Southern California meets Penn State in 103rd Rose Bowl

"Conference championship is only one piece of that conversation".

Alabama is going to chase more than a national championship in the College Football Playoff. The argument goes like this: Co-champs of the toughest division in college football, championship game winners of the best conference in football and the only team to beat No. 2 Ohio State.

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If consistency, certainty and clear-cut criteria are what you crave, this may not be the sport for you.

"We don't look at it as just this year".

Ohio State's Urban Meyer said he empathizes with Penn State and would not mind seeing a system that rewards all conference champions.

Ohio State finished third in the final CFP rankings on Sunday and will face No. 2 Clemson in the December 31 Fiesta Bowl, setting up a matchup of marquee teams with dynamic quarterbacks.

While the West Division champion Badgers are officially the Big Ten runner-ups, they are behind three of the conference's East Division teams in the final College Football Playoff rankings and AP Top 25 - trailing Ohio State, Penn State and MI.

Ohio State is the first non-conference champion to qualify for the College Football Playoff in its three years of existence.

It might have been more fitting if had it been "We are Penn State - and we are back".

In an interview with ESPN, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, the chairman of the selection committee, said members of the panel discussed Washington and Penn State for hours before deciding to put the Huskies into the playoff ahead of the Lions. The committee's big choice for the final spot came from among Washington, two-loss Big Ten champ Penn State and two-loss MI, which beat the Nittany Lions 49-10 in late September. How is MI, a 39-point victor head-to-head, ranked below Penn State?

Ohio State's strength of schedule, which included a loss to Oklahoma and was capped by last week's double-overtime victory over then-No. Which one should be left out so Penn State can get in? Yes, the Huskies played a soft non-conference schedule consisting of Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State. This year, if there's any team with a legitimate gripe, it would have to be Penn State. "If Washington had a stronger strength of schedule, I don't think the conversation and discussions would have been as hard". Unfortunately, the victory did not help the Nittany Lions get into the College Football Playoff.

"Had Washington had a stronger strength of schedule I do not think that conversation would have been as hard", said Hocutt, who is also the Texas tech athletic director. Penn State's defense will have its own hands full against USC's offense, which is dotted with NFL-caliber talent at almost every position - including top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, 1,000-yard tailback Ronald Jones II and a powerful offensive line.

Washington coach Chris Petersen is about to get a really good look at Alabama coach Nick Saban.

If there is a pattern to be found in the committee's work over three years it may be this simple: For the most part, the teams are ranked by the number in the loss column. That became USC, which moved up two spots. It came up just short Sunday, earning a ranking behind No. 4 Washington and No. 3 Ohio State, but Franklin said that doesn't change how proud he is of this team.

Maybe next season will be different.

Despite not playing for the Big Ten championship on Saturday night, the Buckeyes - winners of the first CFP national title in the 2014 season - earned a spot in the four-team field due to their overall resume. The one crucial difference, though, is enormous.