Sun Bowl: Peach Bowl pits Houston against Florida St
The latest on the college football playoffs, bowl matchups and other news on selection Sunday (all times EST).
SUN BOWL: Miami and Washington State are headed to the Southwest for the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 26.
The Hurricanes closed out a tumultuous season with an 8-4 record after firing coach Al Golden after a 58-0 loss to Clemson, and recently hiring former Georgia coach Mark Richt as their new coach.
The Cougars are a surprising 8-4 and are in their second bowl in the last three seasons under coach Mike Leach.
Washington State is led by sophomore quarterback Luke Falk, who averages 387.8 yards passing per game - tops in the country. Falk missed the Cougars' final game of the regular season with a concussion.
PEACH BOWL: Houston and its high-scoring offense will take on Florida State on New Year's Eve in the Peach Bowl.
The Seminoles (10-2, No. 9 CFP) won the national championship two years ago and reached the college football playoffs last season, losing to Oregon in the semifinals.
Coach Jimbo Fisher's team lost to Georgia Tech and No. 1 Clemson.
Houston (12-1, No. 18 CFP) claimed a spot in a major bowl as the top-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences. The Cougars won the American Athletic Conference.
ST. PETERSBURG BOWL: Marshall and Connecticut are going to the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26.
Marshall (9-3) is looking for its third bowl win in as many seasons, and brings coach Doc Holliday back to Florida - a place where he's recruited well. The Herd won the Boca Raton Bowl last year.
Connecticut (6-6) was 3-5 at one point, then finished with three wins in its last four games. The Huskies also knocked off Houston, probably the biggest reason why they ended up bowl-bound for the first time since their Fiesta Bowl run to end the 2010 season.
Tropicana Field - home of baseball's Tampa Bay Rays - is the game site.
The Fiesta Bowl gets another marquee matchup.
The New Year's Day bowl will feature Ohio State and Notre Dame, two teams in the college football playoff mix until late in the season.
The defending champion Buckeyes (11-1) lost their only game to Michigan State and needed help to get into college football's final four. They didn't get it and wind up No. 7 in the final CFP ranking.
Notre Dame (10-2) fought through a slew of injuries to finish four points shy of a perfect record. The Fighting Irish are No. 8 in the final rankings.
NEW ORLEANS BOWL: Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech will meet for the first time since 1998 when they play in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 19.
Arkansas State (9-3) won the Sun Belt Conference after a dominant 55-17 win over Texas State on Saturday.
Louisiana Tech (8-4) finished second in Conference USA's Western Division. The Bulldogs are led by former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who transferred during the offseason and has thrown for 3,575 yards and 24 touchdowns.
MIAMI BEACH BOWL: Western Kentucky and South Florida are heading to the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 21.
Western Kentucky (11-2) won the Conference USA title and features quarterback Brandon Doughty, who leads the nation with 45 touchdown passes this season.
South Florida (8-4) finished on a four-game winning streak, and has a chance for its first nine-win season since 2007. USF has won the last four meetings between the schools, the last of those coming in 2010.
The game is played at Marlins Park - about a 15-minute drive from Miami Beach. Last season, the bowl debuted with Memphis topping BYU 55-48.
And the bowl matchups are rolling in:
As expected, it will be Iowa vs. Stanford in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, featuring the Big Ten Conference runner-up against the Pac 12-champion Cardinal and their Heisman contender Christian McCaffrey.
Also on Jan. 1, the Sugar Bowl will match Mississippi against Oklahoma State and the Fiesta Bowl has Notre Dame against Ohio State.
On Dec. 31, the Peach Bowl pits AAC champion Houston against Florida State.
Pizza for 20,000!
A huge pizza party is taking place at Death Valley to celebrate Clemson's unbeaten season and college playoff berth to play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31.
Coach Dabo Swinney is making good on his promise for a postseason pizza shindig at Memorial Stadium. About a month ago, the coach said it'd be pizza for everyone it the Tigers made the playoffs.
Swinney told crowd, ''I know I open my mouth sometimes, but this is incredible.''
Swinney had wide grin on his face most of the time, and raised both fists in the air, pumping them to the fans' applause when Clemson was announced as the top seed.
Fans dressed in purple and orange filled half the lower bowl at the 81,000-seat stadium.
The starting times for the college football playoff games are set, according to ESPN. No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Oklahoma starts at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31 in the Orange Bowl; and No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Michigan State starts at 8 p.m. on Dec. 31 in the Cotton Bowl.
On bowl selection day, Georgia chose a coach.
The Bulldogs hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart on Sunday, hoping he can accomplish what has been routine for the Crimson Tide but eluded Mark Richt during his 15 years between the hedges: Win a national title.
Smart was formally approved as Richt's successor during a meeting by the Georgia athletic association executive committee.
Smart played at Georgia in the 1990s and has been Nick Saban's defensive coordinator at Alabama since 2008.
Smart was expected to remain at Alabama through the playoffs, though Saban would surely carve out time for him to handle some of his new duties at Georgia.
Heisman Trophy contender Baker Mayfield and coach Bob Stoops were out of town. Dabo Swinney was making good on his pizza party promise. Alabama players were allowed to sleep in.
That's what was happening when the college football playoff pairings were announced on Sunday, matching No. 1 Clemson against No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 and No. 2 Alabama against No. 4 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31
In Norman, Oklahoma, assistant coaches, players and fans attended a watch party while quarterback and coach were traveling.
