For the fourth time in the College Football Playoff era, one conference will send two of its teams to compete for the national championship.
Previously, only the SEC had done so with permanent members, as Alabama and Georgia both made the Playoff in the 2017-18 and 2021-22 seasons. In 2020-21, the ACC technically sent two of its schools to the Playoff in Clemson and Notre Dame, though only because the Fighting Irish temporarily opted to play a full conference schedule that season in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the Big Ten has become the third conference to place a pair of its teams among the final four, as the selection committee has chosen both Michigan and Ohio State to participate in the latest edition of the Playoff.
Given the No. 5 and No. 6 respective finishes of both Alabama and Tennessee in the final CFP rankings, there was potential for the SEC to send two permanent members a third time before any other conference had the opportunity to do so. However, Ohio State's season-long resume held with enough strength to position the Buckeyes ahead of the SEC's outlier teams, and ultimately secured a pair of playoff spots for Big Ten schools for the first time.
While Ohio State had the perception of benefitting from not playing on conference championship weekend, particularly in wake of USC and TCU both losing, sitting out the title games likely kept both Alabama and Tennessee from making enough of an impression to move ahead of the Buckeyes. The Crimson Tide would have had a much better argument for the final playoff spot had Alabama not lost to LSU and at least been able to compete with Georgia in the SEC Championship yesterday. Tennessee being unable to represent the SEC East after losing to the Bulldogs at the start of November certainly impacted the school's playoff hopes, although a more recent loss to South Carolina arguably shut the door for the Volunteers more than anything else.
The SEC fans mourning an absence of a second team from their conference in the final rankings can at least take solace in the fact that Ohio State will play Georgia in the opening round of the Playoff. The Buckeyes will take on the Bulldogs in the Peach Bowl from Atlanta, Georgia – the third time UGA has played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season under the guise of a venue labeled as a “neutral site.”
In the previous two instances that saw one conference send two permanent members to the Playoff, both of those schools ultimately met in the title game. Should that trend hold, Ohio State will face Michigan on Jan. 9, 2023, in a rematch of The Game with the national championship on the line. It would arguably be the most highly anticipated meeting in the rivalry's history, and certainly the most since the teams met in 2006 as the top two ranked teams in college football.