By: Donnie Menke ~Staff Writer~
The college football playoff bracket was revealed this past Sunday, and there was very little surprise as to how things shook out.
Alabama ended up in the top spot, much like the entire season. At No. 2, Clemson jumped Ohio State after winning the ACC championship game against a ranked Virginia Tech team. Ohio State did not fall far, however, only dropping to the No. 3 spot. Finally, in the fourth spot are the Washington Huskies. While this was a controversial decision, many believe that the committee made the correct one in choosing Washington over Penn State and Michigan.
Alabama enters the playoff as the clear favorite to win the championship. Being given a 42 percent chance to take home the hardware by ESPN, it would be a major upset if a team was able to beat them. Alabama ranks number one in Strength of Record (SOR), Game Control (GC) and the Football Power Index (FPI), all-important metrics the selection committee considers. The Crimson Tide also has the best defensive efficiency in the last 10 years. All of this, plus an electric offense ranked in the top 25 in efficiency and led by true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, means Alabama has very few weaknesses to exploit. This is what gives it the best chance to win the title.
Clemson enters as the two seed after winning its conference championship. Even though the Tigers ranked only fifth in FPI, the rest of their resume is hard to argue with. Clemson ranks third in SOR, second in GC, 10th in offensive efficiency and ninth in defensive efficiency. It also has four wins against FPI top-25 teams. Clemson has a 19 percent chance to win the title, according to ESPN. So, while the odds are against them, it is not impossible.
Ohio State enters the playoff as the first team to get in without a conference championship. However, even without one, Ohio State boasts arguably the second best resume in the country. The Buckeyes rank second only to Alabama in SOR and FPI. They also rank fifth in GC, 16th in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency, again only to Alabama. The Buckeyes also have three By Donnie Menke Staff Writer wins against FPI top-25 teams, and their only loss came to No. 5 Penn State on the road. They have the second best odds to win the title, as ESPN gives them a 26 percent chance. They also have, according to FPI, the best chance to beat ’Bama of anyone with a 41 percent chance.
The most controversial selection, Washington, beat out Penn State and Michigan for the final spot in the four team playoff. While its nonconference schedule has been scrutinized, Washington also has a top notch resume in every other area. It ranks fourth in SOR and FPI, third in GC, second in total offense and offensive efficiency and sixth in defensive efficiency. It also has the Pac-12 championship, three wins against FPI top-25 teams and only one loss against No. 10 USC. Washington has a 13 percent chance to win the championship according to ESPN, but beating Alabama will be a tough task.
Penn State, one of the teams that just missed, has legitimate complaints about missing the playoff. It has the Big Ten championship, which was arguably the toughest conference in college football this year. It also has what many consider the best win of the season, a victory against Ohio State at home. However, it could not match up in terms of GC and FPI, ranking 37th and 12th, respectively. While it did rank fifth in SOR, early season losses to an 8-4 Pittsburgh team as well as Michigan, by a score of 49-10, was what did away with its chances to make the playoff.
Michigan, the only other team that had a chance to make it, had arguments in terms of FPI and GC, ranking third and fourth, respectively. However, it only ranked ninth in SOR and lost games at the last second, one to Iowa and one to Ohio State. Even though both of these losses were on the road, the lack of a conference championship, coupled with the last-second losses, killed Michigan’s chances this season.
The semifinal games are slated to take place later this month on Dec. 31. Alabama and Washington, playing in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, will play the first game, which will take place at 3 p.m. in Atlanta, Ga. Clemson and Ohio State, playing in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, will play the later game, which will kick off at 7 p.m. in Glendale, Ariz.
Both games will be televised on ESPN.
The National Championship Game, featuring the winners of the semifinal games, will take place on Jan. 9, 2017, at 8:30 p.m. in Tampa, Fla.