Hartman and the Fighting Irish will play host Saturday to Wake Forest — for which the quarterback set school and ACC records before transferring to Notre Dame in January — as part of a Week 12 lineup featuring familiar opponents, in-state rivals and a little bad blood.
Oregon State would like nothing more than to upset unbeaten Washington, which the Beavers already defeated in court this week. And Oregon State has the running back to do it, quietly starring in a conference known this season for its Heisman Trophy contenders at quarterback.
Our writers preview those games and more, while also focusing on other running backs you might not have heard of (but should have by now), notable quotes from the week and conference championship game scenarios in Week 12.
Week 12: Frenemies, rivals and somewhere in between
(3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
This one was circled immediately after Sam Hartman, perhaps the most decorated quarterback in Wake Forest history, made the decision in January to leave Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and play his sixth and final season in South Bend, Indiana. Hartman, second all time in the ACC in passing yards (12,967) after starting four years for the Demon Deacons, gets to face his former teammates while also needing to get back on track. After going through Notre Dame’s first six games without an interception, he has thrown seven picks in the past four games — two of them ending in losses, to Louisville and Clemson. A bye week after tossing two picks during the 31-23 defeat in Death Valley might be the best medicine for putting his worst passing day of the campaign (43.3% completion rate) in the rearview mirror. Hartman (2,272 passing yards and 18 TDs in 2023) began the season with four multiple-touchdown passing games. And with the ACC’s 10th-ranked pass defense (224.9 yards per game) coming to town, Saturday might be as good a time as any for Wake Forest’s all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns to reestablish the rhythm that made Hartman a captivating early-season storyline. — Blake Baumgartner
(3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Considering these teams played in the ACC championship game last season, there could have been way more on the line in this matchup. But now, it feels as if they are playing for pride, not prize, as the old saying goes. The Tigers are on a two-game winning streak after a disappointing start to their season (and a famous radio call from one Tyler from Spartanburg); North Carolina is 8-2 after fourth-quarter collapses against Virginia and Georgia Tech. While the Tigers are completely eliminated from ACC championship game contention, North Carolina still has some measure of hope, believe it or not. But that hope will begin in Miami earlier Saturday. If Louisville loses to the Hurricanes, the door opens a crack for North Carolina to potentially get into the ACC title game. The Tar Heels need to win out against Clemson and NC State, hope Virginia Tech loses one more game and get more help from teams it has beaten on its schedule. It is a convoluted tiebreak without divisions that could potentially get to tiebreaker No. 3 if North Carolina and Louisville end up with the same conference record. Because the Tar Heels lost two games to teams they should have beaten, they now find themselves in a situation where they need massive help. A defense that was a problem last season suddenly cannot hold onto fourth-quarter leads, and that could be a problem once again on Saturday against a Clemson team playing with far more confidence on offense after consecutive victories. — Andrea Adelson
(7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
On Tuesday, lawyers representing Oregon State University and the University of Washington squared off in court, making final arguments to settle who should be in control of the Pac-12: Oregon State and Washington State or the 10 schools that are leaving the conference. The Beavers’ legal team prevailed over the Huskies’ representatives, setting up the potential for another showdown in Washington Supreme Court. But before that, the Beavers and Huskies will play each other on the gridiron for what will likely be the last time for a long time. It will be the 108th meeting all time and few, if any, have had these stakes, with both teams ranked in the top 10. For UW, an undefeated record and potential College Football Playoff trip is on the line. For Oregon State, there still is a path to the Pac-12 title. Nothing would be sweeter for the Beavers than to beat Washington and Oregon in back-to-back games to ruin both opponents’ playoff chances and secure a place in the conference championship game. — Kyle Bonagura
(7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports1)
The last time Kansas and Kansas State both won at least seven games in the same season was 1995. Glen Mason was leading the Jayhawks to their first top-10 finish since 1968, Bill Snyder was engineering his first of nine seasons with double-digit wins for the Wildcats and Kansas State stomped Kansas 41-7 in Manhattan. Twenty-eight years later, both teams are 7-3, and both are ranked in this week’s CFP top 25. These are the highest stakes this game has had for quite a while, but if history is any indication, K-State has the edge once again: The Wildcats have won 14 in a row in the series and 26 of the past 30. This would be a good time for the Jayhawks to turn the tables, though. With an upset, Kansas would end Kansas State’s hopes of defending its Big 12 title. Kansas might need a quarterback for that. Jalon Daniels is still out, and super-backup Jason Bean suffered a head injury against Texas Tech. Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold expressed optimism that Bean will be able to play this weekend, and that’s probably vital for keeping up with an increasingly devastating K-State offense that has averaged 42 points per game since the Wildcats were upset by Oklahoma State. — Bill Connelly
