The College Football Playoff field looks to be set – unofficially at least. And quarterback Joe Burrow had what might be his signature Heisman moment.
LSU, No. 2 in the College Football Playoff ranking, won the SEC championship, defeating No. 4 Georgia 37-10 in Atlanta on Saturday. That likely ended any playoff chance for the Bulldogs, falling to 11-2.
In turn, that result bolsters the hopes of No. 6 Oklahoma, which survived No. 7 Baylor 30-23 in overtime to win the Big 12 championship game earlier in the day. The Sooners, with their fifth consecutive conference title, are seeking their third College Football Playoff berth in a row.
Oklahoma (12-1) is expected to be seeded fourth, while No. 1 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson and LSU all improved to 13-0 after those three teams won on Saturday.
The four-team playoff field will be announced Sunday, when ESPN will air the College Football Playoff Selection Show from noon to 4 p.m. ET.
Ed Orgeron: Burrow should win the Heisman
Win or lose, LSU was locked in for a playoff spot no matter the result in Atlanta. With their performance Saturday, the Tigers strengthened their case that they’re the top team in the country, jumping out to an early lead and not looking back.
Burrow also showed why he’s the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, throwing for 349 yards and four touchdowns. The play that fans – and Heisman voters – likely will remember came in the third quarter, when Burrow avoided multiple defenders and launched a perfect pass to Justin Jefferson for 71 yards.
“It was all improvised,” Burrow said. “Justin ran a six-yard hitch route and saw me scrambling and just took off deep. We got a great feel for each other. I knew exactly where he was going to be when I got out of there.”
Late in the fourth quarter, “Joe for Heisman” chants could be heard inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“In my opinion, he’s the best player in the country,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said of his quarterback. “In my opinion, he should win it. In my opinion, he’s going to win it.”
Burrow graduated in three years from Ohio State. But he didn’t get a lot of playing time when he was with the Buckeyes, so he transferred to LSU in 2018. He has flourished since, especially this season.
Burrow’s completion percentage is at 77.9 for 2019. That’s on pace to break the NCAA record set by Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (76.7) in 2008.
When asked about potentially facing his former team in the playoff, Burrow said, “We’ll play anybody anywhere. You can take us to Canada, we’ll play on a gravel lot. It doesn’t matter where or who we play.”
Ohio State rallies, Clemson dominates
It could happen. Later Saturday night, in Indianapolis, the Buckeyes came from behind to defeat No. 8 Wisconsin to win the Big Ten championship 34-21. It was the second time Ohio State beat the Badgers (10-3) this season.
The No. 3 Clemson Tigers also did their part, with the defending national champions staying undefeated with a 62-17 thumping of No. 23 Virginia (9-4) in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina.
So did LSU do enough to clinch the No. 1 seed?
“I don’t know that,” Orgeron answered, before the Ohio State and Clemson games went final. “I think we’re a darn good football team. We don’t know. I’ve told the team it doesn’t matter. It don’t matter where they rank us, where they tell us to go. We’ve got to win the next game. That’s all that matters.”
Jalen Hurts in position to reach the playoff for 4th year in a row
Entering Saturday, the College Football Playoff picture hinged on Georgia, in the SEC championship game for the third year in a row. Win the SEC title, and the Bulldogs would be in. Lose, and the door could open for the Big 12 champion.
The Sooners first got a boost Friday, when No. 5 Utah lost 37-15 to No. 13 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game in Santa Clara, California.
In the win against Baylor, Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts, who had spent the previous three seasons at Alabama before transferring to Oklahoma, completed 17 of 24 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 38 yards.
When he was with the Crimson Tide, Hurts played in six College Football Playoff games, starting four, and winning the national title in 2017.
Now, with his second team, he’s in position to reach the College Football Playoff for a fourth time.
“I hope the story ain’t over,” Hurts said to ABC.
Baylor, which two years ago had a record of 1-11, dropped to 11-2 on the season. Both losses are to Oklahoma.
Prior to Friday’s loss, Utah (11-2) hoped for a playoff bid or a spot in the Rose Bowl. Instead, after a game that was mostly one-sided in Oregon’s favor, the Utes left with neither. They may fall all the way down to the Alamo Bowl.
The Pac-12 hasn’t had a playoff team since 2016, when Washington lost to Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
The College Football Playoff has been around since the 2014 season, replacing the Bowl Championship Series. The playoff teams are selected by a 13-person committee, which ranks teams based on performance, strength of schedule, conference championships won, head-to-head results and comparing results against common opponents.
The winner of the playoff determines the national champion at the top level of college football.
The semifinals will be held December 28 at the Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The national championship game is January 13 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.