The College Football Playoff field is set.
Alabama steamrolled its way into the No. 1 spot, culminating in a 54-16 victory over Florida in the SEC championship game, trailing only Auburn for largest point differential ever in an SEC Championship game (a 39-point win over South Carolina in 2010). Washington and Clemson each made a rock-solid case for inclusion — each winning their conference title games following a solid regular season — while Ohio State rode wins over Oklahoma and Michigan to a spot ahead of Penn State, the Big Ten champion.
Now that they’re in the field, it’s time to see how three of those teams are about to fall out of it. Because the Crimson Tide is about to tear every foe apart en route to another national championship.
Peach Bowl: No. 1 Alabama beats No. 4 Washington
No. 1 Alabama comes in undefeated and with its third straight SEC title looks ready to defend its national championship from a year ago.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts only completed 11 of 20 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown against Florida on Saturday night, but he had a 145.5 passer rating heading into that game with 840 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground this season. Hurts is going to be trouble for anyone, and that includes a stout Washington defense that allows 316.2 yards per game (No. 10 in the nation).
But that pales in comparison to the lights-out, Nick Saban-led defense.
The Crimson Tide led the nation in fewest yards allowed (246.8 yards per game prior to the SEC championship game) and held the Florida Gators to 261 yards — with zero rushing yards — outscoring them 21-0 in the second half.
Good luck going up against Alabama’s defensive line, featuring Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams. Allen creates havoc on the inside, producing eight sacks, 11 hits and 34 hurries on 332 pass rushing snaps, ranking third among 3-4 defensive ends in college this year per the game charters at Pro Football Focus. He’s not just a one-dimensional pass-rusher though — he has 28 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage against the run. Williams, meanwhile, has pressured the quarterback once every 3.6 pass-rushing attempts since the beginning of the 2014 season.
It’s hard to bet against Alabama in this one.
Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Ohio State beats No. 2 Clemson
Clemson is averaging 508.7 yards per contest and has a potential Heisman Trophy contender under center in Deshaun Watson. If he can control his turnovers — he has 14 interceptions this year — Clemson has a chance. But he’s going to have to play well under pressure: Ohio State’s defense has produced a quarterback pressure on 51.1 percent of pass plays in the last three games.
If Watson gets rattled, expect Ohio State’s offense to take over.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett has completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 2,428 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2016. He’s also rushed for over 100 yards three times this season. Along with running backs Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel, the Buckeyes average 258.3 rushing yards per game, the ninth most among college teams. Samuel, who might be one of the most underrated players in the nation, can also catch passes out of the backfield (65 receptions for 822 yards and seven touchdowns).
College Football Playoff National Championship: Alabama beats Ohio State
Alabama might be the most obvious national championship pick in recent memory because it excels at everything.
The Crimson Tide is the No. 1 team in the Fremeau Efficiency Index, which compares a team’s drive efficiency against each of the nearly 20,000 possessions every season in major college football, rewarding programs for playing well against good teams. It’s also No. 1 in S&P+ Rating, which reflects how well a team fares in the Five Factors of college football: efficiency, explosiveness, field position and finishing drives.
Out of the 123 ranking systems surveyed by Ken Massey, which includes the AP, Coaches and College Football Rankings, just seven don’t have Alabama rated as the No. 1 team in the country. And those seven all have Alabama at No. 2.
According to the Simple Rating System, which adjusts a team’s scoring margin for strength of schedule, Alabama is over three points per game better than any of the other playoff contenders. And the latest forecast from FiveThirtyEight gives Alabama a 43 percent chance of winning the national title game.
We can debate if the selection committee got the right four teams in the playoff pool, but with Alabama in the group, it really doesn’t matter.