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OU edges out Georgia, Ohio State for final CFP spot

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners are headed to the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive season and third time in the last four years. They earned the fourth and final spot in the field over fellow suitors Georgia and Ohio State, the committee announced Sunday morning during the selection show.

They’ll take on the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29. No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame will square off in the other CFP Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl.

OU did enough in a 39-27 Big 12 Championship victory over archrival Texas to convince the committee it was the most worthy candidate on the last line. It avenged its only loss this season in a rematch, claiming a fourth straight conference title, while Georgia let a 14-point lead slip away in the SEC Championship against Alabama. Ohio State, at the end of the day, just wasn’t consistent enough this season to justify inclusion despite winning the Big Ten.

The Football Outsiders’ S&P+ supports the Sooners as a Top 4 team, behind only Alabama, Clemson and, interestingly enough, Georgia. Notre Dame and Ohio State are both ranked lower, per the advanced metric. Furthermore, hypothetical lines released by Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook list OU as a 3.5-point underdog against Georgia, but a 2.5-point favorite over Ohio State. OU would also be favored against Notre Dame.

“Based on we’ve beat everybody on our schedule,” said head coach Lincoln Riley, as to why his team could even win a national championship, not just be in the field. “You’ve got to win by one point in these games last time I checked. I feel like we can stop people and kind of like in the previous question a few minutes ago, I feel like we’re gaining traction defensively. I feel like we have our highest performances in the last couple of weeks in huge games against dynamic offenses, and I don’t think we’ve played our best yet this year and I think we’re going to get there.

“I absolutely feel like it. I know how close we were to it last year, to being right there in the last one, and I have every bit as much confidence in this team, this offense, this defense and special teams as I did sitting on this stage last year at this time. I know we can. I have zero doubt.”

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The Sooners and Crimson Tide have matched up only five times throughout their storied history, with the Sooners owning a 3-1-1 advantage. That includes the most recent meeting, a thrilling 45-31 OU win in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. But this one will obviously be a different animal, with much higher stakes.

“I feel very confident that this team can go forward and continue to win and I think our best ball is ahead of us,” Riley said. “Being able to do what this team has done is really remarkable. It really is. We’ve got some great players behind us I think a lot of people don’t want to play.”

Kickoff for the CFP Semifinal at the Orange Bowl is set for either 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.

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