The College Football Playoff selection committee met Sunday morning and revealed its final rankings for the nation’s top four teams.
Clemson, which won the ACC with a 45-37 victory over North Carolina on Saturday night, landed in the top spot. The only undefeated team among the top four, the Tigers defeated Notre Dame and Florida State en route to a #1 ranking.
Clemson plays Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve. The Sooners enter the playoff with momentum after victories over Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma State to finish the season.
“Oklahoma is a phenomenal team,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told ESPN. “There will be a very small margin of error for both teams.” The Tigers destroyed the Sooners in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl. Swinney observed, “Last year’s success doesn’t win it for you this year in this game.”
The committee placed Alabama in the second spot. The Crimson Tide, alone, returns to the playoff after competing in it last season, falling to Ohio State in the opening round. After an early-season loss to Ole Miss, Alabama looked strong in an uncharacteristically weak, relatively speaking, SEC. They handled Florida 29-15 in the SEC championship game on Saturday.
Michigan State took the third slot after a last-minute victory over previously undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night. The Spartans lone loss came in a one-point defeat to Nebraska. They own victories over Oregon, Michigan, and Ohio State.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban called Michigan State “a real challenge for our team.” He observed, “Everybody in this final four could beat anyone else.”
The winner of the two New Year’s Eve bowls play on January 11 in Glendale, Arizona, for the national championship.
The teams, if not the order, come without controversy. The rankings in Las Vegas, Nevada, differed from those in Grapevine, Texas. Oklahoma (-2.5) opens as a favorite over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The bookies—like, in a sense, the committee members—favor Alabama (-9) over Michigan State.