(3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
What’s at stake for Georgia? What’s not at stake? The Bulldogs have won 27 consecutive games and can tie the SEC record of 28 set by Alabama (1978 to 1980 and 1991 to 1993) with a win over the Volunteers in Knoxville. But the conference win streak is way down the list for Georgia, which already has clinched a spot in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs are trying to become the first team since Minnesota from 1934 to 1936 to win three straight national championships. A loss to Tennessee, even should Georgia beat Alabama in the SEC championship game, would leave the Bulldogs on the outside looking in when it comes to making the College Football Playoff, especially with four other Power 5 teams unbeaten at this point. Georgia played its most complete game of the season last week in a 52-17 pummeling of No. 9 Ole Miss. Star tight end Brock Bowers returned to the lineup after having ankle surgery, and the Bulldogs have scored 30 or more points in their past five games. Defense has long been a staple for Georgia under Kirby Smart, but the Bulldogs are ranked sixth nationally in scoring offense (40.6 points per game) and fifth in total offense (504.8 YPG). Tennessee (7-3, 3-3 in the SEC) is coming off its worst beating of Josh Heupel’s tenure, a 36-7 loss at Missouri. The Vols have won 14 in a row at Neyland Stadium; their last home loss was to Georgia in 2021. Tennessee has given up a total of 99 points in its three losses this season. The Vols won two of the “Big Three” last season versus Alabama, Florida and Georgia, and they are trying to avoid going 0-for-3 this time around. They’ve lost six straight to Georgia and 11 of the past 13 in the series. — Chris Low
RBs you might have missed
Oklahoma State scores first on 20-yard rushing TD
Ollie Gordon II rushes it in from 20 yards out to open the scoring against Oklahoma.
Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State: Gordon might merit some Heisman consideration, even after the Cowboys slipped up badly against Central Florida in Orlando last week. Prior to that, the nation’s leading rusher (1,250 yards) had eclipsed the 100-yard mark in six straight games — highlighted by 282 yards at West Virginia and 271 yards against Cincinnati in the two weeks preceding the dramatic victory over Oklahoma in the Bedlam finale. A trip to Houston to face the Big 12’s 10th-best rushing defense (164.7 YPG) on Saturday provides a golden opportunity for Gordon to move past his 25-yard effort in the 45-3 loss to the Golden Knights. — Baumgartner
Omarion Hampton, North Carolina: It is easy for people to ignore what Hampton has done with Drake Maye as the UNC quarterback. But those who have watched the Tar Heels and the ACC know how dominant Hampton has been. North Carolina entered the season wanting to run the ball better than it did in 2022, and Hampton has delivered. He ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game (123.6) and is the only running back in the country who has rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. His 206 rushing attempts without a fumble is tops this season. — Adelson
Cody Schrader, Missouri: Mizzou began the season 5-0 thanks primarily to the Brady Cook-to-Luther Burden III connection. The Tigers are 8-2 and on the brink of their first New Year’s Six bowl bid of the CFP era thanks to a different approach. The defense has taken a leap forward since the 49-39 loss to LSU, and the boulder named Cody Schrader has become more and more of a punishing weapon. In his past three games — including at Georgia — the former Division II All-American has rushed 83 times for 476 yards; that gives him 1,124 yards for the season, seventh nationally and first in the SEC. He had 205 rushing yards and five catches for 116 yards in the Tigers’ 36-7 blowout of Tennessee, and if they reach the NY6 promised land, he’ll likely be a primary reason for it. — Connelly
Damien Martinez, Oregon State: At the end of last season and the beginning of this one, Martinez had nine straight 100-yard games. He is coming off a 146-yard, four-touchdown outing last week against Stanford. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season despite reaching the 20-carry mark in a game just once. Of the 17 FBS running backs with 1,000-plus rushing yards, none has fewer carries than Martinez, who is averaging 6.6 yards per carry. Martinez leads the Pac-12 in rushing this season but ranks fourth in yards per carry. — Bonagura
Quotes of the week
“It may be the one-year anniversary for some people, but it’s just like yesterday for a lot of us.” — Virginia athletic director Carla Williams, a year after the deaths of Cavaliers football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry, who were shot and killed on a bus after returning to campus from a field trip.
