The teams at the top are familiar – even in a college football season when the coronavirus pandemic caused several stops, starts, outright cancellations and plenty of ripped up schedules.
The College Football Playoff committee revealed the four-team playoff field on Sunday, with Alabama ranked No. 1, followed by Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
This CFP format, which has been in place since the 2014 season, has resulted in Alabama and Clemson each winning the national title twice. Ohio State won in the CFP’s first season, while LSU won last season.
What will this latest College Football Playoff look like during a pandemic? There’s already been one major change. Officials announced Saturday that the Rose Bowl semifinal has been moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, because families of the football teams would not be able to attend the game in California due to coronavirus restrictions.
Alabama (11-0) will take on Notre Dame (10-1) in Texas, while Clemson (10-1) and Ohio State (6-0) will face off in the semifinals for the second season in a row, this time at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
The reason for Alabama playing in Arlington instead of the Sugar Bowl? The advantage of more fans, College Football Playoff selection committee chair Gary Barta said on ESPN.
“Related to the uniqueness of this year, the No. 1 team by the committee is given the benefit of the doubt or maybe the biggest advantage,” Barta said. “In this case, we know that there’s going to 16,000 fans able to watch in Arlington, and we know that there’s going to be 3,000 fans that are going to be able to be watching the game in New Orleans. The committee decided that the advantage was for the No. 1 team to have more fans able to watch them play.”
The national championship game is scheduled to be held at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on January 11.
Texas A&M falls short at No. 5
Just outside of the playoff was Texas A&M at No. 5. The Aggies, who went 8-1, lost to Alabama earlier in the season and fell short of reaching the Southeastern Conference championship game.
As to what gave Notre Dame – who was blown out by Clemson 34-10 on Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game – the upper hand against Texas A&M?
“Very similar resumes, but in the end the committee felt like Notre Dame had earned its way there based on the complete analysis of the resume, and that probably came down to having an additional win against a ranked team,” Barta said. The Aggies’ signature win was against Florida, while Notre Dame had defeated Clemson and North Carolina during the regular season.
Oklahoma (8-2) moved up to sixth after winning the Big 12 championship game. Cincinnati, champions of the American Athletic Conference, was left out of the top six despite its 9-0 record and three wins against ranked teams. The Bearcats are eighth, behind Florida.
This season, the committee rated teams that played as few as six games and as many as 11 – with conferences like the Big Ten starting the season in late October and Pac-12 in early November. The Big 12, SEC and ACC started in September.
Alabama went on to defeat Florida to win the SEC crown 52-46 on Saturday. Ohio State, despite being down 22 players, came back to defeat Northwestern 22-10 in the Big Ten championship game.
Barta said that there was no dissension in the room about putting Ohio State in that third spot despite having played just six games.
“The committee decided that Ohio State belonged in the field because they’re undefeated, they had beaten two ranked teams throughout the year, including last night, and they won their Big Ten championship.”