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Heading into Championship Weekend in the world of college football, the biggest storyline involved who would snag the fourth and final spot. It was well-established that Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame already secured their spot in the playoff; the drama involved the fourth slot. Ohio State, one week removed from blasting my Michigan Wolverines, faced a Northwestern team that did not offer much potential resistance in the Big Ten Championship. Oklahoma headed to the Big 12 finals against Texas, a team that knocked them off earlier in the year.
To no one’s surprise, Ohio State and Oklahoma held up their end of the bargain, winning their respective titles. What no one saw coming was the absolute battle Georgia gave Alabama in the SEC Championship. With a lead and Alabama’s star QB hurt, the stars looked to be aligning for Georgia to snag a playoff birth. Yet in true Alabama fashion, backup QB Jalen Hurts (a former starter) led the team down the field in multiple occasions, helping the Crimson Tide escape with a win.
The performance by Georgia led some national pundits to believe the Bulldogs deserved the fourth and final playoff birth. It was not to be, as the committee handed Oklahoma the well-deserved spot. The biggest surprise was Georgia leaping Ohio State in the rankings, landing 5th, and Ohio State sliding to 6th. The committee clearly does not put a ton of value into championship games, as Georgia ended the season with two losses and no hardware to their name.
The dust has all cleared, and we are left with Alabama (1) vs Oklahoma (4) in the Orange Bowl, and Clemson (2) vs Notre Dame (3) in the Cotton Bowl.
On first glance, people may write off Oklahoma and expect Alabama to roll. I fully expect Oklahoma and Kyler Murray to score a ton of points against an Alabama team that is not as invincible as others may believe. The bigger question is whether or not Oklahoma can scrape together any semblance of a defense to slow down one of Alabama’s best offenses in their history.
If I had to predict a blowout, it would be Clemson taking out Notre Dame. Clemson has been nothing short of dominant the entire season. The only game that posed any danger was Syracuse, in which the Tigers escaped with a four-point victory. Notre Dame has also been pretty impressive during the season, switching QBs midway through to backup Ian Book, and not missing a page. Book has performed exceptionally well this season, but it will be another level heading into a playoff against a Clemson team who has been there multiple times and will not be phased by the bright lights.
The conclusion to the season points to the absolute need for an 8-team playoff. Ohio State lost one game on the road and claimed their conference, and were STILL placed behind a two-loss SEC team. The potential existed for only two conferences to be represented out of the Power 5. Expanding this thing to eight is the only way to go. Regardless, the 2018 season was a ton of fun, and the playoffs should deliver some magic.