“Here’s the deal. You’re either moving forward or you’re stuck. We were stuck. … You know how you’re driving down the highway, it’s a four-lane road — and I drive fast, OK? I like 75 to 80, and somebody’s in the left lane, and they’re going 55 and they won’t move over. We were that car going 55. Something had to give. They had to get out of the way.” — Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork on why he fired coach Jimbo Fisher.
“It’s 45 minutes away. It’s not close. They don’t say, ‘Orlando, we’ve got a problem.'” — Houston coach Dana Holgorsen on his upcoming opponent UCF, which wore its Space Game uniforms last weekend due to the proximity to Cape Canaveral. “I thought we were Space City,” he added.
“That’s not my dance floor. I’m not an attorney. Always wanted to be. I watched a lot of shows — ‘Judge Judy,’ a lot. Always kind of felt like it would be cool to get up there and thunder away at a jury like Tom Cruise in ‘A Few Good Men’ or be a judge like Judge Judy. Alas, I did not go to law school. This will be the first time I’ve ever really been in this situation.” — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, on whether he’ll speak at a court hearing on Friday in support of a possible injunction against his Big Ten suspension.
“I tell them what I told them when they came: I’m here. I tell them my mother’s here, my sister’s here, my dog is here, my daughter’s here, three of my sons are here, my other daughter comes to darn near every home game. We’re here. I get mail here. I pay taxes here. I don’t hear that. Maybe our recruiting staff hears it, but I don’t hear it. I’m too honest with parents. I’m going to tell them the truth.” — Colorado coach Deion Sanders on speculation that he could be a candidate for other jobs like Texas A&M’s opening.
• Florida State has clinched a spot in the championship game.
• Louisville will secure a place in the title game with a win OR a North Carolina loss OR a Virginia Tech loss and Georgia Tech win (to clinch a tiebreaker vs. UNC).
• The Ohio State-Michigan winner in Week 13 will capture the Big Ten East crown.
• Iowa will clinch the Big Ten West with a victory against Illinois.
• Texas will clinch a spot in the championship game with a win and losses by at least two of Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
• Washington will clinch a spot in the championship game with a win OR an Arizona loss.
• Oregon will secure a spot in the title game with a win AND losses by Arizona and Oregon State.
• Georgia and Alabama have clinched spots in the championship game; the Crimson Tide will be the designated home team as the SEC West champion.
• SMU will clinch a spot in the championship game with a win AND losses by Tulane and UTSA.
• New Mexico State and Liberty have earned spots in the title game; the Flames will host as the regular-season champion.
• Toledo and Miami have captured spots in the championship game.
• Air Force will clinch a spot in the championship game with a win AND losses by Boise State and Fresno State.
• UNLV will secure a place in the title game with a win AND losses by Boise State, Fresno State and San Jose State.
• Troy has clinched the Sun Belt West.
• Coastal Carolina will claim the East with losses by Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.
Manager Jim Leyland selected to Hall of Fame
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jim Leyland, the longtime manager who guided the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series title, was selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Leyland was named on 15 of 16 ballots in the selection process during a meeting of the Hall’s contemporary baseball era committee, which examined the cases of managers, umpires and executives whose greatest contributions came after 1980.
Nominees needed to be named on at least 12 ballots for enshrinement. Falling just short was former manager Lou Piniella, who was named on 11 ballots. Executive Bill White was listed on 10 ballots. Also considered were managers Cito Gaston and Davey Johnson, umpires Ed Montague and Joe West, and executive Hank Peters.
Leyland will become the 23rd person to be inducted into the Hall as a manager and the first since 2014, when Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox were enshrined. Leyland, who got his start in the majors as a coach under LaRussa with the Chicago White Sox, was asked to sum up what he tried to impart to his players over the years.
“I tried to impress upon them what it was to be a professional and how tough this game is to play,” Leyland said. “And I told them almost every day how good there were.”
Leyland never advanced beyond Double-A as a minor league catcher during a playing career that ended in 1970. But he more than made up for that during a long managerial career that began in the minors in 1971. He landed his first big league job with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 and went on to win 1,769 games over a 22-year big league career that ended in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers. He ranks 18th on the all-time managerial win list.
