Both games are set for Dec. 31, with the Fiesta Bowl kicking off at 4 p.m. and the Peach Bowl at 8. The national championship game takes place Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
“We’re looking at everything throughout the entire year,” Boo Corrigan, chairman of the 13-member CFP committee, said on a conference call with reporters. “We want to make sure as a group we’ve talked through everything, that the voices in the room have been heard, and then we use our football judgment from that point forward to make sure that we’re making the right decisions.”
Georgia and Michigan were all but assured of retaining their slots from last week on the heels of convincing triumphs in their respective conference championship games Saturday.
Which schools would follow immediately behind them — and in what order — generated much discussion after the Horned Frogs lost in overtime to Kansas State, 31-28, in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game, ending TCU’s bid for an undefeated season.
As it turned out, the Buckeyes — ranked fifth last week after a 45-23 loss to Michigan — bumped Southern California (11-2) from the playoff. The Trojans entered the weekend ranked fourth but fell to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, 47-24, on Friday in Las Vegas and dropped to No. 10.
Ohio State became the third team in the CFP era to earn a berth without reaching its conference championship game.
“Hard to explain the range of emotions that have gone on here over the last seven days,” Ohio State Coach Ryan Day said on ESPN’s selection show. “But when we saw our name go up there on the board and know we’re going to have an opportunity to play, I’ve said it before, it’s like a second lease on life. A couple days ago, we were on life support, our season was, and now there’s a two-game season ahead of us.”
Speculation swirled around the potential inclusion of a two-loss school, Alabama, which missed a berth in the playoff for the second time in the nine-year history of the format. The Crimson Tide (10-2) lost to Tennessee and LSU by a combined four points this season and ended fifth in the playoff rankings.
Those losses did not impede Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban from lobbying for his team Saturday night during an interview on Fox at halftime of the Big Ten championship game. Without mentioning other programs by name, Saban indicated he felt Alabama would be favored over “any of these teams that are on the edge [of] getting in.”
Alabama instead will face No. 9 Kansas State (10-3) in the Sugar Bowl on Dec. 31 as part of the New Year’s Six.
“I think you look at the big wins as well as part of this,” Corrigan said. “The win that Ohio State has over Notre Dame [21-10], the win they have over Penn State [44-31]. Compare that to Alabama with the wins over Texas [20-19], Mississippi State [30-6]. Again, keep in mind, the Michigan game did get away from [Ohio State], but it was a one-score game early in the fourth quarter.”
Clemson, meanwhile, missed the playoff for only the third time after losing to South Carolina, 31-30, two weeks ago. The No. 7 Tigers (11-2) defeated North Carolina, 39-10, on Saturday night to win the ACC championship game for a seventh time in eight years and will play in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 against No. 6 Tennessee (10-2).
No two-loss team has been included in the playoff, which in two years expands to 12. The committee approved the move last week.
The other New Year’s Six matchups, both Jan. 2, feature USC against No. 16 Tulane (11-2) in the Cotton Bowl and No. 8 Utah (10-3) against the 11th-ranked Nittany Lions (10-2) in the Rose Bowl.
Georgia ensured it would remain No. 1 for a fifth consecutive week following a 50-30 thrashing of No. 17 LSU in the SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where the Bulldogs will play again in what amounts to another home game.
Michigan is making its second straight playoff appearance after losing to Georgia, 34-11, in last season’s semifinals at the Orange Bowl. Its opponent in the Fiesta Bowl, under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, is making its first playoff appearance.
TCU is the second Big 12 school (after Oklahoma) to appear in the playoff and the second overall (after Michigan last year) to be selected after being unranked in the preseason.
“I’m not going to lie, last night was tough,” Dykes said. “We wanted to play our way in. We felt like obviously if we went 13-0, won the Big 12 championship, that we felt good about our chances of making it. We lost in such a tough game last night, in a game we felt like we had opportunities to win, just couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch, but I had faith in the committee. I really did.”