At last, the College Football Playoff will make its pick.
The selection show at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday will reveal the final picks after conference championship weekend, and those teams will face off in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. The College Football Playoff championship game is Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
What is there left to debate after the conference championship?
Sporting News is making its final picks here. Who’s in? Here is our final playoff picture:
College Football Playoff picks
The Tigers are back in the playoff after a third straight ACC championship and the defending national champions have shown no signs of slowing down after a convincing 38-3 victory against Miami in the ACC championship.
The Sooners are a lock after routing TCU 41-17 in the return of the Big 12 championship game. Baker Mayfield will win the Heisman Trophy, and Lincoln Riley deserves serious Coach of the Year consideration. The only question now is the seeding — and whether Oklahoma has a legitimate case for No. 1. That would shake up the bowl locations, but the sandwich game in the Rose Bowl seems more likely.
The Bulldogs routed Auburn 28-7 in the SEC championship game for their first conference title since 2005, and second-year coach Kirby Smart is ahead of schedule. Georgia is still looking for that first national championship since 1980, and if it can win the semifinal the Bulldogs will be back in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Welcome to the first real controversy of the College Football Playoff era. The one-loss Crimson Tide spent most of the season at No. 1, and it’s a close call with the Buckeyes. Alabama didn’t lose two games, and it didn’t lose by 31 points. It’s going to be a razor-thin margin, but the Tide squeaks in ahead of the Buckeyes.
First four out
Ohio State (11-2)
We’re sticking with what we said earlier in the week. Ohio State needed to win this game by a little bit more. The Buckeyes won 27-21 in the Big Ten championship game, and they have a slightly better resume then the Crimson Tide. The Big Ten presence could push the Buckeyes through, and we would not be surprised if they win the coin flip. If it’s truly the “four best” teams, however, Alabama will make it over Ohio State.
The Trojans probably deserve more consideration given how they finished, but the lack of a resume-building win outside of Stanford coupled with that ill-fated loss to Washington State on Sept. 29 won’t be enough to forgive another loss to Notre Dame.
The Badgers lost the Big Ten championship for the second straight year, and the consolation prize will be another New Year’s Day Six bowl. At some point, Wisconsin must knock off a Big Ten East powerhouse in Indianapolis to take the next step.
It’s quite a fall for the Tigers, and they’ll probably be ranked higher in the final rankings. But this is life for a team that lost three games and likely falls to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Next four out
Penn State (10-2)
Penn State lost two games by four points, and that’s the margin for error in the Big Ten East. The Nittany Lions likely will settle for a New Year’s Day Six bowl.
The Knights did their job with a 62-55 double-overtime victory against Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship. That isn’t enough to the crack the College Football Playoff, which is an issue the Group of 5 must address. UCF likely ends up in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
The Hurricanes might have been a year early under Mark Richt, and they’ll learn from the ACC championship loss to Clemson. Better days are ahead for “The U.”
TCU might lose out on a New Year’s Day Six bowl to a team like Washington out of the Pac-12, but the Horned Frogs still enjoyed a successful season under Gary Patterson.