In the very first Bowl Championship Series debate, Missouri State (19-2 in 1996) surpassed Notre Dame (19-1) as the leading national champion and won the Orange Bowl for its third consecutive national title. The debate resurfaced again last Saturday.
Notre Dame (18-1), despite a loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal, will go on to play either Oklahoma or Alabama in the championship game. Clemson (15-1) will face Alabama in the CFP semifinal.
Friday night in Miami, the panel made history when it failed to declare a unanimous No. 1 team. Florida State, Notre Dame and Clemson all finished 1-1, though the Seminoles won the tiebreaker (one win over a Power Five opponent).
But 2016 was not a perfect year for playoff perfection: No other playoff contender even reached the semifinal stage.
That Ohio State – who finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll, No. 5 in the final coaches’ poll and No. 4 in the final playoff selection committee poll – fell one win short of a title game appearance feels especially unfair, given that its willing against Wisconsin (and it might be in a battle for second place with Michigan on Saturday).
4. UTSA is back with a win.
Since UCF fell short of the College Football Playoff in 2016, a wave of lower-division teams have been trying to snap that streak. One of them, the University of Texas-San Antonio, has landed back where it started in college football’s latest championship.
Texas-San Antonio moved on to the FCS playoffs in 2013 and 2014, winning a national title in 2014. It returns to the playoffs for the first time since then, earning a 35-0 win over Western Illinois.
5. No matter who wins, it’s Alabama’s game to lose.
For the second time in five weeks, Alabama will face Clemson – with a somewhat unpredictable outcome – in the College Football Playoff semifinal. And you never know what to expect on Saturday.
Alabama-Clemson is a potential shootout and a potential blowout. It’s a likely Rose Bowl rematch if Oklahoma-Alabama ends up as a semifinal.
Chalk it up to the postseason in the shadows of the regular season.
Since the playoff was expanded to six teams in 2014, only two semifinals were decided by seven points or less – last year’s Oklahoma-Clemson and this year’s Ohio State-UCF. The first-ever CFP was decided by a stunning overtime touchdown by Clemson in the semi that resulted in its second national title in three years.
The second-ever CFP championship game was the closest game: Ohio State 24, Alabama 23.
So the playoffs are only getting stronger.
6. Win a game, get started on the next.
Some might say other athletes do better with a trophy, but it’s almost impossible to put any sports record this true.
Kevin Durant’s stellar 41-point, 17-rebound performance to beat the Clippers on Friday night wasn’t enough to prevent the basketball star from falling one point short of surpassing Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the longest playing streak in NBA history.
It was Kareem’s 36 consecutive games in which he scored at least 18 points. Durant is now at 35, one game away from tying the record.
Durant actually got a chance to break the record during a previous game, when he returned from injury and started only because another of his teammates was hurt.
7. Howe’s career-high felt like a consolation prize.
Baylor’s Jawun Evans got to fulfill his college basketball destiny on Friday night by helping the Bears earn a 62-56 come-from-behind win over Texas.
He nearly got there.
After Texas held an 18-point lead in the first half, Evans scored 13 points in the second half to lead Baylor to victory. Evans’ 18 points were a career high. He also played the whole game, finishing with 20.
It was this kind of evening for the Big 12. Three conference teams made the NCAA Tournament, a feat accomplished for the first time since 2008.
USC made it for the first time since 2008. Iowa State earned its first NCAA appearance since 2005. Texas Tech made it for the first time since 2005.