The first four teams to ever officially make the College Football Playoff were named on Sunday afternoon, though the decision wasn’t without controversy. The Big 12 was left without a team in the dance, as both No.5 Baylor and No.6 TCU failed to make the cut.
The decision comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering TCU was No.3, prior to the final weekend of games. The Horned Frogs certainly didn’t do anything to hurt their case, beating Iowa State 55-3. Many have argued that Baylor should have finished at No.4, considering they have the same record as TCU, and won the head-to-head matchup between the two teams.
Despite the controversy, it’s difficult to say the teams in the playoffs don’t deserve it. Alabama ranks No.1, having won the SEC Championship Game in dominant fashion, and getting five wins over ranked opponents. No.2 Oregon won the Pac-12 Championship, avenging their only loss of the season to No.10 Arizona. No.3 Florida State was an easy choice to make the playoffs, finishing the regular season as the only undefeated team, and No.4 Ohio State made a statement in the Big Ten Championship Game, shutting out No.18 Wisconsin, 59-0.
The four teams will have plenty of time to prepare for their matchups. They won’t take the field again until New Year’s Day, with the two games scheduled for 5 p.m. ET and 8:30 p.m. ET. The winner of the Rose Bowl (Oregon vs. Florida State) will meet the winner of the Sugar Bowl (Alabama vs. Ohio State) in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium.
Intrigue in the matchup between Oregon and Florida State goes beyond just the national championship implications. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston are the top two quarterback prospects, heading into the 2015 NFL Draft. Winston has never lost in his college football career, though he came dangerously close to doing so this season, beating four currently unranked teams by five points or less. Oregon’s one hiccup came against a top 10 opponent, and they’ve won every other game by at least a touchdown.
While the focus on this matchup will be on the quarterback position, both teams boast a strong running game led by freshmen. Dalvin Cook has been exceptional in the past two games for the Seminoles, rushing for 321 total yards, while Royce Freeman has rushed for 1,299 yards this season and went on a tear in in Pac-12 play, rushing for 1,113 in 10 games.
Alabama appears to be the best team in the country, having little trouble with the best the SEC has to offer. They boast the country’s No.4 scoring defense, but also have a lot of offensive firepower, as evidenced but the 55 points they scored against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Ohio State’s ability to win with their second and third-string quarterbacks says a lot about their level of talent on offense, but sophomore Cardale Jones might find that it’s not so easy to put up points against the Crimson Tide.
Both offenses are rich in talent beyond the quarterback position. Nick Saban's squad has perhaps the best wide receiver in the nation in Amari Cooper. The junior has three games of over 200 receiving yards and has caught 14 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott has been a revelation for the Buckeyes. After rushing for just 262 yards and two touchdowns in 2013, he has rushed for 1,402 yards and 12 touchdowns for Urban Meyer's offense.
Rose Bowl Prediction: This should be a high-paced game with both teams quickly executing their offensive plays. Oregon seems more prepared for a shootout than the Seminoles, but this game should be very tight, and perhaps a classic.
Oregon over Florida State
Sugar Bowl Prediction: The Crimson Tide have put up a lot of points under new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, and the defense remains stingy. Urban Meyer will have the Buckeyes prepared for this matchup, but Alabama has too many weapons on both sides of the ball.
Alabama over Ohio State