The Big 12 champion got the upper hand over the Big Ten champion and the SEC runner-up.
Oklahoma (12-1) got the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff ahead of Georgia (11-2) and Ohio State (12-1) as the playoff was announced Sunday. The Sooners join Alabama (13-0), Clemson (13-0), and Notre Dame (13-0) in the four-team bracket.
Alabama will play Oklahoma in one semifinal while Clemson will face off against Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide and Sooners will meet in the Orange Bowl while the Tigers and Fighting Irish will play in the Cotton Bowl.
Georgia came in at No. 5 in the rankings while Ohio State stayed at No. 6. Playoff selection committee chair Rob Mullens told ESPN that there was no clear favorite among Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State and therefore the committee went to the “protocol” which includes factoring in conference championships.
Oklahoma beat Texas in the Big 12 championship game on Saturday. Ohio State beat Northwestern. Georgia lost 35-28 to Alabama and fell to 12-2. Georgia had support from many college football observers because it was the only team that had a great chance to beat Alabama this season. The Tide won each of its first 12 games of the season by 22 or more points.
Ohio State was considered the underdog of the three teams vying for the final playoff spot because of the Buckeyes’ 49-20 loss at 6-6 Purdue. Oklahoma’s loss came to Texas while Georgia had lost to LSU, a team that was in the CFP top 10 for much of the season.
Orange Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
The matchup between Alabama and Oklahoma will likely be between the two quarterbacks who will finish 1-2 in the Heisman Trophy voting on Saturday. Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa have been two of the most dynamic players in college football all season. Murray has led a historic Oklahoma offense that averages nearly nine yards a play while Tagovailoa’s two interceptions in the SEC championship game matched his season total through the first 12 games of the season.
Tagovailoa suffered two injured ankles in the Georgia game as backup quarterback Jalen Hurts led Alabama to a comeback win. Tagovailoa is expected to be ready for the Orange Bowl.
He could carve up an Oklahoma defense that has been pretty bad throughout 2018. The Sooners have been carried by that historic offense and the defense has made a habit of giving up a lot of yards and touchdowns but also coming up with timely plays. Oklahoma’s defense wasn’t stout on Saturday against Texas, but a fourth-quarter sack for a safety and a late interception helped seal the win.
Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
Both of these undefeated teams made quarterback changes early in the season. Kelly Bryant was replaced by Trevor Lawrence at Clemson and Notre Dame benched Brandon Wimbush in favor of Ian Book. And both moves have worked out well.
The freshman Lawrence has shown why he was a five-star recruit. He’s 212-of-326 passing for 2,606 yards and 24 touchdowns with only four interceptions in 2018. Book has made Notre Dame’s offense well-rounded with his passing ability. He’s completed over 70 percent of his passes and thrown 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.
While the quarterback storyline will be a big one over the next four weeks, the key may be which defense can stop the other team’s running game. Clemson running back Travis Etienne has scored a school-record 21 rushing touchdowns in 2018 while Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams has rushed for 941 yards in eight games and scored 12 touchdowns. College football fans know all about Clemson’s star-studded defensive line. Notre Dame’s is pretty dang good too.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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