4-warned: Final week did little to sort out College Football Playoff

4-warned: Final week did little to sort out College Football Playoff
With No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon looking like locks for the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff, Big 12 rivals TCU and Baylor will be waiting along with ACC and Big Ten champions Florida State and Ohio State to see who gets the last two spots. (Getty Images and TNS)

Alabama and Oregon locked up the top two bids easily, and early.

The hard part is now being finalized on lockdown in Grapevine, Texas, where a 12-person selection committee, ensconced in a boardroom at the Gaylord Resort Hotel, has volunteered to figure out the rest.

OK, but the rest to what?

The four-team playoff is new to everyone involved, with a built-in-its-hardware understanding some people are not going to like what they hear.


"I don't think there will be a lot of tolerance for sour grapes," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott warned Friday in advance of Sunday's unveiling of the first College Football Playoff participants. "We went into it expecting it to be controversial."


Well, congratulations to you, Mr. Scott, and your commissioner cohorts, for delivering on expectations.

Assorted and aggrieved fan bases may be stomping on sour grapes when committee chairman Jeff Long announces the final four at a Sunday morning news conference.

The playoff was designed not to work, if only because five major conferences are competing for only four positions.

What now?

Is there a chance No. 3 Texas Christian, after a 55-3 win over Iowa State, could be out?

What about No. 4 Florida State, which has steadily dropped in the committee's standing? The Seminoles claimed their 29th straight victory Saturday with a 37-35 win over No. 11 Georgia Tech to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title.

Is it even conceivable the committee will snub the undefeated defending national champions?

What about No. 5 Ohio State, which appeared playoff doomed last week when it lost starting quarterback J.T. Barrett to a season-ending injury.

Well, guess what?

Backup Cardale Jones stepped in and led the Buckeyes to a resounding 59-0 win over Wisconsin to win the Big Ten title.

What about No. 6 Baylor, which defeated Kansas State on Saturday and holds the head-to-head tiebreaker against TCU?

This playoff already needs a shoehorn.

The way it looks here, the Big 12 should be very nervous. If the committee is looking for a way to get around the debate over TCU and Baylor, it may have an out.

It could, gulp, elevate Ohio State to No. 3 and leave the Big 12 out.

It could note that the Big 12, by choice, is the only major conference that does not play a title game.

The Big 12, which touted a slogan "One True Champion" because its league played a true round robin, is now semantically waffling over its co-champions.

In the old BCS, Baylor would get the automatic bid because of its 61-58 win over TCU.

The committee could leave out the Big 12 and state the four other playoff teams all played an extra game, against a ranked opponent, in a title game.

The committee could suggest the Big 12 host a championship game as early as next year.

Ousting the Big 12 would also leave us with two dreamy semifinal games.

If the committee moves Ohio State to No. 3 and leaves Florida State at No. 4, the Rose Bowl would get a traditional matchup of Oregon vs. Ohio State.

For the record, two of the most powerful voices in the committee room are Barry Alvarez and Tom Osborne, who represent Big Ten schools Wisconsin and Nebraska.

The Sugar Bowl semifinal would be Alabama vs. Florida State.

This is only tantalizingly possible speculation and would make perfect sense to everyone except the Big 12.

All we can do now is hurry up and wait.

The first three weekend playoff cases were stated, emphatically, by the combined score of 148-29.

In early October, after Oregon lost at home to Arizona, one ESPN insider proclaimed the Pac-12 "isn't going to have a representative in the College Football Playoff."

The Pac-12 was actually the first conference to clinch a playoff spot after No. 2 Oregon routed Arizona, 51-13, in Santa Clara on Friday night.

"We had a lot of motivation going into this game," Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said.

Third-ranked TCU, knowing it had to leave no doubt against Iowa State in Fort Worth, left no doubt.

The Horned Frogs won, 55-3, but the results of other games Saturday should now make the Frogs squirm.

"I don't know what happens tomorrow," TCU Coach Gary Patterson said. "We've done everything we can do."

Well, not everything. TCU could have not blown a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 61-58 loss to Baylor.

That head-to-head defeat may be the playoff difference maker.

TCU played tentatively, early, against Iowa State until Patterson called his team for the halftime talk.

"Quit worrying about style points," Patterson said he told his team. "You're playing too tight. Just go win the championship and play. Quit trying to think you have to do this all at once."

Top-ranked Alabama didn't need to sweat out a committee vote after it pasted Missouri, 42-13, at the SEC title game in Atlanta.

A close game might have cost Alabama the top seeding to Oregon, but the Crimson Tide certainly played well enough to secure the top seeding and a Sugar Bowl bid.

It was a crowning moment for Coach Nick Saban, two wins from his fourth national title since 2008, but also for Lane Kiffin.

The first-year coordinator, a year after his ignominious airport firing at USC, resurfaced to add significant punch to Alabama's offense.

The regular season is finally over, and now the final playoff ballots go to 12 judges in Texas.

You wanted a four-team playoff? Well, here it is.

"I think we all went into it eyes wide open," Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner, said. "I'm fully expecting there will be some controversy."

You can set your alarm to it.