The countdown is on to the College Football Playoff Semifinals and national championship game. The College Football Playoff Selection Committee announced its final top 25 rankings for 2016 along with the matchups for the Playoff Semifinals and New Year’s Six Bowls. Take a look below at the matchups along with a brief discussion about what we’ve learned from these final rankings.
On Saturday, December 31, 2016, No. 4 Washington will face No. 1 Alabama in the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl at 3 p.m. No. 3 Ohio State will play No. 2 Clemson in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at 7 p.m.
The winner of the Peach Bowl and the winner of the Fiesta Bowl will then face off in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship on January 9, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
New Year’s Six Bowls
Capital One Orange Bowl (Dec. 30) – No. 11 Florida State vs. No. 6 Michigan
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (Jan. 2) – No. 15 Western Michigan vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual (Jan. 2) – No. 9 Southern California vs. No. 5 Penn State
Allstate Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2) – No. 14 Auburn vs. No. 7 Oklahoma
What We’ve Learned
College Football Playoff rankings almost always cause controversy and it’s understandable why that’s the case. As fans, we have our own idea of who should make the playoff and when the Selection Committee goes a different direction, we naturally have something to say about it. That’s what makes the process fun and entertaining. That also makes everyone want to figure out what matters most to the committee.
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson don’t need explanations. Alabama stomped over everyone on their schedule and clinched the SEC title. Clemson only lost once this season, finishing with a 12-1 record and an ACC title.
No. 5 Penn State made a compelling case for the playoff after winning nine straight games, including the Big Ten Championship and their matchup against Ohio State. But as we can see, it wasn’t enough when compared to the Buckeyes, who played one of the toughest schedules and went 3-1 in four games against top 10 teams. This is one situation where strength of schedule mattered more than a conference championship.
But then you have a team like Washington. Chairman Kirby Hocutt mentioned that the strength of schedule of Washington had been a concern for the selection committee. But in the grand scheme of things, they had quality wins; they played good teams and beat good teams.
Interestingly enough, in the three years the playoff has been in effect, Ohio State is the first team to not win a conference championship and make it to the playoff. It’s tough to wrap your head around, but you must understand that the selection committee puts the four best teams in the playoff, and in some cases, one of the best teams might not win a conference championship. Ohio State made the playoff because of how they performed throughout the entire season. Penn State didn’t make the playoff for the same reason.
Head-to-head matchups matter. Conference championships matter. Strength of schedule matters. But individually, they aren’t the end-all, be-all. One might carry more weight in one situation and not as much weight in a separate situation. There are good arguments on all sides, but all we can do is trust the committee’s judgment and look forward to these semifinal matchups.
Read this article for a more in-depth look at the factors that affect College Football Playoff rankings.
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