Opinion: Why this year's College Football Playoff is the best in its history 2019-12-082019-12-08
Ohio St jumps LSU to No. 1 in CFP rankings with 2 weeks left
Ohio State jumped LSU to No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings with two weeks left to go before selection Sunday. LSU slipped to second Tuesday night and Clemson remained No. 3 while Georgia held on at four. If playoff history holds form, three of those top four teams will reach the semifinals. Alabama remained No. 5 in the selection committee’s third rankings, with Utah moving up a spot to No. 6. The Utes are the only Pac-12 team in the top 10 after Oregon dropped eight spots to 14th.Oklahoma is seventh followed by Minnesota, Baylor and Penn State.
College football has spent 150 years cycling through systems and formats designed to decide the race for the national championship, first with bowls and polls before the advent of the current four-team bracket.
But there's never been a postseason quite like this: four teams, three unbeaten, carrying a total of 51 wins against just one loss, heads and shoulders above the rest of the Bowl Subdivision. In bringing together No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma, this year's College Football Playoff class represents the dream scenario in deciding the best team in the sport.
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"It was really close," playoff selection committee chairman Rob Mullens said of the debate between LSU and Ohio State. "We've seen an LSU defense healthy and playing better ... we just felt that LSU deserved that No. 1 seed going into the playoff."
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LSU and Oklahoma will meet in the Peach Bowl (Dec. 28, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN), with LSU already pegged as a double-digit favorite. Ohio State and Clemson will face off in the Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 28, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN) for the second time in four years, following the Tigers' 31-0 shutout of the Buckeyes in early 2016.
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"This is easily the most talented and most complete Ohio State team that we’ve played," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
Not since 2004 have three Power Five teams ended the regular season season unblemished — and in 2004, under the Bowl Championship Series format, Auburn was left out in the cold as Oklahoma and Southern California met for the championship.
The three unbeaten teams have been on a steady and unstoppable march through the regular season, with just four games across the group decided by a single possession. The Buckeyes' closest call came on Saturday, in the 34-21 win against Wisconsin to win the Big Ten championship.
"That was the best game we've had all year, because of that," said Ohio State coach Ryan Day, "and we found out a lot about ourselves."
LSU engaged in shootouts with Texas (45-38) and Alabama (46-41) but had answers for every charge, thanks to a record-setting offense piloted by senior quarterback Joe Burrow, the runaway favorite for the Heisman Trophy. The Tigers saved their best for last, with a 37-10 win against Georgia to win the SEC.
LSU earns top seed as College Football Playoff field set
LSU earns top seed as College Football Playoff field set
Clemson has had only one near-brush with disaster, during a 21-20 win against North Carolina on the final Saturday of September that seemed to vault the Tigers into a different stratosphere of production against an overmatched ACC. All eight of Clemson's wins since have come by 31 or more points, the latest a 62-17 thrashing of Virginia, in a stretch of play unmatched in program history.
At 12-1, Oklahoma represents the black sheep of an otherwise flawless group. Yet the Sooners are the only remaining Power Five team with fewer than two losses, and in rounding out the field make a distinct argument against expanding to an eight-team format — since dipping into a pool that includes Georgia (11-2), Oregon (11-2) and Florida (10-2) would only dilute the quality of this four-team field.
It's a group defined by offensive production, in a clear sign of the sport's shift away from the defensive focus that fueled the SEC's dynastic reign atop the sport earlier this decade. Oklahoma leads the nation in yards gained per play. LSU ranks third. Clemson comes in fourth, Ohio State in seventh. Ohio State leads the country in scoring offense. LSU is in third, Clemson in fourth, the Sooners in fifth.
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Clemson leads the country in yards per carry, with Oklahoma in fourth and OSU in sixth. LSU tops the Bowl Subdivision in completion percentage, passing touchdowns and quarterback-efficiency rating. Across a combined 52 games, this foursome has failed to score 30 or more points just five times. In another twist indicative of college football's altered landscape, three of the four teams are led by a transfer quarterback.
It's the defending national champions, Clemson, against an Ohio State team fresh off a commanding run through the Big Ten. The SEC powerhouse, LSU, and its Heisman-worthy quarterback against an Oklahoma program with three playoff appearances in a row and the past five Big 12 championships. After 150 years of college football, the end result is a championship push unlike any in the sport's history.
Oklahoma wide receiver Charleston Rambo tries to make a the catch in the end zone while being defended by Baylor cornerback Raleigh Texada during the first quarter in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game at AT&T Stadium.
Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) passes against the Oregon Ducks during the first half of the Pac-12 Conference championship game at Levi's Stadium.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: Why this year's College Football Playoff is the best in its history
AP Player of the Year: QB Joe Burrow, first winner from LSU .
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is The Associated Press college football player of the year in a landslide vote. Burrow, who has led the top-ranked Tigers to an unbeaten season and their first College Football Playoff appearance, received 50 of 53 first-place votes from AP Top 25 poll voters and a total of 156 points. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young was second with three first-place votes and 29 points while Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields was third with 43 points. Burrow, Young, Fields and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, who finished fourth with 33 points, are the finalists for the Heisman Trophy to be handed out Saturday in New York.
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