Playoff Pairs: Alabama-Washington and Ohio State-Clemson
AP College Football Writer
In the end, true chaos never came to college football this season. Four teams that started near the top of the College Football Playoff rankings will play for the national championship.
Alabama will face Washington in one semifinal and Clemson meets Ohio State in the other. None of them were ranked any lower than sixth since the selection committee started ranking teams in early November.
Even after a wild finish to championship Saturday, selection Sunday went pretty much as expected.
The committee stayed with the same top four it picked going into championship weekend, leaving out No. 5 Penn State even though the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten title game and beat Ohio State earlier in the season.
The Buckeyes (11-1) are the first team to reach the playoff in its three-year history without winning their conference.
The unbeaten Crimson Tide (13-0) is in the playoff for the third straight season and is the top seed for the second time. They will play the fourth-ranked Huskies (12-1) in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 31. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. ET.
Alabama has played Washington four times previously, twice in bowls and not since 1986. Huskies fans were holding up signs at games late in the season, proclaiming “We want Bama.”
“Sometimes you got to be careful what you wish for,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said on ESPN. “I didn’t hold up that sign.”
Saban and Alabama will be trying to win their fifth national championship in eight seasons, and second straight.
Washington’s last national title came in 1991, when the Huskies were No. 1 in the final coaches’ poll.
Petersen, the former Boise State coach in his third season with Washington, has never faced Saban and said he does not know him well.
“I feel like I know him, I see him on TV so much,” Petersen said.
No. 3 Ohio State is making its second playoff appearance and No. 2 Clemson (12-1) is in for the second consecutive season. The Buckeyes and Tigers will meet at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, on Dec. 31. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET.
Ohio State won the first College Football Playoff after the 2014 season and Clemson lost to Alabama in last season’s championship game.
Ohio State and Clemson have played twice before, both in bowl games. The last time was after the 2013 season.
The one difference from last week’s top four and the final one was Clemson and Ohio State switched spots. So the Tigers will wear the home jerseys in University of Phoenix stadium instead of the Buckeyes.
Selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said the decision came down not to Penn State and Ohio State, but the Nittany Lions (11-2) and Pac-12 champion Washington.
The Huskies’ only loss was to Southern California and its nonconference schedule featured FCS Portland State, Rutgers and Idaho. Penn State played Pitt, Temple and Kent State in the conference and lost to the Panthers. The Nittany Lions also were beaten by 39 at Michigan in their last loss.
Penn State finished the season on a nine-game winning streak to make a strong closing statement.
“Had Washington had a stronger strength of schedule I do not think that conversation would have been as difficult,” said Hocutt, who is also the Texas tech athletic director.
The selection protocol does not require the committee to pick conference champions or the winner of head-to-head matchups.
“You can make arguments for and against so many teams,” Penn State coach James Franklin said on ESPN, adding his team was appreciative of the Rose Bowl bid it will receive.
The rest of the New Year’s Six bowls were also announced:
• Florida State (9-3) will play Michigan (10-2) in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.
• Southern California (9-3) will play Penn State (11-2) in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.
• Auburn (8-4) will play Oklahoma (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.
• Western Michigan (13-0) will play Wisconsin (10-3) in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.
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