Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Like a lot of people around the country, when the final CFP rankings came out to determine the four playoff teams vying for this season's national title, I was skeptical that the selection committee got it right.
However, with a few days to reflect on it, I have come to the realization that they did in fact get it correct and the four most qualified and deserving teams are indeed playing for the national championship.
Yes, there are a couple of teams in the state of Texas that would argue vehemently to the opposite, but the system currently in place doesn't afford a fifth or sixth team.
Taking each team on its merits, the only logical decision was to have Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State battle it out in a three-game playoff to determine a true champion.
Nick Saban's Crimson Tide are the top team in the land and for good reason. Sure the Tide dropped a narrow decision on the road to a red-hot Ole Miss squad in early October, but the timing of the loss left Alabama with plenty of time to impress, and impress they did. The Crimson Tide not only stayed within striking distance in the SEC and the national title picture, but they climbed into the "pole position" by season's end and capped things off with a 42-13 demolition of Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. With once again the nation's stingiest defense, and great talent at the skill positions, Alabama will be extremely tough to knock off its lofty perch.
Mark Helfrich's Ducks used the same blueprint to earn their way into the playoff scenario. Oregon dropped a 31-24 decision at home to Arizona, but that was way back on Oct. 2. The team went on to win seven straight games to close out the regular season, all by double digits, and got sweet revenge over Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game, absolutely destroying the Wildcats on a neutral field, 51-13. It's not official, but there is little doubt that Oregon QB Marcus Mariota will take home the Heisman Trophy. Now its just a question of whether or not that piece of hardware will have company in the trophy case.
The reigning national champions are America's favorite team to hate. With a polarizing leader on offense in Jameis Winston and more close calls than Jimbo Fisher would like, Florida State seemed to back its way into the playoff picture. But the reality is that the Seminoles have won 29 straight games and no one has beaten them since the 2012 season. They are the only unbeaten team in the nation, and they won the ACC Championship in typical FSU fashion, edging out Georgia Tech, 37-35. Seven of their 13 wins this season have come by six points or less and many of those the team had to come from behind to get the victory. However, wins are just that and no one has won more games over the last two seasons than the 'Noles
Finally, the team that gets the most criticism for being included is Ohio State. Yes, the Buckeyes suffered an ugly loss to a bad Virginia Tech team in Columbus (35-21), but that was with their second-string quarterback at the helm and, like the Crimson Tide and Ducks, it was very early (Sept. 6). Other than surviving a close call with Penn State (31-24 2OT) and a seven-point win over Minnesota (31-24), Ohio State has won impressively, including a 49-37 victory on the road at Michigan State. The Buckeyes earned a spot in the Big Ten Championship, but once again had to go to the bench and use its third- string quarterback to take on Wisconsin. OSU didn't just beat the Badgers, the Buckeyes embarrassed them, rolling to a 59-0 shutout and sporting an identical 12-1 record as Alabama and Oregon.
TCU and Baylor finished tied atop the Big 12 standings, but without a conference championship game, both teams finished up at 11-1 on the year. No one can forget the spectacle the two teams put on for the nation back on Oct. 11, as the Bears edged out the Horned Frogs in a 61-58 shootout. That should have propelled Baylor just a notch ahead of TCU in the eyes of the selection committee, but instead the committee almost botched the whole thing by moving TCU into the third spot prior to the last week of the season. However, the powers that be didn't compound that faux pas with another blunder, but instead, used Ohio State's dominant performance in the Big Ten Championship Game to move past the Horned Frogs and claim the coveted spot among the first- ever college football playoff quartet, effectively getting it right.
Really, it was the Buckeyes that made the decision easier, extinguishing any lingering doubt with their performance against Wisconsin. They won their way into the playoff, rather than Baylor or TCU losing a spot.
In the end, four deserving teams all winning conference championships remain standing now that the dust has cleared.
Seems like a fair and reasonable conclusion.