College Football Playoff Era 2016-2017
2016 Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 2OT
College Football Playoff: (1) Alabama 24, (4) Washington 7 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl College Football Playoff: (2) Clemson 31, (3) Ohio State 0 Fiesta Bowl CFP National Championship: Clemson 35, Alabama 31
The College Football Playoff race in 2016 was relatively cut-and-dry simple.
Alabama didn’t lose. It blew through its schedule with easy win after easy win on the way to a 13-0 regular season, finishing off with a 54-16 blasting of Florida in the SEC Championship. The Tide were the CFP No. 1 seed all the way.
Washington suffered a loss to USC, but it did everything else right, including a dominant 44-6 win over Christian McCaffrey’s Stanford team and a 41-10 blowout over Colorado to win the Pac-12 championship. Easily the CFP’s No. 4 team, it got to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to face Bama, losing 24-7.
Clemson survived Lamar Jackson and Louisville, but it lost to Nathan Peterman, James Conner and Pitt in a wild 43-42 battle. It was fine – the Tigers won their next three regular season games, including a 42-35 fight with Virginia Tech for the ACC championship and the CFP No. 2 spot.
The other seed in the College Football Playoff came down to a double-overtime thriller.
Ohio State lost to a Penn State team that also lost to Pitt and got walloped by Michigan 49-10. If the Buckeyes could beat the Wolverines, the Nittany Lions would go off to play for the Big Ten championship.
No. 2 in the CFP rankings in late November, Michigan came into the showdown with OSU No. 3 despite a 14-13 loss at Iowa. When the two squared off in Columbus, Ohio State forced overtime with a 23-yard field goal as time ran out in regulation. The two traded touchdowns in the first overtime, and Ohio State bettered Michigan’s field goal with a 15-yard Curtis Samuel touchdown run for the 30-27 win. That sent Penn State to the Big Ten title game, beating Wisconsin to finish 11-2 and off to the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State didn’t win its division outright or its conference, but it still got the No. 3 spot in the CFP. Had Michigan pulled off the victory, it would’ve faced Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship with the winner going to the College Football Playoff – there weren’t any other one-loss options.
Clemson annihilated Ohio State 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl, and then went on to get by Alabama 35-31 in an epic national championship game.
2017 Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 21 Big Ten Championship
College Football Playoff: (4) Alabama 24, (1) Clemson 6 Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff: (3) Georgia 54, (2) Oklahoma 48 OT Rose Bowl CFP National Championship: (4) Alabama 26, (3) Georgia 23 OT
2017 is when the College Football Playoff got the theoretical debates rolling.
The first three years of the CFP were relatively easy. There were a few calls – especially in the inaugural season in 2013 – but overall it was a simple philosophy. Win your Power Five conference, do it with one loss or go unbeaten, and you’re likely to be in.
What was more important, a great team with one loss that didn’t even win its own division, or a two-loss Power Five champion?
The top three seeds were no-brainers.
Clemson suffered a loss to Syracuse in the middle of the season to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. Even though it was the worst loss by anyone who has made the CFP so far in terms of final records – the Orange went 4-8 – the Tigers ended up destroying everyone the rest of the way, including a 38-3 win over Miami in the ACC Championship to get the No. 1 seed.
Oklahoma beat Ohio State in Columbus in the second week of the season, but it lost to Iowa State a few weeks later. Everything kicked back in, and Heisman-winner Baker Mayfield and company had few problems winning the Big 12 title with a 41-17 win over TCU to finish 12-1. The Sooners got the No. 2 seed to face Georgia.
The Bulldogs got obliterated by Auburn 40-17, but got their revenge in the SEC Championship with a 28-7 win to get the No. 3 seed. Had the Tigers won, they’d have likely been in, and Georgia would’ve been out.
Ohio State suffered that loss to Oklahoma, but the bigger problem was a strange 55-24 annihilation loss to Iowa. Everything kicked back in and the Buckeyes were fine from there, but they had two losses going into the Big Ten Championship against an unbeaten Wisconsin.
The Badgers had problems early in the title game, but they steadily came back, and then it was all right there for the taking.
Down 27-21, Wisconsin got into Buckeye territory, but a holding call led to a few missed passes and an interception to seal the OSU win. Had the Badgers been able to rally back and score a touchdown, they would’ve been the 13-0 Big Ten champs and either the second or third seed in the CFP.
And Alabama would’ve been out.
Theo 2017 Crimson Tide were great, but the schedule wasn’t the killer is normally is in the SEC – it was tough, but there weren’t any amazing wins – and then came a clunker loss at Auburn. The Crimson Tide lost to the Tigers 26-14, but were still given the fourth spot in the CFP despite not even being able to take the SEC West.
The Tide took advantage of the break, stuffing Clemson 24-6 in the Orange Bowl, and winning an epic national championship against Georgia in overtime. None of that happens without the late Ohio State defensive stop.