Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State will play for the national championship after Sunday’s College Football Playoff selection.
After not playing in the conference championship game, the Buckeyes (11-1) advanced one spot following USC’s loss in the Pac-12 title game on Friday to give the Big Ten two playoff teams for the first time in the nine-year history of the format. .
No. 4 Ohio State will face No. 1 Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Beach Bowl, and No. 2 Michigan will face No. 3 TCU on Dec. 31 in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl.
The CFP National Championship presented by AT&T will be held on January 9 at Sophie Stadium in Inglewood, California.
Georgia Caesars opened as a 7-point favorite over Ohio State at the sportsbook, and Michigan was a 9-point favorite over TCU.
After an overtime loss in the Big 12 championship game to Kansas State, TCU (12-1) lost its No. 3 retained the rank. The Horned Frogs and Buckeyes are the fifth and sixth teams to make the College Football Playoff without winning a conference title.
Horned Frogs coach Sonny Dykes said he was worried about his team’s playoff position after the loss, but said he had confidence in the selection committee.
At a watch party for TCU players and staff on the Fort Worth, Texas campus, cheers erupted as the Frogs stepped into the bracket during the announcement ceremony.
“We’ve had some sleepless nights, but we appreciate the team’s confidence in our players and our program,” Dykes said Sunday. “I think you can hear that at the beginning of the season.”
Alabama (10-2) hoped to move into the top four following losses to USC and TCU, coach Nick Saban lobbied for his team on Saturday.
“If we play any of those teams that we’re on the brink of getting in, are we underdogs or favorites?” Saban said on Fox at halftime of the Big Ten Championship.
The Crimson Tide was ranked fifth by the selection committee.
Committee chairman Boo Corrigan, NC State’s athletic director, said Ohio State’s big wins over Penn State and Notre Dame helped push the Buckeyes over Alabama.
“When we looked at the overall jobs, the team was comfortable with Ohio State at No. 4 and Alabama at No. 5,” Corrigan said in an interview on ESPN.
Corrigan told ESPN’s Heather Dinich that three teams (TCU, Alabama and Ohio State) could be without conference titles.
“Obviously it’s going to change some because it’s different than it has been in the past, but our goal is to see the totality of the games being played,” he said.
Corrigan said there was considerable discussion around Alabama, but without conference titles, the focus was more on resumes. TCU’s regular-season win over Kansas State loomed large in the finale — the committee was impressed by the Horned Frogs’ comeback and 10-point margin of victory — but Corrigan said that was just one example of what impressed the committee.
“You think about TCU in the game against Baylor, coming down the field, running down the field, kicking a field goal speaks volumes about a disciplined team, a well-rounded team,” he said. “We’re trying to see everything we can as we go into this.”
Georgia (13-0) and Michigan (13-0) made the playoffs for the second straight year. They easily won their respective conference title games Saturday and will become the fourth team to win the CFP with an undefeated record.
The only time Georgia and Ohio State had played before was in the 1992 Citrus Bowl, a 21-14 Bulldogs victory. TCU, which won the national title in 1938, had never played at Michigan.
After many players watched Saturday’s Big 12 championship game, the Wolverines applauded their semifinal opponent.
“Max Duggan, he’s a great player,” Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy said, “but it’ll be cool to see how he shapes up against our defense. I’m always looking to see if I can pick up bits and pieces from other quarterbacks’ game. Add that to mine. Max, He’s a tough guy. Watching him run the ball, especially on those last two drives, it was really stopping and realizing, ‘Hey, it’s the Big 12, but I’m going to get a chance. Use my legs.”
Michigan is looking to take another step forward after advancing to the semifinals last season before being blown out by Georgia.
“That ultimate goal, we weren’t really shooting for that national championship last year,” McCarthy said. “It was about beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten Championship, but this year, we’re shooting for it and we’re going to get it.”
Corrigan said the team made no special effort to avoid a rematch with Ohio State and Michigan in the semifinals. The Buckeyes and Wolverines had never played outside of their annual regular season game during the rivalry dating back to 1902.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
“Friend of animals everywhere. Devoted analyst. Total alcohol scholar. Infuriatingly humble food trailblazer.”