The College Football Playoff is turning into a Marvel franchise, just spin-offs of spin-offs that leave you wondering, “Haven’t I seen this movie before?”
Alabama-Clemson? Seen it. Three times. Alabama-Georgia? Saw it yesterday.
Like a big-budget action flick, these matchups tend to be entertaining. Lots of explosions and collisions, usually building to an epic ending.
At some point, though, the sequels start to get stale. I wonder if that point has arrived for the CFP.
Committee members, led by Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens, will meet Sunday morning to determine the four playoff teams. The first three spots are cut and dried.
Alabama is No. 1.
Clemson is No. 2.
Notre Dame is No. 3.
At No. 4, committee members will have a choice to make. Do they keep Georgia ahead of Oklahoma after the Bulldogs lost a 35-28 thriller to Alabama? Or do they leapfrog the Sooners into the No. 4 spot after they beat Texas 39-27?
The argument for the Sooners: They finished 12-1, won the Big 12 and have one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Kyler Murray at quarterback. They also have a defense that ranks No. 111 in the FBS in yards allowed.
The argument for the Bulldogs: Their only losses were on the road against LSU and Saturday against the No. 1 team in the country. They’re the only team this year to play Alabama within 20 points and would have beaten the Crimson Tide if not for a late rally orchestrated by backup quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Depending on what the committee decides, this bracket is either going to look vaguely familiar or REALLY familiar. Conceivably, we could see Georgia-Alabama — a rematch of Saturday’s SEC title game and last year’s national championship — in one semifinal and Alabama-Clemson — a rematch of the 2015 and 2016 title games, and the 2017 Sugar Bowl — in the championship.
Could the committee do that? Absolutely, it could. The committee tends to rely heavily on the eye test. And in the CFP’s version of the eye test, SEC teams always seem to look better.
Maybe that’s because SEC teams ARE better. Or maybe it’s because the conference is top-heavy and not prone to the wild shootouts you see in the Big 12.
Last season the committee put 11-1 Alabama in the playoff over 11-2 Ohio State, even though the Buckeyes won their conference and Alabama did not.
Picking a two-loss conference runner-up over a one-loss conference champion would be unprecedented for the committee. But it wouldn’t be inconsistent with how the committee has behaved all season, ranking SEC teams like LSU and Florida ahead of teams with comparable records from other conferences.
On paper, it’s hard to make a strong argument for Georgia over Oklahoma. The Bulldogs lost to LSU by 20 points, and their nonconference games were against Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, Massachusetts and Georgia Tech. If conference championships count for anything, the Sooners should get the fourth spot.
It’s possible, however, that the committee will look at Oklahoma’s ugly defensive numbers — 704 yards allowed to West Virginia, five games allowing at least 40 points — and be so moved by Georgia’s narrow loss to Alabama that it keeps the Bulldogs at No. 4.
That would be a nice reward for choking away a game Georgia should have won. And yes, choke is the appropriate term for a game in which in the Bulldogs blew a 14-point lead, missed a 30-yard field goal and attempted a ridiculous fake punt near midfield late in the fourth quarter.
In my mind, Georgia had its shot against Alabama and came up short. If these teams meet again a month from now, why should we think the outcome would be any different?
Oklahoma faced questions about its defense last year, too, but proved it belonged in a thrilling Rose Bowl against the Bulldogs. I don’t know if the Sooners will push Alabama the way Georgia did Saturday, but they’ve earned the right to find out.
Don’t be stunned, though, if the committee decides to script Georgia-Alabama Part III. There’s a reason why sequels are so popular: They’re reliable, time-tested, and they tap into a formula that's proven to thrill.
After a while, you start wishing for something original.