Georgia will have to wait until about 12:30 p.m. Sunday for the College Football Playoff’s announcement of which four teams will compete for the national championship. But the Bulldogs resoundingly staked their claim to one of the playoff berths with a 28-7 win over Auburn in the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Two other playoff spots also were accounted for Saturday when Oklahoma defeated TCU 41-17 in the Big 12 Championship game and Clemson beat Miami 38-3 in the ACC title game.
Previously undefeated Wisconsin failed to clinch a playoff berth, losing 27-21 to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. That outcome immediately ignited debate about whether Ohio State or Alabama should get the final position in the playoff.
Alabama has one loss (at Auburn), while Ohio State has two losses (to Oklahoma and Iowa, the latter by a 55-24 score). But Ohio State has two wins over teams ranked in the CFP’s most recent top 10 (Wisconsin and Penn State), while Alabama has none. Ohio State has a conference championship on its resume now, while Alabama failed to reach the SEC title game.
Entering this weekend, the selection committee had Alabama ranked three spots ahead of Ohio State, No. 5 vs. No. 8.
The 13-member committee, which watched Saturday’s games on TV at a resort in Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas, will place its top four teams Sunday in the national semifinals, which will be played in the Rose and Sugar bowls on New Year’s Day.
The Nos. 1 and 4 teams will meet in one semifinal, the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the other. The No. 1 team will be placed in the semifinal most convenient geographically to its campus.
Clemson entered the weekend ranked No. 1 and presumably will stay there after the rout of No. 7 Miami. If so, the Tigers will be bound for the Sugar Bowl.
There will be a new No. 2 after Auburn’s loss. That could be Oklahoma, which was No. 3 this past week. Or it could be Georgia, which just beat the previous No. 2. If Oklahoma and Georgia are ranked Nos. 2 and 3, in either order, they would meet in the Rose Bowl, assuming Clemson is in the Sugar.
If Alabama gets the No. 4 seed, a semifinal against Clemson would be a rematch of the past two seasons’ national championship games. Clemson won the title last season, Alabama the season before.
This season’s national championship game will be played Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It will be the first time college football’s national champion is crowned in Atlanta.
For more on the playoff, see these AJC stories: