Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Washington make up College Football Playoff

Published 11:39 am Sunday, December 4, 2016

The speculation is over.

The College Football Playoff selection committee released its final set of rankings Sunday with Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington making up the top four. The national playoff semifinals will be Alabama, which stayed at No. 1 all season, against No. 4 Washington in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and No. 2 Clemson against No. 3 Ohio State in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31.

The winners will play for the national championship Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

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Alabama (Southeastern Conference) and Clemson (Atlantic Coast Conference) won their conference championships Saturday while the committee showed its confidence in Ohio State (11-1) the previous week by putting the Buckeyes at No. 2 despite the fact that Ohio State couldn’t win the Big Ten. Clemson, ranked third a week ago, moved ahead of Ohio State with its conference title win, but the Buckeyes stayed in the top four with three top-8 wins, including a non-conference victory at Big 12 champion Oklahoma.

The fourth and final spot came down to Washington and Penn State with the Huskies getting the nod. Washington (12-1) won the Pac-12 championship in convincing fashion Friday with a 41-10 win over Colorado. Penn State (11-2) won nine straight after a 2-2 start, including a 38-31 win over Wisconsin on Saturday for the Big Ten title.

Washington’s lone loss came against Southern Cal while the Nittany Lions fell to Pittsburgh and Michigan. But Penn State handed Ohio State its only loss on Oct. 22.

“We looked at one-loss Washington with that loss being to a top-10 team compared to a two-loss Penn State,” College Football Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said in an interview with ESPN. “One (loss) was not particularly competitive. The other was to an 8-4 team. … The committee believes Washington deserved that No. 4 spot and they’re a better football team than Penn State.”

Penn State came in at No. 5 in the rankings while Michigan (10-2) was ranked sixth. Rounding out the top 10 are Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Southern Cal and Colorado, respectively.

Penn State’s consolation prize is a matchup with Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. Other New Year’s Six bowl matchups are Michigan against No. 11 Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30, Oklahoma against No. 14 Auburn in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 and Wisconsin against No. 15 Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.