Alabama was a no-brainer.
Clemson didn’t require much thought.
But when it came down to choosing the third and fourth teams for the College Football Playoff, the selection committee had a tough choice: Ohio State? Washington? Penn State? Michigan?
In the end, it gave the nod to Ohio State and Washington, leaving Penn State and Michigan on the sidelines.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“We’ve been having these debates for years,” Penn State coach James Franklin said after the Nittany Lions knocked off Wisconsin on Saturday in the Big Ten title game. “There’s always going to be challenges with it. There always will be.”
Franklin sounded resigned to the committee’s decision.
“You look at the basketball tournament, how many teams is there, like 65 or something like that?” Franklin said. “And 66, 67 and 68 are complaining they should have got in. There’s no perfect system.”
At least there was no quibbling with Alabama, which wrapped up a 13-0 season Saturday by dusting Florida in the SEC title game. The Crimson Tide will be bidding for a second title in a row and five total under coach Nick Saban since 2009.
Alabama will face Washington in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 with Clemson taking on Ohio State in the Fiesta the same day. The winners will meet Jan. 9 in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium for the national championship.
Saban, who also won a national title with LSU, will be seeking to win a sixth national championship, which would tie him with legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
“I haven’t thought about it. I’m not thinking about it,” Saban said.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide is on a 25-win roll.
Clemson (12-1) returns to the playoff one year after giving Alabama a scare in the title game. Washington (12-1) is making its first CFP appearance.
Although Penn State (11-2) might have an argument for being left out, Ohio State (11-1) lost only once — albeit to Penn State — and knocked off three teams in the top 10.
The Buckeyes won the national title two years ago.
But the committee said the fourth spot actually boiled down to Washington and Penn State.
“It was a close call between Washington and Penn State,” committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said. “Washington had one loss. Penn State has two. Washington’s one loss is to top-10 [USC] Penn State’s losses are against an 8-4 team [Pittsburgh], and they were noncompetitive in their other loss [to Michigan].”
As a result, Penn State was relegated to the Rose Bowl to take on USC while Michigan landed in the Orange Bowl, where it will face No. 11 Florida State.
The Seminoles went 9-3.
No. 17 Florida (8-4) ended up in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2 to face Iowa.
In all, the Sunshine State will be represented by five bowl teams, who will be hoping to reverse the state’s dismal 0-4 record in bowl games last season.
In addition to Florida and Florida State, Miami will face West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28, South Florida will take on South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 29, and Central Florida will oppose Arkansas State in the Cure Bowl on Dec. 17.