The College Football Playoff rankings mirrored the Associated Press Top 25 poll, setting up a third straight showdown between defending national champion Clemson and Alabama.
Alabama won the 2015 championship by beating Clemson.
This time Nick Saban’s Crimson TIde will face Dabo Swinney’s Tigers in a national semifinal in the Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 1.
The other semifinal will match SEC Champion Georgia against Big 12 Champion Oklahoma at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
A former player and coach at Alabama, Swinney said in an ESPN interview that his Clemson team would welcome the challenge of playing the Crimson Tide a third-straight year in the postseason.
“Obviously the committee had a lot of things to consider but they put the four best teams in there,” said Swinney. “Alabama has been the standard for a long time. We’ve had, obviously, a couple of huge battles with them, but (we’re) excited about it.
“It’s been 25 years since I’ve been to the Sugar Bowl and it was with Alabama at that time. It’s only fitting to have a chance to advance to Atlanta, you’ve got a heavyweight matchup here with Clemson and Alabama. We’ll be excited about it. … It’s going to be a heckuva game; I don’t have any doubt.”
The selection process means that the champions of the Big Ten and Pac 12 won’t be part of the CFP playoffs. Using the final CFP rankings, it would have required an eight-team playoff to include the champions of all Power 5 conferences since Ohio State finished at No. 5 and Southern Cal was No. 8
It would have taken a 16-team playoff to include American Athletic Conference champion UCF and independent Notre Dame.
The CFP top 16
- Clemson (12-1), ACC Champion.
- Oklahoma (12-1), Big 12 Champion
- Georgia (12-1), SEC Champion
- Alabama (11-1), SEC at-large
- Ohio State (11-2), Big Ten Champion
- Wisconsin (12-1), Big Ten at-large
- Auburn (10-3), SEC at-large
- Southern California (11-2), Pac-12 Champion
- Penn State (10-2), Big Ten at-large
- Miami (10-2), ACC at-large
- Washington (11-2), Pac-12 at-large
- UCF (12-0), AAC Champion
- Stanford (9-4), Pac-12 at-large
- Notre Dame (9-3), Independent
- TCU (10-3), Big 12 at-large
- Michigan State (9-3), Big Ten at-large
Beard’s Perfect World Playoffs
Using the final CFP rankings, a 16-team playoff would have provided these first round matchups. The only change would be made to prevent Big 12 teams Oklahoma and TCU from squaring off in the first round, so the first-round opponents for Oklahoma and Georgia were swapped in this imagined 16-team playoff
Clemson vs. Michigan State
Southern Cal vs. Penn State
Ohio State vs. UCF
Alabama vs. Stanford
Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame
Auburn vs. Miami
Wisconsin vs. Washington
Georgia vs. TCU
Clemson-Michigan State winner vs. Southern Cal-Penn State winner
Alabama-Stanford winner vs. Ohio State-UCF winner
Georgia-TCU winners vs. Wisconsin-Washington winner
Oklahoma-Notre Dame winner vs. Auburn–Miami winner