No. 1 Alabama beat No. 16 Missouri by 29 points in the SEC championship game.
No. 2 Oregon trounced No. 7 Arizona by 38 points in the Pac-12 championship game.
No. 3 TCU rolled by overmatched Iowa State by 52 points.
No. 4 Florida State beat No. 11 Georgia Tech 37-35 in the ACC championship game to finish unbeaten for the second regular season in a row.
No. 5 Ohio State trounced No. 13 Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game, and No. 6 Baylor defeated No. 9 Kansas State 38-27 to earn a share of the Big 12 championship with TCU.
Every team that was expected to win this weekend did exactly that.
The only loser was the 12-person selection committee, which will reveal the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday on ESPN.
In the past, a lot of college football teams cheered for chaos late in the season, many hoping that the BCS computers would overheat and finally give us a playoff.
Now that the playoff is here, there figures to be as much (or even more) debate and controversy as we ever experienced during the BCS era. It wasn't supposed to be this hard in the first year of the playoff. By expanding the championship field from two to four teams, there was supposed to be less room for controversy.
But now the committee is tasked with settling a Texas-sized debate. Who can't hear former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning chuckling from New Orleans? Manning was supposed to be the 13th committee member, but he had to take a leave of absence because of health reasons. Boy, doesn't he look smart now?
At least three of the four teams seem to be all but set in stone. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State seem to be assured of making the playoff. The Crimson Tide and Ducks will be the top two seeds, and the Seminoles will be either No. 3 or No. 4 as the only remaining FBS team with an unblemished record.
The unenviable task for the committee is going to be deciding which is the fourth (and final) team to be included in the playoff. TCU went into the weekend ranked No. 3, but it was the only contender that didn't play a ranked team. Sure, the Horned Frogs were quite impressive in blowing out Iowa State 55-3 on Saturday, but who hasn't beaten the Cyclones this season? Iowa State went 0-9 in Big 12 play.
And don't forget that the Horned Frogs didn't even win an outright conference championship like Alabama, Oregon, FSU and Ohio State did. TCU will share the Big 12 title with Baylor, even though the Bears beat the Horned Frogs 61-58 on Oct. 11. So much for the Big 12's motto of "One True Champion."
Instead of deciding its champion with a tiebreaker -- like with say, oh, head-to-head matchups -- the Big 12 passed the buck to the selection committee. With only 10 teams, the Big 12 isn't permitted to stage a conference championship game under NCAA rules, although it can apply for a waiver to do so. Who doesn't think that won't be happening soon?
The selection committee has favored the Horned Frogs over the Bears in each of the past six weeks, presumably because TCU played a more difficult nonconference schedule than the Bears. Who knew in September that a victory over Minnesota would carry so much weight?
But after beating Kansas State, the Bears now have three victories over top-20 opponents (they also beat No. 20 Oklahoma), compared to TCU's two. And Baylor's head-to-head matchup over the Horned Frogs has to matter more now. So what if TCU controlled much of their game in Waco, Texas? Is the committee really going to penalize the Bears for staging one of the greatest comebacks in college football history, in which they came back from 21 points down in the fourth quarter to win?
"What country do we live in? America?" Baylor coach Art Briles said. "If you and I race and you beat me, you're faster than me. We play a football game on the field, we win, we're the better team. We are and that's the way it is."
There is an escape plan from this predicament for the selection committee -- it can simply choose Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the most unsightly loss among the contenders, falling to Virginia Tech 35-21 at home on Sept. 6. The Hokies went 6-6 and lost at Wake Forest 6-3 in two overtimes on Nov. 22.
But Ohio State didn't lose again after falling to Virginia Tech and won its last 11 games, including an impressive 59-0 blowout of the Badgers in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday night. The Buckeyes routed the Badgers with sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones making his first career start, after J.T. Barrett was lost to a season-ending ankle injury last week.
"Fifty-nine to nothing against one of the top teams in America," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "This team is playing at an extremely high level right now. This is one of the best teams in the country."
On paper, at least, Ohio State's overall body of work seems to be better than Baylor's or TCU's. The Buckeyes beat seven teams that currently have winning records (6-5 Navy still has to play Army next week); TCU defeated four such teams and Baylor beat three.
You want to talk about schedule strength? The Buckeyes didn't play an FCS foe (Baylor played Northwestern State and TCU played Samford). Plus, Ohio State had to play an extra game against Wisconsin on Saturday night. The 12 FBS teams the Buckeyes defeated averaged 6.67 victories. The 10 FBS teams that Baylor and TCU beat averaged 5.5 wins and 5.4, respectively.
At the end of the day, the committee might have to decide if winning the Big Ten or Big 12 means more. It has to decide if it's grading teams over the course of a season or how they're playing right now. And, perhaps more importantly, it has to decide if a team like Ohio State should be rewarded for actually winning a conference championship game and an outright title after playing a 13th game.
Over the next several hours, the selection committee will do much more than decide which four teams will appear in the first college football playoff. It will also be setting a precedent for how teams will be picked in the future.
Godspeed to the committee members as they try to settle the debate, and best of luck.
Lord knows they'll need it.
Four teams in
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide might have wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the playoff by blasting No. 16 Missouri 42-13 in the SEC championship game. Alabama's offense is firing on all cylinders, piling up 97 points and 1,043 yards of offense in its last two victories over Auburn and Missouri.
