Faced with a tricky choice, the College Football Playoff selection committee fell back on some simple criteria: One loss is better than two. Winning a conference championship is better than not. Go with the team that didn’t get blown out.

Oklahoma is in the playoff over Georgia, moving into the fourth and final spot Sunday after the Sooners avenged their only loss by winning the Big 12 championship game against Texas.

“I feel like we have a team worthy of it, a team that can go make a run,” Sooners Coach Lincoln Riley said on ESPN.

The Sooners (12-1) will face No. 1 Alabama (13-0) in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29 in a matchup of Heisman Trophy front-runner quarterbacks – Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Tua Tagovailoa of the Tide, who sprained his ankle in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday and is expected to miss at least two weeks.

No. 2 Clemson (13-0) plays No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) in the Cotton Bowl on the same day. The winners will meet in the championship game Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, California.

The rest of the New Year’s Six bowl matchups are Central Florida vs. LSU in the Fiesta Bowl; Florida vs. Michigan in the Peach Bowl; Ohio State vs. Washington in the Rose Bowl; and Texas vs. Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Georgia (11-2) dropped a spot to fifth and Ohio State (12-1) remained sixth in the selection committee’s final top 25 released Sunday. The Bulldogs lost to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday and the Buckeyes won the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern.

“In the end, one-loss conference champion with their only loss being on a neutral field to a ranked team, which they avenged in their conference championship,” selection committee chairman Rob Mullens said on ESPN. “Every combination was vetted, looking at their full body of work, their resumes side-by-side. In the end, what we decided was among the group of three – Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State – the committee voted that no one was unequivocally better than the other so then we leaned on the protocol. So we went with the one-loss conference champion.”

Selection committee protocol states conference championships work as a virtual tiebreaker when teams are close. The Sooners beat Texas for the Big 12 title Saturday, paying back a three-point loss in October in Dallas.

Oklahoma will make its third appearance in the 5-year-old playoff. Defending national champion Alabama has played in them all. Clemson will make its fourth straight appearance. Notre Dame is in the playoff for the first time, making it 10 teams in five seasons to participate in the playoff.

Unbeaten Central Florida finished eighth in the final rankings, nowhere to be found in the committee’s playoff discussion. The Knights will put their 25-game winning streak on the line against another SEC team after beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl last season.

The debate leading up to Saturday was whether Oklahoma or Ohio State might take the fourth spot if Alabama beat Georgia.

The wild card was Georgia beating the Tide, which could have meant two SEC teams for the second straight season. Instead the Bulldogs lost but played well enough to allow Coach Kirby Smart to make the case that Georgia should remain in the top four. Smart told reporters after the SEC title game to ask Alabama Coach Nick Saban which team he would like to avoid in the playoff. Saban, of course, endorsed his former defensive coordinator and conference-mate.

The committee didn’t buy it and stayed with the one consistent data point throughout the five years of playoff selections: No team with more than one loss has ever made the playoff. Of the 20 teams that have been selected, only two haven’t won a conference title.

For the second straight season, two of the Power Five conferences were left out and for the second straight season it was the Big Ten and Pac-12. Ohio State was the first team out last season and again appears to have gotten squeezed because of a lopsided loss to an unranked team. The Buckeyes were blown out by Purdue in October, similar to the way they lost at Iowa in 2017.

“The CFP committee does its best and I appreciate their commitment to college football,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in a text message. “Not frustrated at all because I know we have three teams capable of winning it all, but only have four playoff slots.”

The Pac-12 was never in the discussion, with its champion Washington finishing 10-3.

Georgia had both two losses and a blowout loss (at LSU by 20 in October). The Bulldogs have been rolling since and had Alabama on the ropes before the Tide erased a 14-point deficit. The Bulldogs proved they could hang against the best but it wasn’t enough.

Oklahoma has had defensive issues all season but its offense has been virtually unstoppable.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.