One day after we learned conference champions across the sport of college football, the field for the 2019 College Football Playoff was revealed. To the surprise of no one, the top three teams were Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame. While there was some intrigue surrounding who would secure the fourth spot, the committee decided to go with the high-flying Oklahoma Sooners over the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Crimson Tide were the clear-cut No. 1 team in the nation all season. While the brilliance of Tua Tagovailoa was at the forefront all season, the SEC champions boast an embarrassment of riches on offense. They can run the ball with one of their talented running backs behind an imposing offensive line, or Tagovailoa can let it fly to one of his matchup nightmares at wide receiver. And as always, the Crimson Tide defense has a two-deep that most teams would dream of, one that has smothered opponents all year long.
While Alabama has been great, Clemson hasn’t been too far behind. Star running back Travis Etienne has been outstanding this year, while true freshman signal caller Trevor Lawrence has impressed ever since he took over the starting job. By S&P+, the champions of the ACC have the fiercest defense in college football, led by four potential first round picks along its defensive line: Austin Bryant, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, and Clelin Ferrell.
The Fighting Irish didn’t play on Saturday, but they managed to march through the regular season unscathed. There is always controversy when Notre Dame reaches these highs stemming from their Independent status, but their defense has been among the best in the sport this year, coming in fourth in Defensive S&P+. Plus Ian Book has rewarded Brian Kelly for the decision to turn the starting quarterback job over to him, while Dexter Williams has been a steady hand in the backfield.
While there were plenty of questions about who could come in No. 4, there is no question that the Sooners boast the nation’s top offense. Kyler Murray has been a joy to watch during his Heisman-caliber campaign for the Big 12 champions, while Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb very well could be the best 1-2 receiver punch in the nation. Oklahoma can get the job done on the ground, too, behind Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks, but major questions exist about whether their defense can get stops.
Georgia and Ohio State certainly had cases to be made for inclusion, as the former legitimately has a case for being one of the four-best teams in the sport while the latter’s highs have been as high as any team in the nation. However, Ohio State’s blowout loss to Purdue seemingly was the death knell for their Playoff hopes, while Georgia suffered a pair of losses, including a 20-point loss to LSU earlier in the year.
So now, the matchups are set. Alabama and Oklahoma will face off in the Orange Bowl, while Clemson and Notre Dame’s matchup is headed to the Cotton Bowl. Both games will take place on Dec. 29, with the winners squaring off on Jan. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.