We had the final release of this year's playoff rankings and to say the committee had a difficult assignment after the conference championship games. All the power five conferences championships had ramifications for the final rankings and all provided fans with excitement. Entering championship weekend, Georgia, Michigan, Washington, and Florida State were the top four. With Oregon, Ohio State, Texas, and Alabama needing help to enter the final four rankings. What did the committee get right? and what did they get wrong? Let's take a look.
Michigan 13-0 Big 10 Conference Champions. The Wolverines welcomed coach Jim Harbaugh back to the sidelines for the Big 10 Championship as they faced the 16th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. Junior Colson and Mike Sainristil led the defense, holding the Hawkeyes to 155 yards of total offense. Blake Corum ran for two scores on the game and JJ McCarthy went 22 for 30 on the day for 147 yards. The team's biggest win of the season came against Ohio State during rivalry week and this was the third win versus a ranked opponent for the Wolverines on the season. Verdict - Earned. While the issues surrounding Michigan off the field still exist, they have taken care of business. While they finished the season 13-0, their resume was not as good as some of the other teams. Previously ranked number two they move up one spot in the final rankings putting them into the College Football Playoffs.
Washington - 13-0 Pac-12 Conference Champions. The Huskies had a rematch with Oregon standing in the way for their entry into the College Football Playoffs. Oregon for their part being ranked fifth, could gain some revenge after the loss suffered in their first meeting and at the same time enter into consideration for the playoffs as well. The Huskies, led by Heisman finalist Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon led by Bo Nix, a Heisman finalist as well, lived up to the heavyweight rematch with Penix throwing for 319 yards and a score compared to Nix throwing for 239 yards and three scores. Both quarterbacks also threw an interception. The difference offensively, came by way of Dillon Johnson who ran for 152 yards on 28 carries and added two scores of his own. The Huskies' defense made the Ducks offense one dimensional negating the effectiveness of Bucky Irving for Oregon. Alphonzo Tuputala and Edefuan Ulofoshio led the way defensively for the Huskies with 13 combined tackles. Verdict - Earned. Winning round two against Oregon 34-31 solidified the Huskies place in the final four. With a resume that includes five wins versus ranked opponents, their resume is deserving. Also, a strong argument could be had for them being more deserving of the top spot.
Texas - 12-1 Big 12 Conference Champions. The Longhorns benefitted by running the table after a loss in their rivalry game versus Oklahoma. A matchup against 18th-ranked Oklahoma State in the conference championship presented Texas with a less-than-ideal opponent, a 9-3 Cowboys or a revenge match against 10-2 10th-ranked Oklahoma, leaving a few fans disappointed. With the Longhorns' signature win coming in week two against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Texas was holding out hope for help, needing to win but to also have Alabama win. A performance for the ages by Quinn Ewers who finished with 452 yards and four touchdowns on 35 of 46 passing led the way for Texas. Running back Keilan Robinson added two scores on the ground for the Longhorns as well. For the Cowboys of Oklahoma State, all-star running back Ollie Gordon II was held in check for the game finishing with a pedestrian 34 yards on the ground, he added 54 yards as a receiver. Anthony Hill led the way for the Longhorns' defense finishing with six tackles and a sack for the game. Verdict - Undecided. Beating the Cowboys 49-21 was an important step, but not a surprising one since they were the better team. While they did go 4-1 versus ranked opponents. Jumping from seventh to third is a reach.
Alabama - 12-1 SEC Champions. The Crimson Tide did what no one has been able to do in over two seasons. They beat the back-to-back defending champion Georgia Bulldogs to win the SEC Championship and derail the hopes for a three-peat by the Bulldogs. Easily one of the best if not the best win of any team in the College Football Playoffs. Entering championship week, the Crimson Tide were ranked eighth and handed the Bulldogs their first loss on the season 27-24. The defense for the Tide disrupted and gave the offense for the Bulldogs fits. Terrion Arnold and Trezmen Arnold led the way for the defense with 11 tackles between them and Marshall added a fumble recovery on the day. The Bulldogs were led by Malaki Starks and Smael Mondon Jr. with 16 tackles between them they were everywhere around the ball. Offensively, the Tide were led by Jalen Milroe who finished with 192 yards and two touchdowns averaging 8.3 yards per throw. The Bulldogs led by Carson Beck threw to ten different receivers with Brock Bowers leading the team in receptions and yards. Verdict - Earned. The Crimson Tide entered the SEC Championship with a clear direction. If they win, they elevate into the College Football Playoffs. The win also marked the fourth win against a ranked opponent for the team in five games (the only loss to Texas in week two).
Outside looking in Florida State (5th) and Georgia (6th). The Seminoles entered their championship game against then 14th-ranked Louisville with a major decision facing them at quarterback. Intended starter Tate Rodemaker was a game-time decision after suffering a concussion in their rivalry game against the Florida Gators. True Freshman Brock Glenn would wind up getting his first start against the Cardinals. The defense led by Patrick Payton, Jared Verse, and Braden Fiske played outstanding and held the Cardinal's offense to six points. While Georgia despite losing still only dropped to sixth. Verdict - The committee's decision is heartbreaking for the players on the Seminoles team as they are now the only team from a power five conference to go undefeated and be conference champions to not make the playoffs. The team is more than just one player and while the loss of Jordan Travis looms large, the entire team has done what great teams do and find ways to win. The Seminoles should have been included in the playoffs because they more than earned their shot.