Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Cincinnati advance to college football playoffs


You again, Alabama? It was How? ‘Or’ What long, Michigan? Good to see you, Georgia. This way for orientation, Cincinnati.

The college football qualifiers on Sunday announced that these four schools – representing three conferences, 31 national championships won and a lot of hopes, hype and slurs – as the pitch that would contend for this season’s title.

Left out without significant challenge: Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma, among the bluest of the Blue Bloods but programs that will be elsewhere on Jan. 10, when the championship game is played in Indianapolis.

The playoff selection committee’s picks for the four-team tournament were widely anticipated after the conference championship games on Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s standings were, however, responsible for settling the clashes for the December 31 semi-final matches.

Alabama’s No.1 will face No.4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl, and No.2 Michigan will meet No.3 Georgia in the Orange Bowl.

The Southeastern Conference has once again filled half the playoff field, and a rematch of its championship showdown, where Alabama defeated Georgia, is a prospect for the national title game. The Big Ten will also be thrilled, especially the opportunity to remind fans that Ohio State is not its only powerhouse. And the American Athletic Conference, home of Cincinnati, will go down in history as the first Group of 5 league to have a playoff squad, which started with the 2014 season and replaced the Bowl Championship Series.

The Atlantic Coast Conference missed the playoff pitch for the first time, while the Pac-12 Conference failed to qualify a team for the fifth straight season. The Big 12 Conference, which started the weekend with Oklahoma State ranked fifth but then saw the Cowboys lose to Baylor in the league title game, will be out for the second year in a row.

Alabama, who under coach Nick Saban have won six national championships since 2009, enter the playoffs with the momentum of their last game as their best of the season. Alabama (12-1) came into the SEC championship game as a third-seeded team in the playoffs and opened that game against the then No.1 Georgia slowly. But Bryce Young, now a favorite to become Alabama’s second in a row Heisman Trophy winner, ultimately pitched for 421 yards and three touchdowns; he also rushed for a Georgian one-on-one defense that had been better than any other in the Football Bowl subdivision.

Alabama struggled in November, winning three games by one touchdown or less, and lost to Texas A&M in October. But Saturday’s demolition of Georgia’s perfect season, in addition to 11 more wins, gave Tide a repeat as national champion. (Alabama routed Ohio State in last season’s title game.)

But Alabama could have problems ahead. Saban reported on Saturday night that John Metchie III, who had 97 yards on eight catches against Georgia before an injury late in the first half, would most likely miss the playoffs.

“We have a few other guys who could be injured,” Saban said. “It creates a lot of opportunities for a lot of other players. Hopefully we can get them to step up.

Michigan (12-1) will make their first playoff appearance after harassing the Iowa, 42-3, in the Big Ten Championship game. A week earlier, the Wolverines had taken down Ohio State for the first time in a decade.

Indeed, much of Michigan’s most illustrious football history can be traced back to the first half of the 20th century, and the Wolverines haven’t claimed a national title since the 1997 season, before the BCS and the playoffs rolled around. are used to determine champions. But this year’s squad has been a lot fiercer than expected: the Wolverines failed to make the cut in the Associated Press’s Top 25 preseason poll.

They ended up being a knockout lock.

The defense that came out of Ann Arbor deserves a lot of the credit. Aidan Hutchinson has seen his NFL Draft supply increase along with his sack count: 13.5 this season, including three in the Ohio State game. David Ojabo, the Wolverine who is second in the Big Ten in sacks, recorded 11.

Hassan Haskins had just 56 yards on 17 attempts against Iowa, but he also set the Michigan record for touchdowns in a single season, with 20.

“Nobody owes anything, nobody is entitled to anything,” said coach Jim Harbaugh, whose performance was under siege at the end of last season. But, he added, “When you’re surrounded by a bunch of guys who attack just like they attack their schoolwork, their training and they want to be their best, you’ve got the right one. feeling it’s going to happen. “

Georgia, the highest-ranked team since the selection committee released their first standings on November 2, entered the weekend as the safest bet to advance to the playoffs, where they appeared for last time in the 2017 season. Even falling to Alabama in such a dramatic fashion was going to be nowhere near enough to drop a season’s worth of work.

After all, every other top Power 5 team has suffered at least one loss as well.

Like Michigan, Georgia can thank their defense, their undisputed strength on their 12-1 run. The defensive thicket that includes Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean has allowed an average of less than 10 points per game this season, a better one in major college football. The Georgian defense allowed about 254 yards on each outing, less than any other team in the SEC.

The offense showed flashes of dazzling – tight end Brock Bowers, for example, had 139 receiving yards in the game against Alabama – but Georgia’s ambitions to advance to the title game will most likely depend on the ability of his defense to regain the form it had. most of the season.

When asked on Saturday how he might approach a possible rematch with Alabama, coach Kirby Smart said he had to watch the movie of the match again.

But, he said, “The first answer would be: don’t let people out in the open. He added, “Cover them up, then let’s try to win heads-up and drop the balls.” Because look, now they’re going to throw and finish balls. They are really good at it. At the end of the day, you have to put a body on a body and cover them. Some of the coins we donated were freebies.

Cincinnati (13-0) experienced a far cry from heartburn on Saturday when it beat Houston, 35-20, in the American League Championship game. He had set a course for the playoffs in October, when he hit the road and beat Notre Dame, 24-13.

The Bearcats have scored about 39 points per game and are averaging 429 yards of attack. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder has played in a game this year that has seen him throw three touchdown passes, run for a score and catch a throw for another touchdown.

But Cincinnati’s defense has been particularly strong, allowing an average of 4 yards per game this season. Opponents Cincinnati scored a total of 25 touchdowns – the Bearcats scored 70 – helping Cincinnati lock in the lead in the conference for the lowest points allowed per game (16.1).

In an interview this season, Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell had suggested that his team would not be distracted by the playoff debates and whether or not his team should enter the field as a Group program. of 5.

“You control your own destiny,” he said ahead of the Notre Dame game. “I mean, your fate might not go to the playoffs if you win every game. But you control it.

The Group of 5 playoff spot and final standings came about six months after some college sports leaders publicly launched a proposal to expand the playoffs to a dozen teams. But divergent views on certain details, like automatic qualifiers, have left negotiators with no consensus – and waning confidence that the format will change ahead of the 2026 season.

The NCAA has no role in the playoffs, which are governed by the Power 5 and Group of 5 conferences with Notre Dame. While the playoffs are already a money-printing machine for football’s most powerful conferences, media consultants believe an expanded format would become the most lucrative event in college sports, even surpassing the basketball tournament. NCAA Division I men’s ball, a 67-game spectacle that has more than $ 850 million in television rights this year.


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