2. Oregon: The Ducks are going to be one of the top two seeds when the four teams are announced on Sunday, and it might be hard to argue they shouldn't be No. 1. Oregon steamrolled No. 7 Arizona and had a 403-yard advantage in total offense, its largest differential over a Pac-12 opponent in the past 10 seasons.
3. Florida State: The Seminoles weren't dominant once again, but they held off pesky Georgia Tech for a 37-35 victory in the ACC championship game. It was FSU's 29th victory in a row and it finished 13-0 for the second consecutive season. The only remaining debate is whether the Seminoles will be No. 3 or No. 4 on the committee's ballot.
4. Ohio State: It's going to be one helluva debate about whether or not the Buckeyes have done enough to earn the the final spot in the playoff. Ohio State has the worst loss among the contenders -- falling 35-21 to Virginia Tech at home on Sept. 6 -- but it recovered to win its last 11 games and won a Big Ten championship.
Next four in contention
1. Baylor: The Bears did about as much as they could do to impress the committee, beating No. 9 Kansas State 38-27 at home on Saturday night. Baylor earned a share of its second straight Big 12 title with TCU, which it beat 61-58 during the regular season.
2. TCU: I'm not saying I necessarily agree with TCU being picked over Baylor, but I'm having a hard time seeing the committee taking the Bears after the Horned Frogs walloped Iowa State on Saturday. The Horned Frogs claimed a share of the Big 12 title with their 52-point win over the Cyclones, who went winless in conference play.
3. Michigan State: The No. 8 Spartans knew their playoff hopes were over, but they're in great position to earn a trip to the Capital One Orange Bowl if they stay ahead of No. 10 Mississippi State on the committee's final ballot.
4. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs needed complete chaos to make the playoffs and didn't get it on Saturday. Even if they'd defeated Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and finished 11-1, I'm not sure the Bulldogs would have held onto the No. 4 spot.
Heisman Trophy candidates
1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: Mariota might have wrapped up the Heisman Trophy with another outstanding performance in the Ducks' rout of Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game. He completed 25 of 38 passes for 313 yards with two touchdowns and ran for three more scores. Mariota has accounted for 53 touchdowns (38 passing, 14 rushing and one receiving) this season, a Pac-12 single-season record.
2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: Gordon wasn't much of a factor in Wisconsin's embarrassing 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, running for 76 yards on 26 carries. It was only the second time this season that Gordon was held to fewer than 100 yards; he ran for 38 yards on 17 carries in a 37-3 victory over FCS foe Western Illinois on Sept. 6. After Saturday night's game, it seems highly improbable that Gordon can garner enough votes to beat out Mariota.
3. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: Cooper didn't score in Alabama's big win over Missouri, but he did catch 12 passes for 83 yards, breaking the SEC championship game record for receptions. Florida's Reidel Anthony held the previous record of 11 catches against Alabama in 1996. Cooper also set an SEC single-season record with 115 catches, breaking the previous mark of 112 set by Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews in 2013.
4. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU: Boykin finished up his regular season by throwing for a career-high 460 yards on 30-for-41 passing with four touchdowns and one interception in the rout of the Cyclones. He also had his first career touchdown reception. Boykin has three 400-yard passing games this season, the most in TCU history.
By the numbers
1. 2: Penalties assessed to SMU while it was trying to line up in the victory formation. The Mustangs avoided a winless season and snapped a 13-game losing streak by scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half of a 27-20 victory over Connecticut.
2. 2: Leagues in which Marshall has won conference championship games (MAC and Conference USA), the first FBS school to accomplish the feat. The Thundering Herd came from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat Louisiana Tech 26-23 in Saturday's Conference USA title game.
3. 30: Touchdown passes thrown by Boykin this season, breaking the TCU single-season record of 27 set by Andy Dalton in 2010.
4. 59: Ohio State's 59-0 win over Wisconsin was the second-largest margin of victory in a shutout win over a team ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll. Top-ranked Army beat No. 6 Penn 61-0 in 1945.
1. "What country do we live in? America? If you and I race and you beat me, you're faster than me. We play a football game on the field, we win, we're the better team. We are and that's the way it is." -- Baylor coach Art Briles, when asked how much the Bears' win over TCU should count to the selection committee.
2. "Can we get somebody out there to do a redo of 'Cool Hand Luke?' I told Blake I wanted him to play this game like Cool Hand Luke. He looks at me and says, 'Who the hell is that?' We've got to get that on Netflix or something." -- Alabama head coach Nick Saban when describing Blake Sims' performance in the Tide's win over Missouri.
3. "That locker room, it was like winning the damn national championship," -- SMU interim coach Tom Mason, who guided the Mustangs to their first win this season in his final game at the school.
4. "Seven straight wins to win a conference, and knowing we had to win them all. It's hard to win a championship in college football." -- Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville, after the Bearcats beat Houston 38-31 to earn a share of the American Athletic Conference title.
Tweets of the day
— LeBron James (@KingJames) December 7, 2014
— Laken Litman (@LakenLitman) December 6, 2014
SMU WON A GAME
SUMMON THE PONY BOYS pic.twitter.com/WB94Eeh81c
— SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) December 6, 2014
— Jeff Long (@jefflongUA) December 7, 2014