Playoff selection debate centers on Buckeyes, Tide

Playoff selection debate centers on Buckeyes, Tide
Posted at 7:22 AM, Dec 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-03 03:15:40-05

(RNN) - Will it be Ohio State or Alabama?

The other three teams in the College Football Playoff are obvious, but the fourth will hinge on just how valuable a conference championship is to the selection committee.

Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia each won its respective conference championship Saturday and should enter the playoff ranked 1-3. Clemson is likely to retain its No. 1 ranking and face the No. 4 team in the Sugar Bowl while Oklahoma and Georgia are expected meet in the Rose Bowl.

The debate centers on the No. 4 spot between the two-loss Buckeyes and one-loss Crimson Tide. Despite a 27-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship game, Ohio State also has losses to Oklahoma and Iowa.

It's the loss to Iowa that will feature most prominently in the discussion. The Buckeyes fell by 31 points to the Hawkeyes, who are unranked and finished the year 7-5.

Alabama's loss came in its final game of the season against Auburn after being ranked No. 1.

The Tide are held back by a schedule that isn't as impressive as it was at the beginning of the year. Alabama opened with a win over Florida State, at the time ranked No. 3 and considered a playoff favorite. But quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending injury in that game and the Seminoles finished the season 6-6, depriving the Crimson Tide of a signature win.

Alabama is the only team that has qualified for the College Football Playoff in all three years of its existence. If the Crimson Tide make it in, it would be the first time a single conference has two representatives, and the first time the Big 10 would not have one.

There's precedent for whichever direction the committee goes, both involving Ohio State.

The Buckeyes entered the inaugural playoff in 2014 after winning the Big 10 championship in favor of two co-champions from the Big 12, which did not have a conference championship game at the time. Last year, the Buckeyes made the playoff despite not having won the conference championship.

A Clemson-Alabama matchup would be a rematch of the two most recent national championship games. Clemson vs. Ohio State would be rematch of last year's semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl.

The College Football Playoff Selection Show begins Sunday at noon Eastern on ESPN and the playoff pairings will be announced sometime after that.

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