College Football Playoff expert picks: The great Alabama vs. Ohio State debate

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Two the biggest brands in American sports are going head-to-head right now in a Grapevine, Texas, resort conference room. Somehow, that makes sense this crazy season: Alabama and Ohio State, being broken down into nano-bits by the 13-member College Football Selection Committee.

In one corner is Alabama, an existing dynasty — maybe the best ever in the sport — just slightly off its game this year. In the other, Big Ten champion Ohio State with a stain on its record so big it stretches from Columbus to Iowa. Cheap shot? Hey, a double nickel is a double nickel (Iowa 55, Ohio State 24 on Nov. 5).

Welcome to the most mind-numbing high-stakes finish in the four-year history of the College Football Playoff. In some order, Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia are safely in — all winners of their conference championship games. Meanwhile, Ohio State and Bama are essentially contending for the last spot in the bracket. That is, unless you include Pac-12 champion USC, which you absolutely should.

For now, Alabama at 11-1 thinks it should be in for the same reason Ohio State was in last year. Despite finishing second in their own division, the Tide want to be considered one of the four best teams in the country. Last year, Ohio State got in ahead of Big Ten champion Penn State, a team it lost to and finished second behind in the Big Ten East. On Saturday, the Buckeyes knocked out previously unbeaten Wisconsin to set up a committee conundrum.

Does it want a nice, (sort of) tidy set of four conference champions (Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State), or do you want to allow Alabama in?

Does the committee go with one-loss Alabama or two-loss Ohio State?

With Bama, two teams from the same conference (SEC) would be in the Football Four for the first time. The Buckeyes would be the first two-loss team in 10 years and probably second two-loss team ever to have a chance to play for a national championship.

In Alabama’s favor: One loss and the fact it was ranked No. 1 for most of the season. In Ohio State’s favor: It won the Big Ten knocking off Wisconsin, the only remaining undefeated Power Five.

Start the debate. Alabama lost only to Auburn, which lost by three touchdowns Saturday night to Georgia in the SEC title game. Ohio State, 11-2, lost two games by a combined 46 points to Oklahoma and Iowa. (Worth noting: In the previous three-year history of the CFP, the entire field — nine one-loss teams — had fallen by a total of 57 points.)

The committee is assured of inviting the wrath of a loud, powerful, only sometimes-rationale fan base whose team will be left out. Now might be a good time, fellas, to change your cell phone numbers. Yeah, it could be that bad.

Let’s hope the Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel and Convention Center has enough security.

Or have I already revealed too much?

Here’s how our College Football Playoff and bowls expert Jerry Palm has the top four projected. Palm has gone 12-for-12 predicting every CFP team in its correct slot through three years of the playoff.

College Football Playoff projection

Jan. 8…

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