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Playoff Showdowns: LSU vs. Oklahoma; Ohio State vs. Clemson

Tyler Shelvin #72 of the LSU Tigers celebrates defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 37-10 to win the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

IRVING, Tex. – LSU will play Oklahoma and Ohio State will face defending national champion Clemson in the College Football Playoff.

The selection committee revealed the pairings Sunday for the national semifinals and the final four was no surprise. The only mystery involved which team would be the No. 1 seed. The 13-member committee went with Southeastern Conference champion LSU. The top-seeded Tigers (13-0) will head back to Atlanta for its playoff game to face the Big 12 champion Sooners (12-1) in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 28.

LSU used a convincing victory against Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday to move up to No. 1. Ohio State had been atop the committee’s rankings last week, but the slipped to No. 2 after coming from behind against Wisconsin to win the Big Ten title.

“Anytime, anywhere, anybody, we ready to play,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said in an interview with ESPN.

The Buckeyes (13-0) will face Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson (13-0) in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, on Dec. 28. The national championship game is Jan. 13 in New Orleans.

Pairings for the other New Year’s Six bowls were to be released later Sunday..

The final four fell into place thanks to the favorites winning their conference championship games and Utah losing the Pac-12 title game to Oregon. The Utes had been No. 5. That left three undefeated Power Five champions, one with one loss, and nobody else with a legitimate case to claim a spot.

The intrigue was about the top seed, knowing Clemson was likely locked into No. 3. The Tigers have been mauling their opponents for the last two months, but the ACC has not provided Clemson any top-flight competition, either. Ohio State has five victories against CFP-ranked teams, including Wisconsin twice. Clemson’s only win against those teams was its 62-17 victory Saturday against Virginia.

Still, drawing Clemson, which has the core of a team that has won 28 straight games, rather than an Oklahoma team that has five victories by a touchdown or less certainly seems like a tougher task for the Buckeyes. Clemson is making its fifth straight playoff appearance, tying Alabama for the most. The Crimson Tide missed out for the first time. Coach Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have won two of the last three championships.

LSU is in the playoff for the first time, the only newbie in the field. The Tigers will likely bring the Heisman Trophy winner with them. Quarterback Joe Burrow capped a record-breaking season by throwing four more touchdown passes against Georgia in the SEC championship.

Ohio State is making its third playoff appearance and first since 2016 after just missing out the previous two seasons. The Buckeyes won the first playoff championship in 2014. Their last appearance came after the 2016 season, when they were shut out by Clemson in the semifinals at the Fiesta Bowl. That was all under coach Urban Meyer. Now Ryan Day leads the Buckeyes, and in his first season as Meyer’s successor has the Buckeyes unbeaten.

The Tigers are 3-0 all-time against Ohio State, all in the postseason. The Buckeyes enter the playoff with a 19-game winning streak.

Oklahoma is in the playoff for the fourth time, but has yet to win a game. This will be the third consecutive year the Sooners face an SEC team.

Oklahoma and LSU have split two previous meetings: The Sooners won the 1950 Sugar Bowl and the Tigers won the BCS championship game at the Sugar Bowl in 2004.

Former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts is back in the playoff for the fourth straight year, this time with the Sooners, after going three times with the Crimson Tide. Hurts follows Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray as quarterback transfers to find success in coach Lincoln Riley’s offense.

LSU and Ohio State are also led by transfer quarterbacks. Burrow started his career at Ohio State before switching schools in 2018. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields was at Georgia last season.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence led the Tigers to a national championship as a freshman last season.