You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Road to Atlanta: Peach Bowl eager to learn its matchup

About 125 people affiliated with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl — volunteers, board members, staffers — will gather Sunday for a TV-viewing party to find out who’ll play in their game this season.

They’ll get no advance notice of the matchup before convening in a reserved area at Dave & Buster’s restaurant in Marietta to watch ESPN’s noon telecast of the College Football Playoff selection committee’s final rankings, which will determine the pairings for the national semifinals in the Peach and Fiesta bowls.

“We’ll find out at the same time as everyone else,” Peach Bowl President and CEO Gary Stokan said. “It should be a fun time.”

The top four teams in the committee’s final rankings will comprise the playoff field. In the current rankings, Alabama is No. 1, Ohio State No. 2, Clemson No. 3 and Washington No. 4.

If that pecking order holds up, Alabama would meet Washington in the Peach Bowl and Ohio State would face Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

But an upset or two in this weekend’s conference championship games could upend much of that.

And even without an upset, the playoff committee has the prerogative to change the top four in its final rankings.

Stokan said that in his view the next-to-last rankings “let us know Ohio State is in the playoff no matter what and obviously Alabama is in.” But Clemson and Washington have more tenuous holds on spots in the top four heading into their ACC and Pac-12 championship games against Virginia Tech and Colorado, respectively.

“If Clemson and Washington win, I think they’ll be in the playoff,” said Stokan, who has followed the playoff race closely as it heads toward his bowl. “If one of them loses, we could have two Big Ten teams in the final four — Ohio State and either Michigan or the Big Ten Championship game winner.

“If both Clemson and Washington lose, we could have three Big Ten teams in the final four.”

Under that chaotic scenario, he theorized, Michigan and the Big Ten champion could join Ohio State and Alabama in the playoff.

Although Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan are the highest ranked Big Ten teams, neither will be in the league title game Saturday. That game matches No. 6 Wisconsin of the West Division vs. No. 7 Penn State of the East Division. Penn State and Ohio State topped the East with 8-1 league records — one game ahead of Michigan’s 7-2 — and the Nittany Lions won the tiebreaker because of their victory over the Buckeyes.

“We look forward to having an additional opportunity to watch Penn State play this weekend,” selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said.

The committee also looks forward to another look at Washington, which Hocutt stressed is very narrowly ahead of Michigan in the current rankings.

“Don’t think I can emphasize enough the small margin of separation that the committee sees between those two teams,” he said. “It’s razor thin.”

Still, if Washington and Clemson win this week, the Selection Sunday show could be anticlimactic.

If they don’t, it will be dramatic.


No. 1 Alabama (12-0) vs. No. 15 Florida (8-3) in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, 4 p.m. Saturday on CBS: Even if 24-point underdog Florida wins, Alabama seems secure in the top four and the playoff.

No. 3 Clemson (11-1) vs. No. 23 Virginia Tech (9-3) in the ACC Championship game in Orlando, 8 p.m. Saturday on ABC: If 10-point underdog Virginia Tech wins, Clemson would be at risk of falling out of the top four.

No. 4 Washington (11-1) vs. No. 8 Colorado (10-2) in the Pac-12 Championship game in Santa Clara, Calif, 9 p.m. Friday on Fox: The selection committee continues to express concern about the Huskies’ strength of schedule, signaling that a second loss would drop them out of the top four. Even with a win, Colorado would have to jump three other teams as well to make the playoff.

No. 6 Wisconsin (10-2) vs. No. 7 Penn State (10-2) in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis, 8 p.m. Saturday on Fox: The winner, especially if it’s Penn State, could pose quite a dilemma for the committee.

No. 9 Oklahoma (9-2) at home vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-2) in a regular-season finale, 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox: The Big 12 appears shut out of the playoff.


Q: How big of a headache is it for the selection committee that neither Ohio State nor Michigan made the Big Ten title game?

A: “The selection committee stays focused on our charge, and that is to rank the best teams in college football,” Hocutt, the committee chairman, said. “When there’s very little to no separation between two teams, then (we) look at four metrics: conference champions, strength of schedule, head-to-head matchups and outcomes against common opponents. But those metrics are in no particular order.”

Q: What weight does the committee give to Penn State beating Ohio State?

A: “We’re obviously as a selection committee aware of that win,” Hocutt said. “But it is not the distinguishing metric in the evaluation of these two teams.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Deeper dive into Atlanta United’s MLS schedule
Deeper dive into Atlanta United’s MLS schedule

Taking a deeper dive into Atlanta United’s schedule, which came out last Thursday . Toughest stretch. I described the April road trip as brutal. I may have been too kind. The road trip is necessary because April is when Georgia Tech will hold spring football practices at Bobby Dodd Stadium, which is Atlanta United&rsquo...
Falcons release ‘official’ depth chart for NFC championship game
Falcons release ‘official’ depth chart for NFC championship game

January 14, 2017, Atlanta: Leroy “Holy Moses” Silvester is looking for the Falcons to lead the way to “The Promised Land” against the Seahawks in a NFL football NFC divisional playoff game on Saturday, Jan.
Neal, Jones named to PFWA All-Rookie Team
Neal, Jones named to PFWA All-Rookie Team

Falcons safety Keanu Neal and middle linebacker Deion Jones were named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team on Tuesday. Neal, who was taken with the 17th overall pick, finished second on the team with 105 tackles. He started 14 games and added a physical presence to the defense. Jones starter 13 of 15 games and led the team...
LeBron James sneakers available at auction for more than $4k
LeBron James sneakers available at auction for more than $4k

LeBron James fans might be able to get their hands on a pair of his sneakers, but it's going to cost a lot more than the standard Foot Locker price.
LEADOFF: Falcons say PSL sales surpass 40,000
LEADOFF: Falcons say PSL sales surpass 40,000

The Falcons’ sales of personal seat licenses for their new stadium have rallied along with the team’s on-field performance, rising from less than 33,000 at the start of this season to more than 41,000 now. The latest total: 41,102 seat licenses sold as of late last week, according to Michael Drake, the Falcons’ senior vice president...
More Stories