In Clemson, South Carolina, thousands were in attendance to feast on the Tigers' success and a whole lot of pizza pies.
In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the Tide is preparing for a second straight playoff appearance, it was just another Sunday. So players were allowed to sleep in.
BAHAMAS BOWL: Western Michigan will face Middle Tennessee on Dec. 24 in the Bahamas Bowl at Nassau's Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
The Broncos (7-5) earned a share of the Mid-American Conference West title and are in their second straight bowl after winning six of their past eight. They have the top receiving duo in the country in Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis.
Middle Tennessee (7-5) of Conference USA takes a four-game win streak to the Bahamas for their first bowl since 2013. The Blue Raiders are led by a pair of freshmen in QB Brent Stockstill and receiver Richie James.
Alabama and Michigan State have been to the Cotton Bowl before, and not too long ago.
This time, the teams will be at AT&T Stadium to play each other in the college football playoff semifinals on Dec. 31.
The Big Ten champion Spartans completed last season on New Year's Day playing in their first Cotton Bowl. The SEC champion Crimson Tide opened this season with a victory over Wisconsin at the stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
The matchup is just the second between the teams. Alabama beat Michigan State 49-7 in the 2011 Capital One Bowl.
Alabama's Nick Saban was the coach at Michigan State from 1995-1999 before leaving for LSU, the Miami Dolphins and moving on to Tuscaloosa in 2007.
Jeff Long says the decision was easy to select the top four teams for the College Football Playoff, calling Clemson ''clearly the No. 1 team in the country.''
Long is the chairman of the CFP selection committee - a 12-person group that makes the final decisions.
The pairings announced Sunday will send unbeaten ACC champion Clemson (13-0) against Big 12 champion Oklahoma (11-1) in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31, and SEC champion Alabama (12-1) against Big Ten champion Michigan State (12-1) in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31
Perhaps the biggest debate was Michigan State finishing ahead of Oklahoma.
Long says the committee spent most of its time discussing Spartans-Sooners, mentioning that both teams are conference champs, have wins over Top 25 teams, and pointing out Michigan State has two wins over top 10 teams plus a win over the No. 4 team (Iowa) on Saturday night.
He says the Spartans' ''body of work was just slightly ahead of Oklahoma.''
No. 1 Clemson meets No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31, one of the two semifinal matchups in this season's College Football Playoff and a rematch of a bowl game from last season.
Only this time, the stakes will be a bit higher. Way higher, actually.
The Tigers are well-versed in how to get around Sun Life Stadium, and embarrassed Miami 58-0 earlier this season on the same field they'll see for the bowl game.
Oklahoma will be in the Orange for the 19th time, the most of any school. The Sooners were thought to be doomed by a midseason loss to Texas, but have won seven straight by a combined score of 364-136 to get into the CFP mix.
Clemson beat Oklahoma 40-6 in last season's Russell Athletic Bowl.
The winner of this game meets either Alabama or Michigan State for the CFP national championship.
Finally, we have our playoff pairings!
And really, there can't be too many arguments, can there?
Clemson finishes No. 1 in the College Football Ranking and will play No. 4 Oklahoma in one playoff semifinal, the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31.
Alabama finishes No. 2 in the final ranking, and will play No. 3 Michigan State in the other semifinal, the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31.
The winners will play for the national championship on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Arizona.
Alabama and Clemson won conference title games on Saturday night and held their ranking. Michigan State handed Iowa its first loss in the Big Ten title game to move into the playoffs, while Oklahoma had already completed its season and held on for the final playoff spot.
Clemson goes into the playoffs as the only undefeated team.
Alcorn State will face North Carolina A&T in the inaugural Celebration Bowl.
The Celebration Bowl pits the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion against the Southwestern Athletic Conference winner. The game takes place Dec. 19 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Alcorn State clinched its invite by winning the SWAC championship Saturday, 49-21 over Grambling State.
North Carolina A&T shared the MEAC title with Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central. North Carolina A&T got the bowl spot because of a higher Sagarin rating.
The final regular-season Top 25 is out and Michigan State has moved up two spots to No. 3 behind Clemson and Alabama.
The Associated Press' poll has been released before the College Football Playoff selection committee reveals the field for the national semifinals.
Playoff pairings will be announced at 12:30 p.m.
No. 1 Clemson receives 59 first-place votes, No. 2 Alabama has nine, and Michigan State one from the media panel.
The Spartans, who were No. 2 early in the season, edge up after beating Iowa 16-13 in the Big Ten championship game.
Oklahoma slips one spot to No. 4. Stanford moves up to No. 5 after winning the Pac-12 title. Iowa drops two spots to sixth after its first loss.
Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State and North Carolina round out the top 10.
The Associated Press plans to release its final regular-season Top 25 poll before the four-team college football playoffs and the rest of the bowl pairings are announced.
The college football playoffs show begins at noon on ESPN.
There could be a few changes near the top of the AP poll following Saturday night's conference title games. The biggest could come from the Big Ten championship game, where Michigan State handed Iowa its first loss of the year.
Going into the game, Iowa was No. 4 in the College Football Ranking, with Michigan State No. 5. The top two teams, Alabama and Clemson, won their conference title games, while No. 3 Oklahoma did not play.
The four teams in line for the playoffs appear to be Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Michigan State.