The College Football Playoff has rounded into form. But one of the most controversial decisions in the format's history is around the corner.
The loss snaps Georgia's 29-game winning streak and makes it highly unlikely the Bulldogs get back to the playoff and play for the program's third national championship in a row.
Later on Saturday, Florida State pulled off an ugly 16-6 win against Louisville in the ACC championship game and Michigan will swallowed Iowa to take home another Big Ten crown. That leaves the selection committee with three unbeaten teams.
But that's not to say the Seminoles are guaranteed to land in the top four. Despite the unblemished record, the committee could decide to round out the semifinals with Alabama and Texas. Nearly regardless of what the committee offers, this is set to be the most scrutinized and criticized decision in the history of the four-team format.
With that huge decision to come on Sunday, here are the winners and losers from conference championship weekend:
Quinn Ewers threw for 452 yards and four touchdowns and Texas took care of business against Oklahoma State to complete a torrid close to the regular season. Whether that's enough depends on what happens in the ACC, leaving the Longhorns rooting hard for Louisville to beat Florida State and eliminate the Seminoles from contention. To get this close to the playoff and come up just short would be an understandable letdown, but that shouldn't take away from the bigger picture. Texas made a huge statement on Saturday and throughout the entire season: We're back and probably here to stay. Falling shy of the top four would reflect much more on the depth of teams in this year's race than on the Longhorns, who compiled a résumé that would've put them in the playoff in almost every other year of the format.
Alabama could be the playoff's second seed depending on what happens in the Big Ten. That's not the most incredible thing given what this program has achieved throughout Saban's tenure. But take a step back and think about where the Tide stood in September, after losing to Texas and struggling to put away South Florida. The incredible growth shown by this year's team starts with quarterback Jalen Milroe, who was benched in non-conference play but rebounded to rank among the best in the country during the second half of the year. Milroe started slowly against the Bulldogs but was terrific from there, finishing with 13 completions in 19 throws for 192 yards and adding 29 yards on the ground with two combined touchdowns. Looking at the entire picture, this has been the greatest in-season coaching job of Saban’s unparalleled career.
The Wolverines closed out a romp through the Big Ten with a 26-0 win against offensively inept Iowa, and while the Wolverines didn't play terrific the final score might as well have been 260-0. This should get Michigan to No. 1 in the final playoff rankings ahead of Washington, but the Huskies' strength of schedule and deeper list of wins could be enough to convince the committee to keep the Wolverines in second. In the end, where Michigan falls doesn't matter. While this will be an outstanding playoff field regardless of who joins Michigan and UW, the Wolverines have to be considered the favorite for the national championship with Georgia out of the picture.
SMU won 26-14 at Tulane and will be the Group of Five representative in the New Year’s Six ahead of Conference USA champion Liberty. That can be attributed to three reasons: Liberty’s pathetic strength of schedule, the well-earned reputation of the American and the Mustangs’ unbeaten march through league play after losing to Oklahoma and TCU in September. While a big day for SMU, the Green Wave didn’t just lose out on a second New Year’s Six bowl in a row but are on the verge of losing coach Willie Fritz, who is expected to replace Dana Holgorsen at Houston.
Even in a down year and even without former coach Andy Avalos, who was fired last month, Boise State is still the top team and program in the Mountain West. The Broncos captured the conference championship with a convincing 44-20 win against UNLV that bolsters interim coach Spencer Danielson's case for the permanent position. Boise won all three games under Danielson — Utah State, Air Force and UNLV — to take home the Mountain West for the first time since 2019 and the fifth time overall. Quarterback Taylen Green had major struggles throughout the regular season but played his best Saturday against the Rebels, completing 12 of 15 attempts for 226 yards and two touchdowns with 90 yards and two more scores on the ground.
Kimani Vidal ran for 233 yards and five touchdowns — yes, five touchdowns — and Troy captured a second Sun Belt championship in a row under coach Jon Sumrall with a 49-23 win against Appalachian State. While not mentioned as a major contender for one of this year's Power Five job openings, Sumrall has now compiled an overall record of 23-4 and lost only twice in conference play. After ending last season on an 11-game winning streak, the Trojans will head into the postseason having won 10 games in a row.
There's really no way to get Georgia into the playoff, ending the Bulldogs' hopes of making college football history with a third national championship in a row. There's an argument for getting them into the field, which goes something like this: Georgia is better than everyone and would beat anyone, Alabama included if they had another matchup with the Crimson Tide in the championship game. Then there's the argument for not including Georgia in the field, which would go: They didn't win the SEC and there are too many qualified Power Five champions in the mix for the Bulldogs to get the benefit of the doubt. The loss to Alabama doesn't signify the end of the dynasty by any means but there's a sense that Georgia has missed on a chance to enter college football immortality, and those chances don't come around too often.
Despite beating Louisville and completing an unbeaten season, the Seminoles could be left out of the playoff in favor of Alabama or Texas. One reason for this snub is the way FSU has looked without quarterback Jordan Travis, who has missed the past two games. Primary backup Tate Rodemaker started the close win against Florida but was replaced against Louisville by Brock Glenn, who completed 8 of 21 attempts for 55 yards but did avoid any turnovers. Where the Seminoles could get squeezed by the committee is in the discussion over which teams are most deserving of finishing in the top four and which teams are simply the best in college football. While Florida State deserves to be there as an unbeaten Power Five champion, the four best teams may simply be Michigan, Washington, Texas and Alabama.
Toledo lost a narrow one to Illinois in non-conference play but rolled from there, and could've conceivably made the New Year's Six if not for the two teams at the top of the American Athletic. But that would've required a win against Miami (Ohio) in the MAC championship game, which wasn't in the cards. After losing 21-17 to Toledo during the regular season, the RedHawks clamped down on the Rockets' offense and harassed quarterback Dequan Finn into one of his worst games on the year. Finn hit on only 18 of 36 throws for 273 yards with a touchdown and an interception as Miami pulled off a 23-14 win for the 17th conference crown in program history.
The playoff selection committee
There will be no good, acceptable decision should Florida State beat Louisville. The options in that case are to leave out an unbeaten Power Five champion, to ignore the Longhorns’ win at Alabama earlier this season, or to leave out the Crimson Tide. The committee would be damned in any direction. While this could be made easier should Louisville win, this could shape up to be a very tough Sunday morning for the committee.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football Week 14 winners, losers: Alabama, Texas in playoff?