The College Football Playoff has worked. Why do I say that? We never would have seen an incredible Rose Bowl matchup between No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State without it. The Ducks are 9-point favorites on NCAA football odds with a total of 71.5.
How They Got Here
Had the old BCS formula been in place with a mixture of the polls and computer rankings, the BCS National Championship Game would have featured No. 1 Alabama and Florida State. Those are the top two teams in the AP and USA Today Polls with Oregon No. 3 in both. The Ducks and to a slightly lesser extent No. 4 Ohio State rightfully could have felt jobbed for missing out. Oregon closed the season winning eight straight games by double digits. Neither Alabama nor Ohio State were able to get payback for its only loss, but Oregon was: a 51-13 rout of Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Florida State is the nation's only unbeaten team and any unbeaten in a Power 5 Conference, no matter how weak that conference is, deserves to be in the national semifinals. However, FSU, which has won a school-record 29 straight games, ranks just 15th in the highly respected Sagarin computer rankings. The Seminoles didn't face a single Top-10 team in those ratings. Alabama faced three (Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn, and Oregon (Michigan State) and Ohio State (Michigan State) one each.
FSU also has had to stage several second-half rallies this season. The Noles have won seven games by six points or fewer. The last four were by five points or fewer. The three teams Florida State beat that currently rank in the College Football Rankings Top 25 are Georgia Tech, Clemson and Louisville. The Noles could have lost all three. They beat Clemson early in the year in overtime when Jameis Winston was suspended. The beat Louisville 42-31 after trailing 21-0. And FSU beat Georgia Tech for the ACC title by only two points. The 2013 Seminoles finished the regular season winning by an average of 42.3 points per game but was pushed to the limit in the final BCS title game by Auburn.
Key Oregon Injury
The Ducks will be missing their most important defensive player in All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who might have been an NFL first-round pick. However, he tore up his knee in practices for this game and is done. Ekpre-Olomu, a senior who has started since midway through his freshman year, has 63 tackles and nine passes defended, including two interceptions, this season.
That's a problem because Florida State has one of the nation's top receivers in senior Rashad Greene. The second-team All-American had 93 catches, 1,306 yards and seven touchdowns. More than likely Ekpre-Olomu would have been matched up on Greene. Redshirt freshman Chris Seisay is expected to step into Ekpre-Olomu's starting spot. Oregon wasn't all that strong against the pass even with Ekpre-Olomu as the Ducks ranked 102nd in pass yard allowed at 259.5 per game. To be fair, opponents had to throw a lot because they were down by so much. And Oregon was better vs. the pass later in the year. In the final four games of the regular season, Oregon allowed 32.9 percent of completions to go for more than 10 yards, the fifth-best percentage nationally during that period. Oregon defensive coordinator Don Pellum says his team will not change its game plan without Ekpre-Olomu. His absence could really be felt in the fourth quarter, which is Winston's highest-rated quarter this season.
I would have presumed that injury might have had a small impact on the spread at sportsbooks. For the most part, this NCAA football line opened at 9.5 at most sportsbooks but has dropped to 9 on college football odds just about everywhere. The total generally opened at 71 and reached as high as 72.5 but has been dropping a bit.
The injury news is good for FSU. Tailback Karlos Williams, who missed the ACC Championship Game with a concussion, will be ready for the Rose Bowl. He has 609 yards and 10 touchdowns, but the clear featured back now is freshman Dalvin Cook. He was the ACC title game MVP after 177 yards and 31 carries. Cook had an FSU freshman record 905 yards rushing on the season and eight touchdowns.
NCAAF Free Picks: I believe this line drops under 9 by kickoff Thursday at sportsbooks -- FSU is taking a pretty solid lean on the side -- but that the total rises back to at least 72. The 'over' is currently the better college football pick. That injury has changed my tune and I'm taking the points -- and still the 'over' at 5Dimes.