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Top 25 Playoff Takeaways: Tide-Tigers III; Mayfield’s legacy

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —-   For the third straight season, Alabama and Clemson will meet in the College Football Playoff. For the first time ever, Georgia and Oklahoma will play, and it will be in the College Football Playoff.

The field was set Sunday and it is probably going to be a while for fans who thought Ohio State, or maybe some other team, should have been in over Alabama to get past the selection of the Crimson Tide.

Too bad, because the games look pretty good. Recent history suggests Alabama and Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 will be entertaining. Rarely in his college career has Baker Mayfield failed to deliver for Oklahoma, and Georgia brings one of the best defenses the Heisman front-runner has ever faced in a brilliant career to the Rose Bowl.

Simply having the games back on New Year’s Day is probably reason for celebration.

Twenty-five thoughts, takedowns and takeaways on the playoff:

1. Alabama vs. Ohio State. In the end, Alabama got in for being Alabama, the surest best in college football. When choosing between other flawed choices, 10 years of dominance gets the Tide the benefit of the doubt.

2. The problem with trying to predict the committee’s tendencies is that after four years we’re still learning those tendencies.

3. It is probably safe to say now that we should not get too hung up on conference championships, which begs the question: Why play conference championship games?

4. Money mostly. They are quality inventory for television partners and showcase events for the conference. But as conference tournaments have become just more games for the NCAA basketball selection committee to consider, the conference championship game in football is becoming the same. Sometimes it will be helpful. Sometimes not.

5. So how do conferences balance the desire to play a lucrative championship with a desire to create a fair and equitable way to determine a champion and best position teams to reach the playoff? The Big 12 seems to have provided the answer. You don’t balance them. You just play the conference title game, cash the checks and live with the consequences.

6. It’s becoming pretty apparent that the ideal way to reach the playoff is to bulk up the resume with 12 regular-season games, but come up just short of making the conference title game. Then take a weekend off and be one of the leaders in the clubhouse as the other contenders pound each other on championship weekend and maybe end up with, say, two losses.

7. It is a weird quirk that will continue to be an issue that undermines the selection process in the eyes of many fans.

8. So eight-team playoff? There is no appetite for it among those who lead the power conferences. The way the revenue is divvied up, not making the playoff only cost the Big Ten $2 million dollars.

9. As long as the Big Ten gets the Rose Bowl two out of every three years, occasionally getting shut out of the playoff isn’t the worst thing in the world.

10. As he has done before, Alabama coach Nick Saban said he would like to see all the Power Five teams play just Power Five teams and maybe even the same number of conference games.

11. Stanford coach David Shaw made a similar comment — as he has done before — wanting to see uniformity throughout college football. At least in terms of number of conference games and not scheduling FCS teams.

12. A few problems with all of that. First, Saban has one of the few college teams that has enough depth and talent to withstand 12 regular-season games against Power Five competition. For the three-quarters of Power Five teams that have no shot of ever winning a national title, this is a bad idea.

13. Uniformity in college football makes it look more like the NFL. Not only does that take a lot of the fun out of college football, it also makes the whole billion-dollar enterprise look more like a business than something that belongs embedded in institutions of higher learning. The antitrust lawyers know this, too.

14. Now about those playoff games. With Deshaun Watson in the NFL, don’t expect the back-and-forth scoring the last two meetings between the Tigers and Tide have provided. The aggregate so far: Alabama 76, Clemson 75.

15. Kelly Bryant has been excellent in his first season as Watson’s replacement for Clemson, but the junior is a long way from the first-round draft pick and Heisman runner-up. Bryant has 13 touchdown passes and 646 yards rushing (3.7 yards per carry).

16. A tip for Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt: When Clemson really needs a play, find No. 13 Hunter Renfrow. The former walk-on has 18 catches for 180 yards and four touchdowns in the last two national championship games against Alabama.

17. A tip for Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables: O.J. Howard is gone, but don’t lose track of the Alabama tight ends.

18. By the time Clemson and Alabama play on Jan. 1, the Crimson Tide’s linebackers should be as healthy as they have been since the start of the season. The Tide won’t get Shaun Dion Hamilton back but Mack Wilson, Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller should all be far more effective since missing significant time during the regular season.

19. Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts led his team to a championship game as a freshman, but there are still Tide fans who doubt him. Tough crowd.

