And then there were four.
The College Football Playoff committee released its final rankings Sunday afternoon, setting up the four playoff seeds in the process. It's a great day to be a Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama fan, as those four teams will compete in this year's playoff.
Below, we'll take a look at the overall rankings and break down the implications of the committee's decisions.
5. Ohio State
9. Penn State
14. Notre Dame
16. Michigan State
18. Washington State
19. Oklahoma State
22. Virginia Tech
23. Mississippi State
24. NC State
25. Boise State
The College Football Playoff is in its fourth season of existence, with Ohio State (2014), Alabama (2015) and Clemson (2016) winning the tournament in its first three years. The playoff features the four best teams in college football as determined by a 13-member selection committee comprised of current and former athletic directors, coaches, players and university presidents.
The committee makes its determinations by taking factors like strength of schedule, conference titles and head-to-head competition into account, namely when comparing teams with similar records.
This year's semifinal playoff games will be the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Jan. 1 and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans that same night. The National Championship Game will be played on Jan. 8 in Atlanta.
Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia made the committee's life easy when they won their respective conference titles Saturday, earning playoff bids in the process. Things got more complicated when two-loss Ohio State knocked off previously unbeaten Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, however, leaving the committee with quite the dilemma for the final playoff berth.
Ohio State and Alabama each presented the committee with a different argument.
The Buckeyes had the better overall resume, with victories over Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, all ranked higher than any of the teams Alabama defeated this season. Unlike Alabama, Ohio State won a conference title.
Alabama, meanwhile, had just one loss (falling 26-14 to Auburn on the road), arguably a better loss than either Ohio State's 31-16 defeat at home to Oklahoma or 55-24 beatdown against Iowa on the road. Alabama head coach Nick Saban also argued that the team's season-opening win against Florida State—then No. 3 before stumbling to a 6-6 record—would likely look far better had the Seminoles not lost quarterback Deondre Francois for the season.
The debate was fierce, but in the end, Alabama earned the nod. Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt further elaborated on the decision to go with the Crimson Tide over the Buckeyes:
Chuck Carlton @ChuckCarltonDMN
Kirby Hocutt says "more damaging" for Ohio State was big loss to Iowa. Says section committee believed Alabama was better team.2017-12-3 17:47:43
Dr. Saturday @YahooDrSaturday
Kirby Hocutt basically just said Ohio State's 31-point loss to Iowa was the deciding factor. "Alabama was clearly the No. 4 ranked team as a non-champion."2017-12-3 17:48:15
The reward for getting into the playoff is a date with defending champion Clemson, however. The Tigers rolled Miami in the ACC title game, 38-3, and have won six straight after a shocking 27-24 loss at Syracuse.
"We're the attacking champs," head coach Dabo Swinney said, per the Associated Press, eschewing the traditional "defending champions" jargon. "We're attacking to try and win another one."
Oklahoma and Georgia, meanwhile, will feature a fascinating clash of styles. The Sooners' high-flying offense is led by Heisman hopeful and quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has his team cooking with fire. The Sooners have won eight straight games, including two victories over TCU in that time by a combined 42 points.
While Oklahoma decimates teams through the air, ranking third in passing yards per game (367.4) and fourth in points per contest (44.9), Georgia is led by a ground-and-pound offense and a stifling defense. The Bulldogs are fourth in the nation in yards allowed per game (270.9) and are giving up just 13.2 points per game (tied for third).
Styles make fights, and Oklahoma and Georgia couldn't be more polarized in their particular styles. If the game is a shootout, the advantage goes to Oklahoma. A low-scoring battle of attrition in the trenches favors Georgia, meanwhile.