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Peavler: 4 things we learned from the final College Football Playoff rankings

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts runs the ball during the second half of the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game Auburn, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts runs the ball during the second half of the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game Auburn, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson, AP

The College Football Playoff is set with Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama playing for it all this bowl season.

And we've learned a lot from those four selections, particularly since an undefeated team and two Power 5 conference champions won't be playing for a national title while a team that didn't even win its division is in.

Here's four takeaways from the final College Football Playoff rankings:

1. Winning a conference championship game doesn't matter after all

Remember when everybody made a big deal a couple of years ago about how the Big 12 got left out of the playoff because it didn't have a conference title game? This caused the conference to go through the dog and pony show of expansion before ultimately deciding to just add a conference title game while remaining at 10 teams.

Well, it doesn't appear that the Big 12 really had to do that after all.

For the second year in a row, a team has gotten into the playoff that didn't even play in its conference's championship game. Last year, it was Ohio State. This year, Alabama is going to the playoff without playing in a title game.

So, once again it's entirely possible that a team that didn't win a conference championship in a Power 5 conference could be crowned the national champion while the Pac-12 and Big Ten's champions won't even make it into the field. The irony is that Wisconsin probably would have gotten in had it not played Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game and lost.

2. A Group of 5 team has no chance at the playoff

Sure, this was probably self-evident before now, but there should be no doubt after seeing the final College Football Playoff rankings this year. This year's unbeaten Group of 5 team was Central Florida, and the Knights were No. 12 on this year's list.

That's the highest a Group of 5 team has been ranked in the College Football Playoff era. Western Michigan was No. 15 last season, Houston was No. 18 in 2015 and Boise State was No. 20 in 2014.

Remember, UCF is the only unbeaten team left in the FBS, and this was a pretty chaotic year. It's hard to imagine that conditions will be too much more favorable for a Group of 5 team, and yet the Knights were a full eight spots out of the playoff.

Granted, UCF was hampered by a less-than-impressive schedule and the fact that it went 0-12 just two seasons ago. Still, it's gotten to the point that it's pretty much inconceivable that a Group of 5 team would break into the Top 4 and into the playoff.


Is anyone really that surprised that the SEC is the first Power 5 conference to get two teams into the playoff?

Even a blue-blood program like Ohio State wasn't good enough to bump Alabama out of the playoff, even though the Buckeyes have a conference crown and the Crimson Tide doesn't. Alabama didn't even win its division.

And just look at Alabama's non-conference slate. Alabama beat a mediocre ACC team (Florida State), two decent Mountain West Conference teams (Fresno State and Colorado State) and an FCS team. Granted, the Seminoles were supposed to be really good, but they just weren't.

The other Power 5 conferences should feel uncomfortable about this. The Big Ten got a team in last year that didn't win a conference title game, but now its champion got left out.

Anyone ready for an all SEC national championship game again?

4. We need an 8-team playoff

Simple math tells us that there's only four slots when there's five power conferences, not to mention the Group of 5 conferences. It's guaranteed that one of the Power 5 will be left out, and this year two are left on the outside looking in. Plus, Group of 5 teams will pretty much never have a chance.

There's an easy solution: An eight-team playoff.

Putting it together wouldn't be hard. Give each of the Power 5 champions an automatic bid, one to the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion and two at-large bids. It brings meaning back to winning a conference championship, and it gives every team in the FBS a path to winning a national title.

This season, the playoff matchups would look something like this:

No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 12 UCF

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 USC

No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 6 Wisconsin

No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 5 Ohio State

Why is there any resistance to having an extra meaningful game? Both the FCS and the NFL have larger playoffs. Are FBS athletes so fragile that one extra game in the playoff would be so destructive?

Answer: They're not. Expand the playoff. If a team is worthy of the title of national champion, then let them prove it purely on the field and not by having to appeal to some committee.

Lafe Peavler is a sports strategist for the Deseret News and Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.