Oregon Ducks will be facing off against the Florida State Seminoles in the College Football Championship semifinals at the Rose Bowl. Photo courtesy of GoDucks.com
Oregon Ducks will be facing off against the Florida State Seminoles in the College Football Championship semifinals at the Rose Bowl. Photo courtesy of GoDucks.com

Oregon will face defending national champion Florida State Thursday n the 101st Rose Bowl Game, which is also the first College Football Playoff Semifinal.

The College Football Playoff was established in 2012 to go into effect in the 2014 season, replacing the Bowl Championship Series, which had drawn criticism from some members of the media and fans for some of its national championship matchups, which were determined by a mix of polls and computer rankings.

The College Football Playoff Semifinal matchups were determined by the 12-member College Football Playoff Selection Committee, which released a set of rankings each Tuesday for six consecutive weeks beginning Oct. 28 and the final set Dec. 7, which determined the semifinal matchups.

Oregon was second and Florida State third in the final rankings and assigned to play in the Rose Bowl, the closest of this season’s two semifinal sites to the higher-ranked Ducks.

Alabama was ranked first and Ohio State fourth and will meet in today’s Sugar Bowl, the other semifinal game in the first year of the four-team playoff.

The semifinal winners will advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship, which will be played Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The College Football Playoff announced in January 2013 that the Rose Bowl Game and Sugar Bowl would serve as the two semifinals for its first season.

The Rose Bowl and the five other participating bowls — the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Peach Bowl — will be the site of a semifinal game once every three years.

During the years it does not host a semifinal, the Rose Bowl Game will have its traditional Pacific-12-Big Ten matchup.

The College Football Playoff gives the Rose Bowl Game “the best of all options,” according to Rick Neuheisel, the only Rose Bowl Player of the Game to coach a winning team in the game and a member of its Hall of Fame.

The Rose Bowl Game will have “landmark games” with “all the pageantry that college football has to provide,” when it hosts a College Football Playoff Semifinal and “the historical game” between Pacific-12 and Big Ten teams the other years, said Neuheisel, now a studio analyst for the Pac-12 Network and host of a show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s College Sports Nation.

The College Football Playoff received the stamp of approval from both of the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks that will play in the Rose Bowl Game.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, the 2014 winner, called the College Football Playoff “an opportunity to find a true winner. It gives a team an opportunity to be a part of national championship even if they faced adversity at the beginning of the year and they took a loss.”

The Seminoles’ Jameis Winston, the 2013 winner, said he loves it “because we get to play more games and that’s always fun.”

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he was “anxious to see how it works.”

“I think it’s good,” Fisher said. “I just hope we don’t keep destroying it and taking away from the bowls. I think the bowl system is a very good thing.

“I think it’s how kids have tremendous experiences. It’s how programs and other organizations grow and continue building themselves and getting in bowl games.

“I  hope we don’t make it to where if you’re not (in) a college playoff (game) you’re a total failure. There’s only going to be so many teams in it.”

ESPN analyst Danny Kanell said he would prefer an eight-team playoff, to give a member of the “Group of Five,” the five lesser conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision, “the opportunity to go against those Power Five” conferences “so you kind of give the little guy a chance.”

To Kanell “eight is the perfect number,” with the champions of each of the five major conferences automatically receiving berths, along with three wildcard teams.

“I think the regular season would be even better,” said Kanell, the Seminoles’ starting quarterback in the 1994 and 1995 seasons. “I think you’d see even more meaningful games in November.”

Florida State, the Atlantic Coast Conference champion, enters the Rose Bowl Game with a 14-0 record and a 29-game winning streak, including the final Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game, which was played Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl. The Seminoles have won six games this season by six points or less.

Oregon, the Pacific-12 Conference champion is 13-1, winning eight consecutive games since a 31-24 loss to Arizona Oct. 2, including a 51-13 victory over the Wildcats Dec. 5 in the conference championship game.

The Ducks are first in the ESPN Football Power Index which ranks teams in the order in which they are most likely to defeat an average Football Bowl Subdivision team on a neutral field. Florida State is ranked 10th.

The index gives Oregon a 66 percent chance of winning.

Neuheisel said he expects “a whale of a ballgame” because of the presence of quarterbacks of the caliber of Mariota and Winston.

Kanell said he expects a “high-scoring game” because “you’ve seen both defenses struggle at times.”

However, the game could be decided by “the defense that comes up with that critical turnover,” Kanell said.

“Even if it’s one or two, if it’s at the right time, that’s going to be the difference,” Kanell said.

—City News Service

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