THERE REALLY wasn't any wrong answer to the question of who should be the fourth and final team in the first FBS playoff.
You could have made a case for Ohio State, Baylor or TCU. The Selection Committee, not shockingly, went with Ohio State, which was fifth in last week's College Football Playoff poll. That was before the Buckeyes and their new quarterback - the second Urban Meyer has had to go with since Braxton Miller went down in August - gutted Wisconsin (10-3) in Saturday's Big Ten title game, 59-0. TCU, meanwhile, which came in third, was smoking 2-10 Iowa State at home by 52. And No. 6 Baylor was beating No. 9 Kansas State (9-3) at home, 38-27.
The Big 12, of course, no longer has a title game, even though it's the only major conference in which everybody plays everyone else. Something to be said for that. Apparently, though, not enough. Baylor beat TCU at home on Oct. 11, 61-58, by scoring 24 unanswered points in the last 11 minutes. Too bad it lost the following week at 7-5 West Virginia by two touchdowns. Then again, Ohio State lost at home to 6-6 Virginia Tech in early September.
Anyway, it probably didn't help that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby took the stance of Baylor and TCU being considered co-champions instead of using the head-to-head tiebreaker, something Baylor coach Art Briles duly noted. Isn't the whole point to decide it on the field? And didn't the Big 12 have a controversy in 2008, when there were two divisions, on which team would represent the South after it ended in a three-way tie? Oh well.
It doesn't matter anymore. The only 12 people in America whose opinions matter in this new system have spoken. Baylor did finish fifth, one spot ahead of TCU. That has to make the Bears feel better. Maybe the Big 12 will have to go back to having a title game. Or maybe teams like Baylor can figure out a way not to have one of the worst nonconference schedules.
What we do know is that No. 1 Alabama, which beat Missouri (10-3) in the SEC final, 42-13, will play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl at 8:30 on New Year's. The two coaches have only combined for six national titles in the past 11 seasons. Meyer and Nick Saban went against each other in the SEC final in 2008 and '09. Both were 1-2 matchups. Florida won the first, as the second-ranked team, 31-20. 'Bama won the rematch, also as a No. 2, 32-13. Each went on to take the BCS crown.
In the other semifinal, No. 2 Oregon will get defending national champion Florida State, which last lost in 2012. That's also on Jan. 1, at 5 in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks won the Pac-12 finale on Friday, 51-13 over Arizona (10-3), which was the only team that beat them this season and one of two to beat them last year. The Seminoles got past Georgia Tech (10-3), 37-35, in the ACC final. So you were expecting a double-digit margin of victory? Then you haven't been paying attention. This will be a quarterback matchup of 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and this year's likely recipient, Marcus Mariota. Gee, another story line to help promote this format. How convenient. Who would have thought?
The championship game is Jan. 12, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. That usually sells itself.
And if the BCS system were still being used, folks would have been arguing over which one from among 'Bama, Oregon or FSU should have been left out. For the record, those so-called BCS gurus are pretty sure it wouldn't have been FSU. Just saying. The idea has always been to win them all. See Ohio State, 2002.
As a consolation prize, Baylor is going to the Cotton Bowl in nearby Dallas for the first time since 1980, to face Michigan State (10-2). The only other Big Ten team to play in that game was Ohio State, in 1987 (it beat Texas A & M). Briles was on Houston when it beat Maryland there in 1977.
Reality suggests the only common denominator between the Cotton and the semis is the date.
TCU is headed for the Peach Bowl in Atlanta against Mississippi (9-3), the only team to beat 'Bama, on Dec. 31.
Arizona meets Mountain West champ Boise State (11-2) in the Fiesta, also Dec. 31 in Glendale, Ariz. It's each team's third appearance in the game, but Arizona's first in two decades. Boise qualified as the top-ranked champ from the five nonmajor conferences.
In the Orange (Dec. 31), it's Mississippi State (10-2) and Georgia Tech, in their first meeting since 2009. MSU hasn't been to the Orange since 1941. Tech went in January 2010.
In the other New Year's Day games, Wisconsin drew Auburn (8-4) in the Outback, while Missouri will get Minnesota (8-4) in the Citrus.
There are 39 games to go, which obviously is way too many. Much of America will mostly care about three of them. Someday, if the tournament expands to eight, the serious interest level will extend to four more. Until then, try to enjoy that inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, even though there are no Popeyes Louisiana Kitchens in that island country. Never let the details get in the way.