Only Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy won more games among managers who never made the big leagues as a player. As he waited for the call from Hall of Fame chairperson Jane Forbes Clark on Sunday, Leyland initially thought the hour advanced late enough that the call — 60 years in the making — was not going to arrive. Then it did.
“I thought when I didn’t get [the call] by a quarter of seven, it wasn’t going to happen,” Leyland said. “So I went up just to rest a minute and get my thoughts together. When my son came up, the phone rang and it was the Hall of Fame. I couldn’t believe it. There was definitely a tear in my eye.”
Leyland managed numerous superstar players during his career, including all-time greats Barry Bonds and Miguel Cabrera. As much as he was respected by the superstar players, he was known as a skipper who treated everyone in his clubhouse as an equal.
“All the good managers realize it takes 24-25 guys,” Leyland said. “It takes one heartbeat to sustain. I try to communicate with everybody.”
Known for his lovably irascible manner and pregame news conferences conducted in undershirts amid a haze of cigarette smoke, Leyland reached his pinnacle with the 1997 Marlins, an expensively built team designed to win fast. With Leyland leading a team full of stars including Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou and Kevin Brown, the Marlins went on to beat Cleveland in a seven-game World Series.
After that Marlins club was dismantled, Leyland moved on to manage the Colorado Rockies for one season before spending his final eight managing the Tigers. Detroit won two pennants during his tenure (2006 and 2012) and earned four postseason appearances.
Leyland was named Manager of the Year three times, twice in the National League (1990 and 1992) and once in the American League (2006).
Leyland, 78, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 21 in Cooperstown, New York. He originally signed as a player with the Tigers organization in 1964, so when he is recognized among the game’s immortals next summer, it will be the crowning achievement of 60 years around the professional game.
“It’s the final stop, really, as far as your baseball career goes,” Leyland said. “To end up and land there at Cooperstown? It doesn’t get any better. I mean, that’s the ultimate.”
College Football Playoff first look: Previewing Michigan-Alabama and Washington-Texas
The final four-team College Football Playoff field is set, with the selection committee having to make the toughest decision it had ever faced.
We knew going in that history would be made and that at least one team and its fan base would be left with some serious gripes. Would an unbeaten Power 5 champion be left out for the first time? Would the SEC be shunned? Would the No. 1 team going into the conference championship games fall out?
In the end, Big Ten champion Michigan was awarded the No. 1 seed and will face No. 4 Alabama of the SEC. In the other semifinal, Pac-12 champ Washington, the No. 2 seed, will face No. 3 Texas of the Big 12.
Here’s our first look at the four-team field, including key players, X factors and what each team has to do to win it all.
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama
CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Prudential
When: Monday, Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ET
Where: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California)
How to watch: ESPN and ESPN App
Key player: RB Blake Corum
Corum tied Michigan’s career rushing touchdown record in the Big Ten championship game with his 55th TD. He has carried the load for the Wolverines the past few seasons and the offense has gone through him. He led all FBS running backs with 24 touchdowns and had his third 1,000-yard season. When Corum is productive, it opens up the rest of Michigan’s offense and creates an easier path for the passing game. Corum is a team leader as well, and his two touchdowns against Ohio State put Michigan over the top and propelled the Wolverines toward the playoff.
X-factor: CB Mike Sainristil
Sainristil doesn’t get a lot of the attention, but he has been a leader on Michigan’s defense. He came up with two forced fumbles in the Big Ten championship game against Iowa and was integral in stopping the Hawkeyes offense. He had 30 total tackles on the season and four interceptions along with six pass breakups. He started his career at receiver before making the switch to corner, and over the past two seasons has built himself into a potential NFL draft pick on defense.
