SportsPulse: After a championship Saturday that saw the great redemption story of Jalen Hurts and Kyler Murray leading the Sooners to a Big 12 championship it looks like we have the final four set. Trysta Krick breaks it down.
Well hello there, Jalen Hurts! We’re so glad you stuck around! And by we, I mean those of us who have convened, like we do each week, to select the Football Four.
Your fourth-quarter heroics in rallying Alabama to victory against Georgia made for spectacular drama, the stuff of a corny movie that’s unbelievable but makes everyone cry, anyway. Our committee did not cry. The collective reaction when you bailed out ‘Bama: Phew!
Otherwise, if Georgia had held on for victory, were we really going to keep Alabama in – and keep three Power Five conference champions out – of the bracket? Well, probab—but we don’t have to worry about it.
Instead, while there was still some wrangling over the No. 4 slot, it was a much easier decision. Argue all you want, but remember: We pick the bracket as though the season was over (and it finally is).
1. Alabama – Finally, someone pushed Alabama. Finally, Tua Tagovailoa struggled; he got banged up and eventually left the game with a right ankle injury, but for the first time this season he was, well, not good. Finally, Jalen Hurts got his chance … and made the most of it, rallying ‘Bama to win with two fourth-quarter touchdowns against Georgia. At 13-0, the Tide is cemented as the No. 1 seed.
2. Clemson – Nice of the ACC to provide a send-off party for the undefeated Tigers, who rolled up Pittsburgh 42-10 to win the league. While we’ve been watching ‘Bama win every regular-season game by at least 20 points, retired media relations guru Tim Bourret noted (because it’s what he does, better than anyone) Clemson won 11 of its 13 games by at least 20, too.
3. Notre Dame – The Irish finished up a perfect regular season last week. For the “ain’t played nobody” crowd, there’s this: Nine of Notre Dame’s 12 opponents are bowl-eligible; combined record: 75-55. Three were in the CFP Top 25 last week.
4. Oklahoma – Kyler Murray was Kyler Murray and Oklahoma’s defense was, well, at least a slightly better version of itself as the Sooners avenged their only loss. A 39-27 victory against Texas for the Big 12 championship was solid. Coming early in the day, it took most of the starch out of the idea that Ohio State could pass the Sooners in the rankings.
5. Ohio State – How to view this bunch? A 45-24 victory against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship was fine, certainly better than the scrabbling for wins we saw for so much of the year – with the notable exceptions of that blowout win over Michigan and that blowout loss to Purdue. Oh yeah, that loss. Seems like the Buckeyes are good (or bad) for one of those a year. The last two years, they’ve kept them out of the playoff.
6. Georgia – The drumbeat began before the game was over, and continued because, well, SEC. But a two-loss team that didn’t win its championship is not getting into the Football Four bracket (or that other one, either). Georgia outplayed Alabama for most of the game, but blew a 14-point lead. A bad decision to try a fake punt late in the fourth quarter proved pivotal. In the end, Georgia’s resume essentially is a 20-point loss to LSU and looking good (for three quarters) in a loss to Alabama.
7. Central Florida – Without McKenzie Milton, and it didn’t matter. Down 17 at one point, the Knights outscored Memphis 35-3 to earn the American Athletic Conference championship. The winning streak is 25. UCF is headed back to a New Year’s Six bowl and another chance to claim a national title.
8. Washington – The Huskies slogged past Utah in a forgettable Pac-12 championship game; the only touchdown came on a gift pick-six when the receiver couldn’t handle an easy catch. A disappointing year will end in the Rose Bowl, which remains a pretty nice destination.
* Yeah, we know: YOUR team should be ranked in the Top Four. Even if you lost by 29 against a mediocre team. Or maybe by 20 in a huge road showdown and also want credit for playing really well in a loss, even though you lost a two-TD lead in the second half. Not to make you feel worse, but imagine if this was the field for an eight-team bracket.