Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma Make the College Football Playoff

    It's official. Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma clinched their spots in the 2018 College Football Playoff on Sunday with Georgia and Ohio State

    December 2, 2018

    It’s official. Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma clinched their spots in the 2018 College Football Playoff on Sunday with Georgia and Ohio State just missing the cut at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively.

    Here are our takeaways from the four-team playoff field and the order of the top six teams.

    Ignore any discussion about which four teams are the “best,” losses have to matter

    Georgia has two losses — arguably to the two best teams it played — including a 20-point loss at LSU. Even though Georgia led Alabama for most of the SEC Championship, the Bulldogs lost. No team has ever made the College Football Playoff with two losses. Their best win is against Florida and a non-conference schedule featuring Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, UMass and Georgia Tech doesn’t move the needle for the playoff selection committee.

    Ohio State, which finished at No. 6 in the CFP rankings despite being a 12-1 Big Ten champion, lost at Purdue by 29 points.

    If you’re a fan of Georgia or Ohio State and you’re wondering why your team was left out of the playoff, there are some pretty simple answers. If the Bulldogs had beaten Alabama, they’d be in the playoff. They could have potentially made the playoff if they had beaten LSU and still lost to Alabama.

    If the Buckeyes had beaten Purdue, they’d be in the playoff. Or even a more competitive loss to Purdue could have improved the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes.

    Through five years of the College Football Playoff era, we’ve learned that one loss, especially a bad one, can be enough to end a team’s playoff hopes and two losses will assuredly end a team’s playoff chances (at least until a two-loss team makes the playoff). Even if the eye test or the result of a conference championship game tells you a team is one of the four best in the country, losses have to matter.

    This year’s playoff field also shows how little room for error there is if multiple teams go undefeated, like Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame did in the regular season.

    This was maybe the least dramatic regular season of the College Football Playoff era

    In the first CFP rankings of the season in Week 10, Alabama was ranked No. 1, Clemson was No. 2 and Notre Dame was No. 4. The Crimson Tide and Tigers never wavered from their respective rankings. After LSU’s loss to Alabama, the Fighting Irish slid up to No. 3 and held that position in the rankings.

    Oklahoma, which earned the No. 4 seed in this season’s playoff, was ranked No. 7 in the initial rankings, so by winning out, the Sooners capitalized on losses suffered by LSU, Michigan and Georgia.

    There were several compelling games between Week 10 and Week 14. Alabama-Georgia, Ohio State-Michigan and Oklahoma-West Virginia all come to mind. But from a 10,000-foot view of the regular season, there was limited drama given that three of the four playoff teams were ranked in the top four from Week 10 until Sunday’s announcement.

    The usual suspects continue to dominate the playoff era

    Alabama will make its fifth-straight College Football Playoff appearance and Clemson clinched its fourth consecutive playoff bid. The Crimson Tide have earned the No. 1 seed on three occasions and the Tigers have earned a top-two seed in each of their playoff appearances.

    Alabama and Clemson have met in the last three seasons in the playoff and if both schools win their respective College Football Playoff Semifinal, they’ll face off in the national championship for the third time in four years.

    Based on Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s opening lines, the Crimson Tide and Tigers are both favored to win their respective semifinals. Alabama opened as a 14-point favorite over Oklahoma, while Clemson is a 11.5-point favorite against Notre Dame.

    Oklahoma will make its third College Football Playoff appearance in four years, giving the Sooners the third-most CFP appearances behind only Alabama and Clemson.

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