the four seasons of the College Football Playoff, the selection committee gave the final spot in this year’s four-team bracket to Alabama on Sunday.

The other three spots went to Clemson (12-1), Oklahoma (12-1) and Georgia (12-1), all of which were virtually assured berths on Saturday after they won their respective conference championship games.

In the national semifinals, No. 1 Clemson will play No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and No. 2 Oklahoma will play No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Both games will be held on New Year’s Day. The winners will play a week later in Atlanta for the fourth championship of the playoff era, and the 20th since college football’s postseason was unified under the Bowl Championship Series.

Choosing the Crimson Tide (11-1) could be seen as a victory for the committee’s mandate to have a conclave of experienced human beings choosing the better team instead of computer models calculating resumes. It was also an undeniable win for college football’s proudest league, the Southeastern Conference, which became the first to put two teams in the playoff and the first to have two teams play for the national title since the 2011 season, when Alabama played Louisiana State in the national championship game.

On paper, Ohio State (11-2) had more accomplishments, with three highly regarded wins and a conference championship. But Ohio State’s bad loss at Iowa (7-5) last month and Alabama’s statistical dominance over an admittedly weaker schedule persuaded the committee to slot the Tide over the Buckeyes.

“You’ve got to look at the total body of work that the team did for the entire season,” Alabama Coach Nick Saban said on ESPN early Sunday morning, after the Big Ten game had wrapped. “I would say that if we lost to a team in our conference that was not ranked by 30 points, that we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

The Sugar Bowl will be a rubber match between Clemson and Alabama, which have played each other in the past two national championship games, with each winning one. Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney played for Alabama.

For the second time in four years, the Pacific-12 did not have a member in the playoff. Its conference champion, Southern California (11-2), is likely bound for the Fiesta Bowl.

It is defending champion Clemson’s third straight year making the playoff. It is Oklahoma’s second over all; in both cases their quarterback was Baker Mayfield, the senior who will almost certainly be hoisting the Heisman Trophy next weekend. The Sooners also played in four title games during the B.C.S. era, winning at the end of the 2000 season. By contrast, Georgia, an equally proud program, has not been a true national title contender since the early 1980s.

The committee was scheduled later Sunday afternoon to release the rest of its final Top 25 along with the matchups in the rest of the so-called New Year’s Six bowls — the games that every three years host the playoffs, and in off-years pit some of the best remaining teams against each other. This season, they will take place on Dec. 29 and 30, and Jan. 1.

The highest ranked champion of the so-called Group of Five conferences is guaranteed a berth in one of these bowls, and this season that will surely be Central Florida, which — despite being winless just two seasons ago — entered the weekend 11-0 and No. 14, and then on Saturday defeated No. 20 Memphis (11-1), 62-55 in double overtime, in the American Athletic Conference title game. While Central Florida’s coach, Scott Frost, announced Saturday that he would return to his alma mater as Nebraska’s next head coach, he also said he and his staff would coach the Knights in the upcoming bowl.