By Brad Carroll
It's a new era in college football and we all finally get to enjoy what everyone has clamored for since seemingly the beginning of time, a postseason tournament to determine a national champion. It may just be four teams, making up two semifinal games and then a championship, but it's a giant step forward for college football and everyone who loves the sport.
The first ever College Football Playoff national semifinals feature No. 1 Alabama playing No. 4 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and No. 2 Oregon taking on No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl. The winners of those two New Year's Day bowl games will then play to determine a national champion about a week and a half from now.
Alabama, Oregon and Florida State were locks to make the final four tournament after working their way through the regular season and conference championship week. Ohio State, on the other hand, jumped into the four-slot during the final rankings put together by the college football playoff committee. The Buckeyes jumped TCU and Baylor to get into the tournament, making for some very irate fans of the Horned Frogs and Bears, but the Buckeyes and their fans were certainly ecstatic.
One team each from the SEC, Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten will play for the right to call themselves champions. We preview and our college football experts pick the Rose Bowl against the spread below and the Sugar Bowl against the spread here. Make sure to follow us on Twitter for our latest picks and much more.
[Sugar Bowl National Semfiinal, Alabama vs Ohio State, picks]
College Football Playoff National Semifinal
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif., 5 p.m., ESPN
No. 2 Oregon (12-1) vs. No. 3 Florida (13-0)
The Spread: Oregon -8; Florida State +8
The Breakdown: Even though Florida State made the final four tournament, it does have a gripe with its No. 3 ranking. The Seminoles are not only the defending national champions, but are also the only undefeated team left in the country. Seemingly that would be enough to give Florida State the top ranking, but the playoff committee thought its many close victories against suspect competition was enough to drop the Seminoles to the third spot. Florida State beat Oklahoma State by six, Clemson in overtime by six without Heisman trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston, Notre Dame by four, Louisville by 11, Miami by four, Boston College by three, Florida by five and Georgia Tech by two in the ACC championship game. Of those close victories, just three teams are currently ranked. The Seminoles keep on winning, however. Winston, last year's Heisman winner, has had a down season, throwing for 3,559 yards and 24 touchdowns with 17 interceptions. But the Seminoles do average 34.8 points per game on offense. Their defense is strong as well, allowing just 23 points per game. Oregon has one loss this season, to an Arizona team the Ducks got revenge on later in the year in the Pac-12 championship game, winning 51-13. The Ducks have reeled off eight straight wins after losing their undefeated season in early October. They've done so on the arm and legs of current Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota, who has thrown for 3,783 yards with 38 touchdowns and rushed for another 669 yards and 14 scores. Mariota and Winston make up an interesting matchup of Heisman winning quarterbacks that could go 1-2 in the NFL draft in a few months. But Oregon isn't just about Mariota, as running back Royce Freeman has 1,299 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. The Ducks have the third best scoring offense in the country, averaging 46.3 points per game. The defense is solid as well, allowing 22.5 points per game. Oregon has won by double-digits in each game during its eight-game win streak, so the Ducks are playing their best football at the perfect time. But nobody can count out Florida State, which hasn't lost in two seasons and has a championship pedigree. In what should be a fantastic first semifinal game, Florida State will pull off the upset and head to the national championship game for the second year in a row.
Brad's Score: Florida State 33, Oregon 30 (upset pick)
Craig's Score: Oregon 38, Florida State 31
Glenn's Score: Oregon 42, Florida State 28
Matt's Score: Florida State 21, Oregon 20 (upset pick)
Sugar Bowl National Semfiinal, Alabama vs Ohio State, picks
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