There were no surprises atop the final College Football Playoff rankings. The final four teams will be: the No. 1 Clemson Tigers (13-0), No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1), No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (12-1) and No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (11-1).
The top two teams were unanimous choices across all of the major polls, but there were some discrepancies as it related to No. 3 and No. 4 when you look at the Associated Press and Coaches' rankings:
The Big Ten title game was an eliminator matchup for the CFP. It seemed impossible that the winner of the Spartans-Iowa Hawkeyes matchup wouldn't secure a spot in the CFP, and that the loser wouldn't be on the outside, as it wouldn't be able to supplant the Sooners.
That said, the AP and the CFP committee saw the Spartans' close 16-13 win over Iowa as reason enough to elevate them above the Sooners. The coaches stuck with Oklahoma at No. 3. In the end, the CFP poll is all that really matters, and it has delivered two intriguing semifinal matchups between the Tigers and Sooners and the Crimson Tide and Spartans.
Both games are set for December 31, with the championship game scheduled for January 11.
Watson Won't Let Tigers Lose
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is finally beginning to get the credit he deserves, and some Heisman consideration, per the ESPN broadcast of the CFP rankings on Sunday. When Clemson takes on the red-hot Sooners, Watson will need to be at his best.
Oklahoma has won seven straight heading into the semifinals, and it may have a bit of motivation after having been pushed to No. 4.
The Sooners' high-powered offense is well-balanced with a rushing and passing attack that ranks in the top 20 in the nation. The Sooners score 45 points per game, which is third in the nation. However, most of those numbers were compiled in Big 12 play against subpar defenses.
The Tigers' young and talented defensive line will likely be the best group Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has faced all season. It seems safe to say Oklahoma won't rack up 45 points against Clemson.
The game figures to be a close contest that will come down to key third-down situations. In a game like that, Watson gives Clemson the edge. He's gritty, athletic and as poised as any quarterback in the nation.
He'll make the plays necessary to push his team into the championship game.
Crimson Tide Won't Be Denied
No team in the nation has a more punishing combination of a running game and stout defense than Alabama. The Spartans defense has proven to be rugged in its own right, but it cannot win the battle on the line of scrimmage against Bama.
Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry has taken the term workhorse to another level. In the last two games, Henry has run the ball 90 times. In that span, he has run for 460 yards and two touchdowns.
There's no reason to believe the game plan will change against Michigan State.
The game will be a low-scoring affair through a little over two quarters, but Bama's persistent run game and elite front seven will keep the Spartans from establishing momentum.
In the latter part of the third quarter, Alabama will pull away and win, 30-13.
Bama Will Push Past Clemson
Athletically, Clemson can match up with Bama, but when it comes to power upfront—specifically in relation to the Crimson Tide's offensive line—the Tigers will also fall.
Watson and wide receiver Deon Cain provide Clemson with a big-play combination that will keep the Tigers in the game, but Bama will win the key battles on third down and capture it first national championship in the CFP era.