20. Oklahoma comes into the playoff with the worst defense by far but the best quarterback by far among the four teams.

21. Baker Mayfield will win the Heisman next weekend and then have just one thing left to put him among the great college quarterbacks of all-time: A national title.

22. Oklahoma is 7-3 in its last 10 games against the SEC, including a rout of Auburn last year in the Sugar Bowl.

23. Georgia’s Jake Fromm has the third-most touchdown passes in the SEC with 21. He also has the ninth-most passing attempts with 230. The freshman has been very good, but the two games he has thrown his most passes were Georgia’s loss to Auburn (28) and its one-point win at Notre Dame (29).

24. Roquan Smith showed in the SEC championship why he might be the best linebacker in the country.

25. And the winners will be: Clemson and Georgia. With both campuses less than two hours away from Atlanta, tickets for the title game on Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be impossible to find.


A complete breakdown of all the matchups for this season’s bowl schedule, starting with the opening contest on Dec. 16 at the New Orleans Bowl.

The postseason extravaganza continues for the next three weeks through the College Football Playoff national championship game scheduled for Jan. 8 in Atlanta.

The bowl lineup (all times are ET):

Dec. 16 — New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas, ESPN, 1 p.m.

Dec. 16 — Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State, CBSSN, 2:30 p.m.

Dec. 16 — Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon, ABC, 3:30 p.m.

Dec. 16 — New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.

Dec. 16 — Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Dec. 19 — Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic, ESPN, 7 p.m.

Dec. 20 — Frisco Bowl: Southern Methodist vs. Louisiana Tech, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Dec. 21 — Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Dec. 22 — Bahamas Bowl: Alabama-Birmingham vs. Ohio, ESPN, 12:30 p.m.

Dec. 22 — Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Wyoming, ESPN, 4 p.m.

Dec. 23 — Birmingham: Texas Tech vs. South Florida, ESPN, noon

Dec. 23 — Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army, ESPN, 3:30 p.m.

Dec. 23 — Dollar General Bowl: Toledo vs. Appalachian State, ESPN, 7 p.m.

Dec. 24 — Hawaii Bowl: Houston vs. Fresno State, ESPN, 8:30 p.m.

Dec. 26 — Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah vs. West Virginia, ESPN, 1:30 p.m.

Dec. 26 — Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois, ESPN, 5:15 p.m.

Dec. 26— Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA, ESPN, 9 p.m.

Dec. 27 — Independence Bowl: Florida State vs. Southern Mississippi, ESPN, 1:30 p.m.

Dec. 27 — Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College, ESPN, 5:15 p.m.

Dec. 27 — Foster Farms Bowl: Purdue vs. Arizona, Fox, 8:30 p.m.

Dec. 27 — Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri, ESPN, 9 p.m.

Dec. 28 — Military Bowl: Navy vs. Virginia, ESPN, 1:30 p.m.

Dec. 28 — Camping World Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech, ESPN, 5:15 p.m.

Dec. 28 — Alamo Bowl: TCU vs. Stanford, ESPN, 9 p.m.

Dec. 28 — Holiday Bowl: Michigan State vs. Washington State, Fox, 9 p.m.

Dec. 29 — Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M, ESPN, 1 p.m.

Dec. 29 — Sun Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Arizona State, CBS, 3 p.m.

Dec. 29 — Music City Bowl: Northwestern vs. Kentucky, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.

Dec. 29— Arizona Bowl: Utah State vs. New Mexico State, CBSSN, 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 29 — Cotton Bowl: Southern California vs. Ohio State, ESPN, 8:30 p.m.

Dec. 30 — TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State, ESPN, noon

Dec. 30 — Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis, ABC, 12:30 p.m.

Dec. 30 — Fiesta Bowl: Penn State vs. Washington, ESPN, 4 p.m.

Dec. 30 — Orange Bowl: Miami (Fla.) vs. Wisconsin, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Jan. 1 — Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina, Tampa, ESPN2, noon

Jan. 1 — Peach Bowl: Auburn vs. Central Florida, 12:30 p.m., ESPN

Jan. 1 — Citrus Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU, ABC, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 — Rose Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Georgia, ESPN, 5 p.m.

Jan. 1 — Sugar Bowl: Clemson vs. Alabama, ESPN, 8:45 p.m.

Jan. 8 — National championship game: Semifinal winners, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at


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