Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Playoff guesses: Georgia-Oklahoma in Rose; Clemson-Bama in Sugar

This is a guess, OK? But it is, I like to think, a semi-educated one. (Like Jethro Bodine, I graduated sixth grade.) Oklahoma and Georgia will meet on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif., in the 2-versus-3 semifinal, while Clemson and Alabama play, yet again, in the 1-versus-4 New Orleans semi.

That’s correct. Alabama gets in. I can’t see Ohio State, which was No. 8 this week, jumping No. 5 Bama on the strength of a narrow victory over Wisconsin, for which the College Football Playoff committee had no great esteem. If it had, why were the Badgers – the only remaining Power 5 unbeaten – ranked only No. 4? 

The committee prefers conference champions, which Ohio State is and Alabama is not, but the committee last year chose Ohio State, a non-champ, over Penn State, which not only won the Big Ten but beat the Buckeyes. The committee, see, can do as it pleases. It might decide to snub Bama just for the sake of hearing Nick Saban whine, but I’d be surprised if Ohio State, which lost by 31 points to unranked Iowa and by 15 at home to Oklahoma, makes it over the Crimson Tide, whose only loss came at Auburn. 

Georgia folks might wonder if the Bulldogs deserve better than a No. 3 seed. They’re the once-beaten champ of the mighty SEC, and they just trounced the team that trounced them. But No. 1 Clemson beat No. 7 Miami by 35 points in Charlotte, and No. 3 Oklahoma beat No. 11 TCU by 24 in Arlington, Texas. I don’t see No. 6 Georgia bounding over those two. I do see the Bulldogs passing No. 5 Alabama. 

And that matters. There’s no difference between Nos. 2 and 3. You wind up in the same place. There’s a big difference between 3 and 4. The final team in plays No. 1. Me, I’d rather play Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl than Clemson anywhere. Me, I think Clemson has been the best team in the country. 

That doesn’t mean the Tigers will win again. The No. 1 seed has yet to take the playoff, now in its fourth installment. Last week Oklahoma became the betting favorite to win it all, but can a team so unsound on defense ever be a lock? (Answer: no.) And if Saban and the Tide are granted a reprieve, wouldn’t they be mighty dangerous? (Answer: yes.)

That said, the Bulldogs just took a huge bite out of the team that beat Alabama and played Clemson close back in September. They can win this thing.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.