How Michigan wins: The offense performs at its peak
The offense hasn’t been at its best the past few weeks, but has done enough to stay undefeated. In the postgame press conference after the Big Ten title game, Jim Harbaugh said the team will have to clean up some things up in pass protection and the run game in order to have success in the playoff. The defense has been outstanding all season, but against the teams that Michigan will face in the playoff, the Wolverines will have to put up more points. That means Corum putting up big numbers and quarterback J.J. McCarthy complementing the run game with the passing attack we saw early in the season. — Tom VanHaaren
Key player: QB Jalen Milroe
Since his benching against South Florida in Week 3, Jalen Milroe has been one of the most dynamic players in college football. He has accounted for 28 touchdowns and turned the ball over just five times in leading the Crimson Tide to 11 straight wins. His ability to scramble for big gains and buy time in the pocket make him extremely difficult to defend for any defense, but he also has a big arm and has repeatedly connected with his receivers on deep throws. Georgia coach Kirby Smart compared the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Milroe to Lamar Jackson last week because of his acceleration in the open field and arm strength to push the ball down the field. Alabama coach Nick Saban said the Crimson Tide wouldn’t be in this position had Milroe not responded to his benching the way he did and continued to improve and “be our point guard.” Milroe’s decision-making has gotten significantly better as the season has progressed, and he said a lot of that is because he’s played with more freedom and confidence since Saban told him unequivocally that it was his job.
X factor: OLB Dallas Turner
Turner has been Alabama’s biggest disruptor on defense. The junior is the Tide’s best pass-rusher and can change the complexion of a game with a big sack or a tackle for loss that kills an opposing offense’s drive. Turner leads Alabama with 14.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. Championship teams need a big-play defender who can cause the opposing offense to get out of its rhythm. The 6-4, 252-pound Turner is that player for the Crimson Tide.
How Alabama wins: By hanging around and being there at the end
Alabama has been one of the more resilient teams in the country. The Tide trailed five times in the second half in SEC games this season and rallied to win. In other words, they know how to win close games, and the more they’ve played, the more confident they’ve become in being able to finish games. Alabama’s offense isn’t necessarily built to get into high-scoring showdowns and having to come back from big deficits. But if the Tide are in the game in the fourth quarter, that’s their comfort zone. They don’t get rattled, and Milroe has delivered in pressure-packed situations. — Chris Low
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 3 Texas
CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl
When: Monday, Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. ET
Where: Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
How to watch: ESPN and ESPN App
Key player: WR Rome Odunze
Even as quarterback Michael Penix Jr. generated Heisman Trophy consideration, Odunze has always been the Huskies’ best player. Whenever the team has needed a big play, Odunze has gotten the call. It happened, most notably, in the final minutes against Oregon in the regular season, when he hauled in the game-winning touchdown. And then, again, in the Apple Cup when he took an end around to pick up a monumental first down on fourth-and-1 from the Huskies’ 29-yard line. Odunze finished the regular season No. 4 in the country in receiving yards (1,326), No. 6 in receiving touchdowns (13) and is sure to be one of the first receivers off the board in the upcoming NFL draft.
X factor: RB Dillon Johnson
As teams devoted more effort to stopping the Huskies’ prolific passing offense as the season went along, Johnson became a more valuable asset. He rushed for 615 of his 961 regular-season yards over the last five games with seven touchdowns in that span. The Mississippi State transfer ran 28 times for 152 yards and two scores to help take down the Ducks on Friday night and should be a key factor in this game.
How Washington wins: Penix finds his early-season form
At the halfway point of the season, Michael Penix Jr. was the clear Heisman front-runner. He had the numbers. He passed the eye test. There wasn’t anything, it seemed, that could slow him down. But as the season went along, something felt off. He was still good enough to lead the Huskies to a 12-0 mark and ranked No. 2 in passing yards (3,899), but his accuracy regressed and the big plays weren’t as plentiful. When he’s at his best, though, Washington can beat anyone, as evidenced by the Huskies’ 34-31 win over the Ducks on Friday, when Penix threw for 319 yards and a score. — Kyle Bonagura
Key player: DL T’Vondre Sweat
Sweat came back for a super senior year to try to help Texas complete its turnaround. It’s fair to say that decision has been a massive success, as Sweat became a force in the interior as the Big 12 defensive player of the year and helped the Longhorns win the conference championship. At 6-4 and 362 pounds, Sweat is literally a massive piece of the Texas defense. But as big as he is, he’s so quick and agile that he wreaks havoc even on passing plays, despite having just two sacks on the season, because he draws so much attention that it frees up other players, including 6-1, 308-pound Byron Murphy II, who plays next to Sweat and was the league’s defensive lineman of the year. In the conference championship, Sweat even added a touchdown reception and a Heisman pose. The man contains multitudes.
