There were no surprises when the four teams in the College Football Playoffs were announced on Sunday. SEC champion Georgia and back-to-back Big Ten champion Michigan were locks to make the field. The biggest question surrounded the Nos. 3 and 4 spots.
Texas Christian’s undefeated season ended with an overtime loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game. However, the Horned Frogs held onto the No. 3 spot and will face Michigan in one national semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ohio State would have been left out of the playoffs if Southern California had won the Pac-12 title game. Utah took care of that so it will be the Buckeyes drawing defending national champion Georgia in the other semifinal in the Peach Bowl. Both games will be played on Dec. 31.
— ESPN (@espn) December 4, 2022
Alabama finished fifth and Tennessee was sixth as the Crimson Tide will miss the College Football Playoffs for just the second time since the system was put in place in 2014.
When looking at the college football playoff odds, Georgia (-135) has the best odds to win the national championship as the Bulldogs seek to become the first back-to-back champions during the College Football Playoff era. Big Ten rivals Michigan (+275) and Ohio State (+325) are next. TCU is well back at +1600.
Utah, Kansas State Make Things Interesting
If Texas Christian and Southern California had won the Big 12 and Pac-12 championship games, the College Football Playoff selection show would have been anticlimactic.
However, Utah, a 2½-point underdog per the college football betting odds, completely overwhelmed favored USC in the fourth quarter en route to a 47-24 victory that knocked the Trojans out of contention for one of the four CFP spots.
TCU scored 11 points in the final 7:34 of the fourth quarter to force overtime. Much of the damage was done by TCU quarterback Max Duggan’s scrambling ability.
Duggan rumbled for 96 yards on the game-tying drive.
Duggan had another run in overtime to give TCU the ball at the 1. With their season on the line, the ball was given to Kendre Miller twice and he was stopped each time allowing Kansas State to win the Big 12 title with a 31-yard field goal by Ty Zentner to give the Wildcats the 31-28 win.
Favorites Take Care of Business
In a chaotic college football season, it has been left up to 2021 playoff teams Georgia and Michigan to bring a sense of normalcy to the sport.
It wasn’t easy as both the Bulldogs and Wolverines had to work to win their conference title games.
Georgia allowed an SEC championship game 549 yards but thanks to four touchdown passes from Stetson Bennett, the Bulldogs topped Louisiana State 50-30 to win their first SEC championship since 2017.
LSU had 338 yards in the second half and just one other team this season (Florida) had at least that many in a game against one of the top defenses in the country.
Those who bet online had to be getting a little anxious when LSU, listed by the Las Vegas odds as the 17½-point underdog, got the ball back with 4:36 left to play trailing by 20 points. There would be no back-door cover as Robert Beal forced a fumble while sacking LSU quarterback Garrett Nussmeier with 3:21 remaining.
Speaking of anxious bettors, Michigan entered the Big Ten title game against Purdue favored anywhere from 14.5-15.5 points but the Wolverines were only up by 14 points.
Aided by an unsuccessful onsides kick by Purdue, Michigan only needed to drive 44 yards to wrap things up with Kalel Mullings’ TD run with 1:22 left to play.
The 43-22 win gave Michigan its second straight Big Ten title.
Understudy Steals the Show
The lone Power-5 conference title game that had no impact on the College Football Playoff field came in the ACC.
The game began as a showdown between quarterbacks DJ Uiagalelei of Clemson and Drake Maye of North Carolina.
However, Clemson freshman Cade Klubnik replaced an ineffective Uiagalelei and was 20-of-24 for 279 yards and one touchdown pass. He also ran for a score in Clemson’s 39-10 win.
Nate Wiggins returned an interception 98 yards for a score to lead a defense that forced three turnovers.
Tulane Is Cotton-Bound
Not much was expected from a Tulane team coming off a 2-10 season. However, a stingy defense and an offense led by veteran quarterback Michael Pratt led the Green Wave to the American Athletic Conference title.
The coronation was a rather impressive one as Tulane ripped through the UCF defense for 648 yards on 64 plays while the Knights ran 96 plays.
The 8½ -game improvement is tied for the biggest one-year jump with the 1999 Hawaii team.
Tulane’s reward is to take the Group of Five slot in the New Year’s Day as the Green Wave will play in the Cotton Bowl.
Wrapping Things Up
There were 10 conference title games and here’s a look at what transpired in Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference and the Sun Belt.
The biggest surprise among the Group of Five games might be that the MAC game was the lowest-scoring game in the weekend.
Toledo held Ohio under 300 yards and one touchdown in a 17-7 victory. Dallas Gant had 10 tackles and Quinyon Mitchell had three pass breakups.
Frank Harris threw for four touchdowns and ran for another to lift UTSA to a 48-27 win over North Texas in the Conference USA title game. Three of the TD passes went to Zakhari Franklin as he finished with 144 yards on 10 catches.
Fresno State went from losing its first four games to FBS competition to being crowned Mountain West champions with a 28-16 win over Boise State. After allowing 443 yards in a 40-20 loss to Boise back in October, the Bulldogs limited the Broncos to 321 yards to win as three-point underdogs according to the sportsbook.
Coastal Carolina got quarterback Grayson McCall back for the Sun Belt championship showdown. Despite 319 yards and three touchdowns from McCall, the Chanticleers were no match for Troy as the Trojans jumped out to a 31-0 lead en route to the 45-26 victory.