The defending national champions, two Big Ten powerhouses and an upstart who wasn’t even scheduled to make his conference this season.
Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State were selected Sunday to play in the college football playoffs, giving the Big Ten multiple programs in the four-team field for the first time.
The defending national champion, top-ranked Bulldogs and fourth-seeded Buckeyes meet Dec. 31 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The second-seeded Wolverines and third-seeded Horned Frogs, the only debutant in the bottom four, will play at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., on the same day.
The national championship game is set for Jan. 9 at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., and it could be a rematch between state rivals Ohio and Michigan in what will soon be Big Ten country as the conference grows.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines have never played outside of their annual regular season game in a bitter rivalry that dates back to 1902.
With a bit of drama, but not much controversy, the top four for the CFP Selection Committee fell into place over the Championship weekend. The most interesting part of the reveal was whether the committee would pair Michigan and Ohio State in the semifinals and whether Alabama might be able to slip in as the first two-game playoff team.
In the end, the committee did not create any surprises.
Committee chairman Boo Corrigan, North Carolina State’s athletic director, said Ohio State’s wins over Penn State and Notre Dame helped push the Buckeyes above the Alabama.
“As we were reviewing the overall work, the committee was comfortable with Ohio State at No. 4 and Alabama at No. 5,” he said in an interview with ESPN. Corrigan also said the committee made no special effort to avoid having a rematch of Ohio State and Michigan in the semifinals.
Georgia (13-0), which won the Southeastern Conference championship game in a rout, is a 6 1/2 point favorite against Ohio State, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Michigan (13-0), which won the Big Ten title, is favored by 9 1/2 points over TCU.
TCU (12-1) suffered its first Big 12 championship loss of the season, falling in overtime to Kansas State. The loss was a tough night for Heisman Trophy contender Max Duggan and the Horned Frogs.
“I was really nervous,” Duggan said of ESPN’s slow rollout of pairings.
But in the end, the Frogs had already accumulated enough equity in their unlikely season to stay in the top four.
Ohio State (11-1) got a second life in the playoff hunt when Southern California lost the Pac-12 Championship game on Friday night. A week after star quarterback CJ Stroud and the Buckeyes lost at home to coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan, they slipped into the final playoff spot, the best of a lot of flawed contenders.
Alabama (10-2) finished fifth in the committee’s standings, missing the CFP for only the second time in its nine-year history. The Crimson Tide, with some lobbying from coach Nick Saban, hoped to become the first team to lose two games and qualify for the playoffs.
Instead, the committee simply moved Ohio State from fifth last week to fourth this week, setting up only the second meeting between the Bulldogs and Buckeyes. The only time Georgia and Ohio State played was in the 1993 Citrus Bowl, a Buckeyes victory.
“They have a lot of really good players because we’re bringing in a lot of the same kids,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.
For Georgia, this is the second consecutive participation in the CFP and the third overall. This time, however, Smart’s Bulldogs come in as the No. 1 team and a clear favorite after following last season’s national title with a perfect season. Stetson Bennett and the ‘Dawgs will attempt to become the first team to repeat as CFP Champions.
Ohio State is making its fifth playoff appearance. The last time the Buckeyes were the fourth seed was in 2014 when they won their last national title.
This will be the fourth time two teams from the same conference have made the playoffs. Alabama and Georgia made it twice from the SEC and the Atlantic Coast Conference made it once, when Clemson and ACC guest member Notre Dame made the pandemic season playoffs. 2020.
Michigan is for the second time, again as the second seed after losing to Georgia in the Orange Bowl last season.
“It’s a team that really works and competes, and I think they really understand that if you want good things to happen, you have to work, you have to compete for it,” Harbaugh told ESPN. .
Last year, Michigan was the first team to reach the college football playoffs after starting the season without being ranked in the AP Top 25.
TCU is now the second. The Horned Frogs are also only the 13th different school to be on the field in nine years. This lack of variety is one of the main reasons the CFP will expand to 12 teams in the 2024 season.
The Horned Frogs, whose only national title came in 1938, have never played in Michigan.
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Georgia defensive back Malaki Starks (24) reacts as Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith (29) returns a blocked field goal attempt to LSU for a touchdown in the first half of the Premier League Conference football game Southeast on Saturday, December 3, 2022 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Michigan wide receiver Ronnie Bell holds the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after defeating Purdue in the NCAA Big Ten Championship college football game early Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Indianapolis. Michigan won, 43-22. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston (1) celebrates a catch for a first down in the second half of the Big 12 Conference Championship NCAA college football game against Kansas State on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)