There weren't any major upsets on championship weekend, but the circumstances surrounding the best teams' victories sparked plenty of debate ahead of Sunday's final College Football Playoff rankings.
The reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles capped off an undefeated season, 37-35, over Georgia Tech for the ACC title, which was expected to be enough to qualify for the Top Four. However, the Ohio State Buckeyes thrashed Wisconsin, 59-0, to win the Big Ten, while Baylor defeated Kansas State, 38-27, to join TCU as Big 12 champions.
In the end, the selection committee opted to plug in Ohio State as the final playoff program.
CBS' Brad Johansen weighed in on the polarizing rankings:
Alabama remaining in the top spot on the strength of an SEC title over Missouri isn't a surprise, nor is Oregon at No. 2 due to its vengeful, 51-13 dismantling of Arizona, the only team the Ducks had lost to this year. The Crimson Tide face the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl, and Oregon will tussle with Florida State in the Rose Bowl.
Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports feels the coaching battle between Alabama and Ohio State will be a cause for serious buzz:
As for the other playoff tilt, ESPN.com's Brett Edgerton alluded to an interesting fact about oddsmakers counting on the Seminoles to lose:
It has to be shocking for a team like TCU—inside the playoff picture in last week's edition—to win 55-3 over Iowa State and see itself tumble out of national title contention so suddenly.
ESPN personality Skip Bayless shared his opinion, hinting at name recognition playing a role in TCU's steep drop:
Matt Winer of Turner Sports wondered whether the prior releases mean anything in light of how far the Horned Frogs fell:
On the other hand, Ohio State's triumph over Wisconsin was nothing short of spectacular. Former third-string quarterback Cardale Jones succeeded two injured potential Heisman contenders in Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett and played as well as could've been expected in the blowout win.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany spoke after the game and summarized what the selection committee had to be thinking, via ESPN's Brian Bennett:
Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution feels OSU's resounding statement in the Big Ten title game may lead to a trend in the coming years:
A poor nonconference schedule harmed Baylor's chances, and its head-to-head victory over TCU has been a perpetual bone of contention for the selection committee.
ESPN College Football highlighted the resumes of the Big 12 co-champions and Ohio State, and it was evident that strength of schedule played a part in the Buckeyes getting the nod:
Will Brinson of CBSSports.com suggested another factor that seemed to carry a lot of weight:
Due to the competitiveness of the jockeying for the fourth and final marquee postseason berth, there will likely be talk of making tweaks to the system.
Rivals.com's Josh Helmholdt hinted at that in his analysis:
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports noticed a certain theme in the committee's rhetoric, which may be seen as an attempt to quiet uproar over the rankings:
But The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre feels the circumstances actually hurt the possibility of an expanded playoff field:
Perhaps the most fascinating part about this new four-team playoff is that the winners of the first games on New Year's Day will have to prepare for an unprecedented challenge. While there is ample time to get up to speed on their opponent ahead of Jan. 12's national title showdown, playing back-to-back opponents of elite caliber is such a rare phenomenon.
The matchups should be excellent, as Alabama will take on an Ohio State team that traditionally has trouble with the SEC. Jones won't be as much of a surprise, because the Tide actually have game tape on him, a luxury Wisconsin didn't have.
As for the Oregon-Florida State battle, it will pit Ducks signal-caller and 2014 Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota against defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in one of the best QB duels in recent history.
Instead of having to shoehorn two teams into the grand finale, this College Football Playoff allows two of the top four teams to play two games in deciding a champion. That should create a ton of anticipation as the other bowls play out, and it ought to prove to be the most authentic way to date of determining the best NCAA football team.