X factor: TE Ja’Tavion Sanders
With the addition of Adonai Mitchell as a receiving threat opposite Xavier Worthy, Sanders has seen a dip in his production, with a few nagging injuries also a factor. Last season, he caught 54 passes for 613 yards and 5 TDs; this year he settled for 31 catches, 502 yards and one score in the regular season. But at 6-4, 243, Sanders is a nightmare matchup for linebackers and a big target for quarterback Quinn Ewers. He can be a key outlet, particularly near the goal line, where Texas has struggled for most of the season, ranking 104th nationally in red zone offense. Sanders averaged 4.2 catches per game last year, down to 2.6 this year. Entering the Big 12 championship game, he’d caught five passes in a game only twice this year, and both times he went over 100 yards, including 114 yards against Alabama. But against Oklahoma State on Saturday, he had a season-high eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Sanders could be the cure for the Longhorns’ woes in the end zone if they keep him going, particularly with Worthy’s ankle injury suffered against OSU adding concern.
How Texas wins: The offensive line protects Quinn Ewers
The Longhorns have the heft along both lines to match up with pretty much anyone, but with Jonathon Brooks, who had 1,138 yards in 10 games, lost for the season, they’ll have to find a back to make the running game a factor. But it will take a strong performance from quarterback Quinn Ewers and the passing game to key the Texas attack. If the offensive line can protect Ewers and keep him upright, the Longhorns have the speed to make big plays on the outside and the offense has shown the potential to deliver when it’s needed most. — Dave Wilson
Michigan, Washington, Texas, Alabama reach CFP
The Wolverines and Huskies as undefeated conference champions were considered virtual shoo-ins to make the CFP. Michigan is in the playoff for the third straight year. Washington, on the other hand, has been in the CFP only once before, losing in the semifinals in the 2016 season.
The path to the playoff was a bit murkier for Texas and Alabama.
Texas is back in the running for the national championship after booking its first trip to the playoff. Led by quarterback Quinn Ewers, the Longhorns went 12-1 and won the Big 12 championship in their first appearance in the conference title game. Texas’ lone loss came at the hand of Oklahoma in the Red River rivalry game. Both schools will head to the SEC after this season, but the Longhorns already got an SEC boost this year. Texas notched perhaps the biggest win of the college football season by going on the road in September and beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama proved that one big win can sometimes make up for one early loss. The Crimson Tide are in the playoff a day after ending Georgia’s 29-game, 728-day winning streak with a 27-24 victory in the SEC championship game. Nick Saban’s squad faced challenges atypical for Alabama, losing at home to Texas in the second game of the season and otherwise scuffling through the early part of the schedule. Part of the issue was uncertainty at quarterback. Jalen Milroe started and finished the season as the team’s top QB, but both Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner were given chances to take control of the position in Tommy Rees’ first year as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Bama will now have a chance to win its fourth College Football Playoff national championship in the final year of the four-team format.
Alabama’s win Saturday ended Georgia’s pursuit of a third straight national championship. The Bulldogs had won 29 straight games, but Saturday’s ill-timed loss to Alabama in the SEC title game left Georgia on the outside looking in. As a result, the Bulldogs become the first No. 1 team in the penultimate CFP rankings to fall out of the top four after losing in Championship Week.
Florida State won its conference championship game after an undefeated regular season, but becomes the first unbeaten Power 5 champ to miss out on the CFP, a decision that rankled ACC commissioner Jim Phillips.
“It’s unfathomable that Florida State, an undefeated Power Five conference champion, was left out of the College Football Playoff,” Phillips said in a statement Sunday. “Their exclusion calls into question the selection process and whether the Committee’s own guidelines were followed, including the significant importance of being an undefeated Power Five conference champion. My heart breaks for the talented FSU student-athletes and coaches and their passionate and loyal fans. Florida State deserved better. College football deserved better.”
The committee seemed to focus on how competitive the Seminoles would be in the playoff without quarterback Jordan Travis, who suffered a season-ending leg injury in mid-November. FSU started backup Tate Rodemaker in its regular-season finale victory over Florida, but a concussion kept him out of the ACC title game. That forced coach Mike Norvell to go with freshman Brock Glenn on Saturday, a win over Louisville in which the Noles’ defense led the way.
Washington will play Texas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, while Michigan will face Alabama in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Prudential. Both semifinal games will be played on New Year’s Day and aired on ESPN.
The CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T will be played Monday, Jan. 8 on ESPN.
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