College football playoff matchups announced: Clemson-Oklahoma and Alabama-Michigan State
After Saturday's conference championship games went as predicted, there was no drama Sunday when the college football playoff committee announced its final four.
Clemson remained No. 1 in the committee's rankings and will play fourth-seeded Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31. Alabama is the second seed and will play Michigan State in the other semifinal in Arlington, Texas, also on New Year's Eve.
The undefeated Tigers' loaded offense includes a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback (Deshaun Watson) and a handful of former Tampa Bay high school standouts. East Lake High alumnus Artavis Scott was a first-team all-ACC receiver and leads Clemson in catches (84) and yards (805). Former Tampa Bay Tech quarterback Deon Cain tops the Tigers by averaging 17.1 yards on his 34 catches.
Oklahoma (11-1) is the only team in the country whose offense and defense both rank in the top 10 in yards per play. Linebacker and former Armwood High star Eric Striker leads the Big 12 champions in tackles for loss (16), sacks (7.5) and quarterback hurries (11).
‘Bama (12-1) is the only semifinalist back from last year's playoff. The Crimson Tide rebounded from their September loss to Ole Miss; after that five-turnover defeat, ‘Bama won its next 10 - nine of them by at least two scores.
"I don't think anybody really thought after the Ole Miss game this team would wind up here," Saban said after his team won Saturday's SEC championship. "To be honest with you, I had some questions in my mind as to whether we'd wind up here."
Michigan State (12-1) had its own unthinkable climb to the playoff. The Spartans needed a miraculous touchdown on a Michigan's botched punt, a field goal as time expired to beat Ohio State and then a touchdown plunge with 27 seconds left to end Iowa's perfect season in Saturday night's Big Ten title game.
The rest of the college football bowl schedule will be announced in the coming hours.