No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Michigan claimed conference championships on Saturday to earn the top seeds in the College Football Playoff semifinals scheduled for New Year’s Eve.
In the final rankings and bowl pairings announced Sunday by the selection committee, defending champion Georgia (13-0) is headed to the Peach Bowl to play No. 4 Ohio State (11-1). Michigan (13-0) plays No. 3 TCU (12-1) in the other semifinal despite the Horned Frogs’ overtime loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game on Saturday.
The College Football Playoff national championship will be played Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
Defending champion Georgia and Michigan are in the playoff for the second straight year. The Bulldogs and Wolverines won their respective conference championship games in convincing fashion, with Georgia posting a 50-30 victory over Southeastern Conference rival LSU and Michigan securing a 43-22 triumph over Big Ten foe Purdue.
The Bulldogs are bidding to become the first repeat national champion since Alabama accomplished the feat in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Just don’t tell that to Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
“I’ve tried not to play attention to any of it,” Smart said. “It didn’t matter to me. That’s so far away.”
Michigan, in turn, is looking for its first national championship since 1997.
“I love our chances,” Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy said. “Last year it was kind of the bright lights, everything was new, Big Ten Championship, College Football Playoff. Going into the offseason it gave us so much momentum, and we knew that we could get there, and we could get back. Ultimately, this whole offseason it was about winning it.
“So at the end of the day everything is great that happened (Saturday), but the job is not finished. We’ve got a lot bigger plans in mind.”
Ohio State has been idle since sustaining its first loss of the season, a 45-23 decision against Michigan on Nov. 26.
“This is not the outcome we all envisioned,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said at the time. “I thought we had good preparation. I thought we were building toward playing really well.”
TCU coach Sonny Dykes said he believed his team deserved a place in the College Football Playoff despite Saturday’s loss.
“For sure I do,” Dykes said. “We went through the Big 12 12-0. … I don’t think we should be punished for coming to the Big 12 championship game. I don’t think the conference championship games are designed to punish teams and prevent them from getting in the playoffs. We were (No.) 3 last week. My hope is that we would stay at 3 and go tee it up and see how we do.”
Dec. 31 schedule:
CFP semifinal at the Peach Bowl
No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Ohio State, Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta), 8 p.m.
CFP semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 TCU, State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.), 4 p.m.
–Field Level Media