Playoff field set: Georgia vs. Ohio State; Michigan vs. TCU

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Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State were chosen Sunday to play in the College Football Playoff, giving the Big Ten multiple teams in the four-team field for the first time.

The defending national champion and top-ranked Bulldogs and fourth-seeded Buckeyes will meet Dec. 31 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The second-seeded Wolverines and third-ranked Horned Frogs, the lone first-timer in the final four, will play at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, the same day.

The national championship game is scheduled for Jan. 10 at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California, and it could a rematch of Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Michigan. The rivalry dates to 1902, but the Buckeyes and Wolverines have never played outside of their annual regular-season game.

With some drama, but not much controversy, the CFP selection committee’s top four fell into place over the championship weekend. The most interesting part of the unveiling was whether the committee would pair Michigan and Ohio State in the semifinals and if Alabama might be able to slip in as the first two-loss playoff team.

In the end, the committee sprung no surprises.

Georgia (13-0) won the Southeastern Conference championship game in a rout and coach Michigan (13-0) similar took the the Big Ten title.

TCU (12-1) suffered is first loss of the season in the Big 12 championship, falling in overtime to Kansas State. The loss made it an uneasy night for Heisman Trophy contender Max Duggan and the Horned Frogs, but in the end they had already built enough equity during their improbable season to stay in the top four.

Ohio State (11-1) was given a second life in the playoff race when Southern California lost the Pac-12 championship game Friday night. A week after star quarterback C.J. Stroud and the Buckeyes lost at home to coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan, they slipped into the final playoff spot, the best of a flawed batch of contenders.

Alabama (10-2) was fifth in the committee rankings, missing the CFP for just the second time in its nine-year history. The Crimson Tide, with a little lobbying from coach Nick Saban, were hoping to become the first team to lose two games and make the playoff.

The committee instead simply moved Ohio State from fifth last week to fourth this week, setting up just the second matchup ever between the Bulldogs and Buckeyes. The only time Georgia and Ohio State have played was in the 1992 Citrus Bowl, a Buckeyes’ victory.

For Georgia, it is the second straight CFP appearance and third overall. This time, though, coach Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs enter as the No. 1 team and clear favorite after following up last season’s national title with a perfect season.

Stetson Bennett and the ’Dawgs will try to become the first team to repeat as College Football Playoff champions.

Ohio State is making its fifth playoff appearance. The last time the Buckeyes were the fourth seed was 2014, when they won their last national title.

Michigan is in for the second time, again as the second seed after losing to Georgia in the Orange Bowl last season.

TCU becomes just the 13th different school make the field in nine years. That lack of variety is one of the main reasons the CFP will be expanding to 12 teams in the 2024 season.

The Horned Frogs, whose only national title came in 1938, have never played Michigan.

No. 3 TCU loses 31-28 in OT to K-State in Big 12 title game

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Ty Zentner kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime as 13th-ranked Kansas State beat No. 3 TCU 31-28 in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, leaving the Horned Frogs to wait another day to find out if they had already done enough to get into the four-team College Football Playoff.

The Wildcats set up the winning field goal after TCU (12-1) had the opening possession of overtime and Kendre Miller was stopped short on consecutive plays from inside the 1.

Deuce Vaughn ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and Will Howard threw two TDs for the Wildcats (10-3, No. 10 CFP), who six weeks earlier had jumped out to a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter before TCU scored the game’s last 28 points.

That was one of five games the Horned Frogs (12-1, No. 3 CFP) won when trailing after halftime. But they couldn’t do it again with the chance to guarantee being the first Big 12 team other than Oklahoma to make the playoff.

TCU, the first Big 12 team to complete a regular season undefeated since Texas in 2009, could still get into the playoff. While their case was helped when fourth-ranked Southern California (11-2) lost 47-24 to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night, the Frogs now have to wait until the final CFP rankings come out Sunday.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said before the game that TCU, with first-year coach Sonny Dykes, already deserved to be in the playoff.

“You look at their strength of schedule. You think about how they’ve performed all year long,” Yormark said. “I think regardless, they should be in, for sure.”

After AD hired, West Virginia gives Neal Brown another chance

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West Virginia football coach Neal Brown will keep his job for the time being, a decision made soon after new athletic director Wren Baker’s hiring was announced.

Brown has a 22-25 record, the worst four-year stretch at West Virginia since the football team went 17-27 under Frank Cignetti from 1976-79.

The Mountaineers won two of their final three games to finish 5-7 season, the second time they failed to become bowl eligible under Brown and the fourth time since 2000. Brown’s West Virginia teams have never cracked the AP Top 25 poll or finished higher than fifth in the Big 12.

But Baker, West Virginia President Gordon Gee, interim athletic director Rob Alsop and others decided to spare Brown, for now. A statement issued by the university gave no specific timetable. Brown has four years remaining on his contract that included about a $17 million buyout if he were fired.

Alsop said he and Gee were impressed with the team’s efforts in the final weeks of the season. Alsop said Baker and Brown “have already connected relating to the future of the program. As a result of all of these efforts and discussions, it is clear that Coach Brown should continue to lead our football program.”

West Virginia named Baker, the North Texas athletic director, to the same position with the Mountaineers. He replaces Shane Lyons, who was fired earlier this month. Baker was given a six-year contract that will pay him $1.1 million annually, plus incentives, the university said in a statement. Baker will start on Dec. 19.

“With new energy that comes with new leadership, it is time to rally around Wren’s leadership as we move forward quickly to recruit more top student-athletes to our program and continue to develop the incredibly talented group of returning players who are an integral part of our Mountaineer family,” Alsop said.

Lyons, who hired Brown in 2019, gave him a contract extension after his only winning season in 2020. Lyons took heat from fans for both the extension and its pricey buyout.

When West Virginia started 0-2 this season with close losses to Pittsburgh and Kansas, Lyons took a wait-and-see approach to Brown. But West Virginia had seen enough of Lyons after nearly eight years on the job. Gee then said that no other changes would be made until after a new athletic director was hired.

West Virginia finished next-to-last in the Big 12 both in scoring at 30.6 points per game while allowing 32.9. A defense that grabbed just four interceptions had been patched together after several key veterans entered the transfer portal early this year.

Baker has been at North Texas since 2016 and Mean Green athletic programs have won 17 conference and division titles since he took over. North Texas plays for the Conference USA football championship on Friday at No. 23 UTSA. The Mean Green will join the American Athletic Conference in July.

Baker, who is from Oklahoma, previously worked at Memphis and Missouri. His North Texas biography touts him as having led record fundraising with the Mean Green and at three other schools.

Baker said he was “incredibly grateful” for the opportunity and that West Virginia “boasts a powerful brand reputation and a storied academic and athletic history. My family and I can’t wait to get to Morgantown to build relationships and help take Mountaineer Athletics to even greater heights.”

Baker will oversee 18 varsity sports and a department budget of more than $90 million.

“When we began this search, we were determined to find someone who could lead in the modern realities of intercollegiate athletics and build on the legacy of his predecessors,” Gee said. “We wanted someone who clearly understood the dynamics of a fast-changing athletics environment and had found success being at the forefront of this new world that includes managing NIL and the portal. We looked at a number of well-qualified candidates and, at the end of the day, Wren met every one of our needs.”