Oklahoma, Georgia headed to Rose Bowl for playoff semifinal

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Oklahoma and Georgia are headed out west to play their College Football Playoff semifinal in the 104th Rose Bowl.

The Sooners (12-1) were the second seed in the four-team field announced by the selection committee on Sunday, while the Bulldogs (12-1) were third.

The Rose Bowl will be played without a team from either of its traditional Pac-12 or Big Ten conferences for the first time since Jan. 3, 2002.

Top-seeded Clemson gets the geographical advantage of playing in New Orleans, so fans of Oklahoma and Georgia will go to the West Coast and the historic Pasadena stadium to play for a spot in the national championship game.

While the college football world argued about the committee’s decision on the fourth team in the playoff, nobody doubts the credentials of the two stellar programs getting together for the first time in the Granddaddy of Them All.

Georgia earned a spot with its first SEC title since 2005 under second-year coach Kirby Smart, capped by a 28-7 victory over Auburn in the conference championship game on Saturday. After claiming their 13th SEC crown, the Bulldogs are chasing their first national championship since 1980.

Oklahoma won its third consecutive Big 12 title on Saturday with a 41-17 victory over TCU, punctuating an incredible season under first-year head coach Lincoln Riley, the youngest coach in the FBS at 34 years old. The Sooners have won eight consecutive games, including six straight by double digits.

The Sooners will be led by fleet-footed quarterback Baker Mayfield, the likely Heisman Trophy winner going against Georgia’s physical defense. Oklahoma is in the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years after losing the Orange Bowl semifinal to Clemson in 2015.

The winner goes to the title game Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

These two teams were very nearly perfect. The only blemish on the Sooners’ record was a 38-31 loss to a solid Iowa State team on Oct. 7.

Auburn was responsible for Georgia’s only loss, a 40-17 defeat on Nov. 11, but the Bulldogs promptly avenged it with a 28-7 victory in the SEC title game on Saturday.

Either a Pac-12 or Big Ten team had appeared in every edition of the Rose Bowl for the past half-century since the formation of the then-Pacific-8 Conference — except after the 2001 season, when the Rose Bowl became the BCS national championship game for a year. Miami won the national title in that memorable edition with a 37-14 victory over Nebraska, which was in the Big 12 at the time.

Oklahoma played in the Rose Bowl once before — on Jan. 1, 2003, beating Washington State 34-14. The Sooners got into the game because Big Ten champion Ohio State earned a spot in the national title game.

Georgia also has made one previous appearance in the Rose Bowl, beating UCLA 9-0 on Jan. 1, 1943.