The stage is set. For the second consecutive year, the College Football Playoffs will feature four conference champions and the top four teams in the country as Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma University will all have a shot at this year’s title. The selection of teams has sparked little controversy in comparison to last year’s decision that left both Baylor and TCU out. Clemson, Atlantic Coast Conference champions and the top team in the country will face off against fourth-ranked Oklahoma, the Big 12 champions, in the Capital One Orange Bowl. On the other side of the bracket, second-ranked and back-to-back SEC champions Alabama will play against No. 3 Michigan State, the Big Ten champions, in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. CAS freshman David Min said he thinks the Crimson Tide, after being ousted in the semis last year, have something to prove this year.
“This year’s matches should be great with three new teams getting a shot at the title,” Min said. “I think Alabama has the best chance at winning it all this year. They definitely have a chip on their shoulder after last year.”
Clemson, the last undefeated team in the FBS, punched their ticket to the second-annual College Football Playoff and retained the top seed after defeating North Carolina last Saturday in the ACC championship. Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson led the team past a resilient Tar Heels team with yet another excellent performance, recording three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. He and Clemson will be seeking the university’s first national title since 1981.
Alabama will be playing in their second straight College Football Playoff and competing for their third title in the last five years. The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook gave the Crimson Tide a 9-point spread over the Spartans after beating Florida in the SEC championship and earning their spot in the bracket. Derrick Henry, another Heisman finalist, rushed for 189 yards against one of the top defenses in the country. After being upset by Ole Miss back in week 3, Alabama went on to win 10 straight games behind Henry’s SEC record setting season, giving them a lot of momentum coming into the big semifinal matchup and yet another shot at glory.
The Michigan State Spartans, looking for their first national championship since 1966, rallied past Iowa in what was probably the most decisive game of the week. L.J Scott’s powerful lunge in the closing seconds of the Big Ten championship game capped off a crazy regular season for Michigan State after raining on Iowa’s campaign for a perfect season. The win gave the university its second conference title in the last three years and extended their winning streak to four games, with two of them being against top 10 teams.
Oklahoma snatched the last playoff spot by beating the in-state rival, Oklahoma State, in the Big 12 championship game. They gained 524 total yards — 344 on the ground — over the Cowboys to earn their third win in a row over a ranked opponent. Head coach Bob Stoops will be fighting for the school’s first title since 2000. Despite being the fourth and lowest seed, the Sooners were made a 2.5-point favorite over the Tigers by the Superbook. Their Orange Bowl match against Clemson will be a rematch of last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl, where they were blown out 40-6. Despite the rankings placing them last, there’s no guarantee they won’t go on to win a championship. After last season’s unpredictability, Tisch freshman Jeremy Lawrence believes that there is no definite outcome set in stone for this year’s competition.
“The addition of a mini-postseason proved to be an awesome idea after we saw Number 4 Ohio State win it all last year,” Lawrence said. “It should be interesting to see what surprises are to come in the following weeks.”
The College Football Playoffs will begin on Dec. 31 as both semifinals will be played in Miami and Arlington, Texas, respectively. The championship game will be held in Glendale, Arizona, on Jan. 11.
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