CFP is as easy as 1-2-3… or 2-3-4

Nick Saban and Bryce Young were giddy after Alabama’s 41-24 win over No. 1 Georgia on Saturday.

Nick Saban and Bryce Young were giddy after Alabama’s 41-24 win over No. 1 Georgia on Saturday.
Image: Getty Images

For weeks, we’ve been dissecting, diagramming, and divining what the College Football Playoff might or should look like at the end of this zany season, and then Saturday’s conference championships came along and made everything pretty darn clear.


We don’t know what the seedings will be, but we do know that the committee won’t put surprise SEC champ Alabama (there’s four words that are weird to put together) and Georgia in the same semifinal. We also know that Cincinnati did everything it was asked to do, finished undefeated, and pulled away from Houston in the second half to emerge as a convincing Conference USA champion, and presumably the first team from outside the Power 5 to make the four-team CFP.

Likewise, Michigan, sitting at No. 2, earned its way into the title picture by beating Iowa for the Big Ten title — no letdown there after last week’s momentous win over Ohio State. Notre Dame is also out there with one loss (so is Louisiana! And so is UTSA! Meep meep!), but it sure does seem unlikely that the committee will deviate from a team that was No. 1 all year, plus the 2-4 that all won on Saturday. So, what do we have to look forward to as the final four are unveiled on Sunday?

Jesse Spector: I think Michigan stays at 2, and congratulations, Wolverines, that means you get to face the most dominant team in the country all year, Georgia. It’s got to be Alabama at 1, with that win over the Bulldogs giving them a fair claim to the top spot, and facing Cincinnati. I think that means Alabama-Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl and Michigan-Georgia in the Orange Bowl. It doesn’t really matter, it’s not like the Peach Bowl is there for Alabama to claim an advantage if they’re No. 1, nor for Michigan to avoid playing Georgia in Atlanta.

Grace McDermott: I’m so happy for Cincinnati, and I think that they deserve the 3 spot over Georgia after that disastrous performance against Alabama this afternoon — but no one wants to watch a rematch of that. I guess Kirby Smart is still waiting for his day to come. So I hate to be this person, but if Cincinnati is undefeated and we don’t want to see a rematch…well, I’ll just say the Irish are fired up and are a one-loss team that’s been on their way up all November. I mean, Georgia completely fell apart today. I don’t know about that 3 seed for them.

Jesse: I’m not at all opposed to Cincinnati being No. 3, I just don’t think it’ll happen. If it does, then it’s probably Alabama at 2 and Michigan at 1, and not much difference aside from who gets to pick a uniform color for the final. I do need to question, though, whether you hate to be this person. But, I’ll bite. I can’t come out and say that Georgia isn’t one of the four best teams in the country. Could Notre Dame beat them? Sure. They’re a good team and it’s possible. Are they better? Ehhhhh, we spent all fall watching Georgia just dismantle teams, which the Irish did through November. Georgia’s loss is to the No. 1 team. Notre Dame’s is to the No. 3 or 4 team. Was there something about today, when Notre Dame didn’t play, to say that Georgia is worse?

Grace: That’s a fair question — ND both suffers and benefits from the lack of the 13th data point, and to be fair, they did get let into the playoff last year after a loss reminiscent of Georgia’s today. So it’s a toss up for the 4 spot, but after the Dawgs’ dominant-till-now season, I realistically think they’ll get in. I’d just love to see the Irish in with their new coach. Aside from that debate, I have to say how pleased I am to see some new faces in the running this year. It should make for an exciting and unpredictable New Year’s Eve.


Jesse: It will never stop being funny to me that only two conferences from the Power 5 will be represented in the four-team playoff. Even if Notre Dame did pip Georgia for 4, they’re an independent. Expanding the playoff has a lot of pitfalls attached to it, but it’s always been wild that at least one conference would be out of the game of musical chairs, and now three of them will be. But they’ll all be repped in the FORTY-TWO bowl games over the next month, so we’ll get to have some fun with that!

Thanks for the rat poison!

Hard to say which was more surprising, Alabama beating Georgia so soundly, or Nick Saban being as close to giddy as you’ll see Nick Saban (the first coach to register eight wins over No. 1 teams), because for once he was able to go into a game with slights that were more than just perceived. Also, a term to replace “bulletin board material” in this era where nobody actually uses bulletin boards for such things.


Speaking of rat poison, it probably winds up not mattering because of the likelihood of the committee merely reshuffling last week’s top four to form the playoff field, but No. 5 Oklahoma State had so very many bites at the cheese at the end of the Big 12 title game, only to fall short against Baylor.


After getting to the Bears’ 10-yard line with 1:37 left, the Cowboys had a four-yard run, drew a defensive pass interference penalty to get first-and-goal at the 2, then ran four plays that gained a total of one yard. That’s six snaps from 10 yards or less, needing a touchdown to take the lead, and no choice for OANN aficionado Mike Gundy but to accept the results.

Oh, and the Michigan play.


A flea flicker last week and now this? The Wolverines are going into the playoff feeling frisky.

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