'Twas the night before Selection Day, and all through the country, not a creature was stirring, well, depending on the house.
On the eve of the College Football Playoff committee's final batch of playoff rankings, some will curl up all snug in their beds with visions of playoff spots dancing in their heads. Others, however, will be haunted by the ghosts of seasons past, present and future.
For all the hype and excitement that surround the weekly playoff rankings, it'll likely be more of a day of rest than a Sunday Funday for three of the teams vying for those four spots. With blowout wins in three of the four Power 5 championships on Saturday, most schools in the running for the playoff are stress-free.
If you're looking to get those doctor-recommended eight hours of sleep, tonight is the night when you want to be an Oklahoma Sooner. A team that watched legendary head coach Bob Stoops retire back in June and saw its star quarterback arrested and wrangled by cops in embarrassing fashion in March overcame a stunning loss to Iowa State in October to win its third straight Big 12 title with a commanding 41-17 win over No. 11 TCU.
The 12-1, third-ranked Sooners, who have defeated their opponents by an average of nearly 25 points per game this season, are all but locked into the College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, making this the second time in three seasons that Oklahoma will compete for a national championship.
Oklahoma had all the talent in the world to make a playoff run, but the loss of Stoops appeared to put a dent into the Sooners' plans. But week after week, Oklahoma continued to impress with Lincoln Riley and Baker Mayfield, who might have replaced Lamar Jackson as the sport's most exciting quarterback to watch, continuing to dazzle on the field.
Speaking of Mayfield, Christmas should come early for the most polarizing face in college football. Always entertaining and mostly enigmatic, Mayfield can rest easy tonight knowing that on Dec. 9, he should be holding college football's most coveted award: the Heisman Trophy.
You won't have to serve Georgia coach Kirby Smart a warm glass of milk for him to close his eyelids tonight. The stress dissipated in Athens after the sixth-ranked Bulldogs thrashed No. 2 Auburn 28-7 in the SEC championship. Four weeks after getting crushed by Auburn, the Dawgs got their revenge and could join Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
This might not be the last of the sleep-filled nights for Smart and his Dawgs. This is only Year 2 for Smart, and considering the turmoil in the SEC East, there's no reason for him to be looking over his shoulder anytime soon.
Staying in the SEC, you have to wonder how Auburn coach Gus Malzahn will sleep tonight. He has gone from hot seat to edge of the playoff to some sort of coaching purgatory with the opening at Arkansas looming. He's Arkansas' No. 1 choice to replace the fired Bret Bielema, but could Malzahn leave after getting to one win away from the CFP?
Joining Georgia and Oklahoma in a coma-like sleep are the Clemson Tigers. These guys are used to sleeping in on Selection Day, with them controlling their fate late the past three seasons. After a commanding 38-3 win over No. 7 Miami, Clemson has won three straight ACC titles and has in all likelihood clinched the No. 1 spot in the playoff rankings for the second time in three years. Dabo Swinney will likely be wired enough to dance all night, but once he decides to get some shut-eye, he'll have no problem catching Z's.
Two other coaches who will sleep like a rock are Texas A&M's (man, that's weird) Jimbo Fisher and Oregon's Willie Taggart.
Look, Fisher's exit from Tallahassee wasn't a great look, and he probably won't get many Christmas cards from people there, but the man is about to get P-A-I-D. With his 10-year, $75 million, fully guaranteed contract, Fisher will earn the richest deal in college football history in terms of total value. He'll be second to only Alabama's Nick Saban in average yearly salary. Fisher will also be at a place that is undoubtedly committed to resources, as A&M recently spent more than $500 million on facility upgrades for football. Anyone can fall asleep on a mattress made of that sort of money.
Taggart is one of the top names on Florida State's list of potential replacements for Fisher, and whether he stays at Oregon or goes to Tallahassee, he, too, will be getting paid. Oregon offered Taggart a new contract worth more than $20 million, before incentives, over the next five years. However, he has yet to sign that deal.
One coach not sleeping well tonight is Scott Frost. He was named Nebraska's new coach before Trey Neal's double-overtime interception could clinch No. 14 UCF's 62-55 American Conference championship win over No. 20 Memphis.
This was not an easy decision for Frost, and it's no secret that he had strong emotional ties to both UCF and Nebraska and that this decision has weighed on him. Frost might be going home, but he is also leaving a pretty good one behind.
Expect the most tossing and turning in Tuscaloosa and Columbus tonight.
With No. 8 Ohio State's ugly 27-21 win over No. 4 Wisconsin, the Badgers are out of the playoff running, but the Buckeyes are firmly on the bubble, along with No. 5 Alabama. This is where things get complicated and the sweat bullets start to accumulate.
Alabama needed a close Ohio State win, and it got it. But was it close or sloppy enough of an Ohio State performance for Alabama's end-of-season eye test to score higher than the Buckeyes'? Fate has been totally taken out of these teams' hands and given to the committee. There's little those teams can say and absolutely nothing they can do to enhances their cases between now and the College Football Playoff Selection Show (Sunday, noon ET on ESPN and ESPN App).
Coaches and players will be second-guessing plays that should and shouldn't have been in losses that put them in this nerve-racking situation.
Will the committee excuse Ohio State's embarrassing 55-24 loss to five-loss Iowa because of a Big Ten championship win over unbeaten Wisconsin?
Will Alabama's defeat at the hands of a now three-loss Auburn team outweigh the fact that the Crimson Tide have one fewer loss than Ohio State?
Will J.T. Barrett's knee surgery influence committee members?
Will Alabama's depleted defense factor into the committee's decision?
Is Alabama going to be cringing through the night thinking about the fact that even though it didn't lose until the very end of the regular season, Florida State's disastrous season and the Tide's 46th-ranked strength of schedule could be the reasons Alabama watches the CFP on TV for the first time?
Committee members might not even sleep tonight, considering that they will meet around 8 a.m. ET Sunday but started discussing everything immediately after Saturday night's games.
We've worked all season to get to this moment, and it's only fitting that early national championship favorites Alabama and Ohio State are sweating out the final spot to get into college football's exclusive, four-team party.