Whether the College Football Playoff Selection Committee got the four teams right this year may depend largely on whether your team is Florida State. Outrage earlier this month centered around a team that played its third-team quarterback, struggled offensively, but ultimately won by double digits. Yes, times were tough for Alabama against South Florida on Sept. 16.
The Crimson Tide had been worked by Texas the previous week at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and the decision was made to sit quarterback Jalen Milroe. Nick Saban played Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner instead. It did not go well, and it looked even worse. Alas, it was not the Tide but the Seminoles who became the first undefeated Power Five conference champion to be left out of the playoff. It was all a matter of timing. The committee selectively chose to remember FSU playing its third-string quarterback, struggling offensively but winning by double digits in the ACC Championship Game.
Still, it's hard to dislike the four teams ultimately selected. Alabama enters fresh off becoming the first team ... since Alabama itself (2021) ... to beat two-time reigning champion Georgia, which it did to win the SEC Championship Game. Michigan enters as the top seed after going through its Big Ten slate undefeated despite head coach Jim Harbaugh missing six total games while serving two separate three-game suspensions.
Washington overcame doubters -- plus two tough tests from Oregon -- to escape the regular season unblemished while becoming the first Pac-12 team to play in the CFP since the Huskies themselves in 2016. And then there's Texas, which not onlybut did so while defeating Alabama on the road and annihilating Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game.
For all of Florida State's legitimate complaints, this may wind up being the best CFP semifinals in the history of the four-team field. That's an honorific that could stand forever, if proven accurate, given the playoff will expand to 12 teams beginning next season.
As for what's going to happen Monday evening, that will finally be decided on the field.
Let's dig into the matchups. Check out a more detailed set of, along with the best plays on the totals and available props for Monday night's games.
Rose Bowl: (1) Michigan vs. (4) Alabama
If you like slobber-knocking defense, this one's for you. Michigan is attempting to become the first team to allow less than 10 points per game since (surprise!) Alabama in 2011. How's that for serendipity?
Harbaugh has assembled what is perhaps the best Michigan team ever ... if the Wolverines win it all. All-American running back Blake Corum slumped statistically but is still Michigan's inspirational leader. Before breaking his leg, guard Zak Zinter might have been the best offensive lineman in the country; his unit has won the Joe Moore Award two years running. Kris Jenkins is the latest in a list of All-America worthy defensive tackles. Offensively, Harbaugh will go down swinging by pounding the ball before setting up the occasional play-action pass.
The Crimson Tide are typically salty themselves on D. In fact, this unit might be better than the one that featured Will Anderson Jr. last season. Pass rusher Dallas Turner is having an All-American season. We'll probably be watching the two best defensive backs in the country as Michigan's Mike Sainristil and Alabama's Terrion Arnold each have five interceptions.
Like he was against Georgia, the difference might be Milroe. The comparisons to Tim Tebow are valid -- both as a thrower and runner. If things get close -- and they will -- there is every chance Milroe will be the best ball carrier on the field.
On some level, the existing, um, issues will be hovering over the game. Alabama remains a questionable pick to play for a championship despite winning the SEC title. (We all saw the Auburn game one week prior.) There are still doubts in some quarters as to how Michigan got to this point regarding the sign-stealing scandal.
The guess here is that talk of those issues will die down by kickoff. The Wolverines have proven resilient to, well, everything. They used the dual NCAA investigations/suspensions featuring their coach as inspiration. Hey, whatever gets you to a national championship, right?
To prove it belongs, Alabama has to win this game -- maybe the whole thing -- doesn't it? Nick Saban has won six straight CFP semifinal games in which Bama has competed, and he has not gone through a three-year period as the Tide's coach without capturing a national title.
In what should be a Rose Bowl classic that goes down to the final 5 minutes, take Alabama.
Sugar Bowl: (2) Washington vs. (3) Texas
In a weird way, these programs have been underrated. Since the Oklahoma loss, Texas literally got better each passing week -- hanging around outside the top five until it mattered. Playing where it does (out West), Washington never got the proper attention and respect.
The buzz around Texas lately has been all about its CFP chances. But on the field, QB Quinn Ewers finally realized his potential. The Sugar Bowl might not be a sendoff but a preview of next season. Ewers has NFL Draft prospects. At the line of scrimmage, he has some of the best options in the country. Tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders has to get consideration as first-team All-American, even ahead of Georgia's Brock Bowers. For one, Sanders played all the games. Wide receiver Xavier Worthy is one of the program's best pass catchers of the modern era.
The Longhorns haven't suffered much from the loss of RB Jonathan Brooks. Freshman C.J. Baxter has averaged 5 yards per carry since Brooks went down with a torn ACL on Nov. 11. Byron Murphy II and T'Vondre Sweat might be the best set of defensive tackles in the country. That was Sweat with a Heisman Trophy pose after catching a touchdown pass in the Big 12 Championship Game against Oklahoma State.
Might as well call them under-Huskies in this tournament (underdogs, get it?!). The country still doesn't know enough about Washington. It's more than just Michael Penix Jr. In two absolute rock fights with the Ducks, the Huskies proved to be the tougher team, even if only by a smidge.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb is one of the best in the business and likes to use sort of a West Coast short passing game as a running substitute at times. Dillon Johnson has emerged as a workhorse rusher who has averaged 23 carries per game since the beginning of November.
Washington still remains the most wide-open team in this tournament. Penix will take his shots. His offense is in the top five nationally in plays of at least 10, 20 and 30 yards. It has to be because the Huskies are 93rd nationally in total defense, which would be the worst such-ranked unit to win a national championship since the start of the BCS era.
Washington haven't been this good since Don James led the Huskies to a share of the 1991 national championship. The Pac-12 hasn't been this good since the USC dynasty of 2003-05.
This should be a shootout. In fact, if you want to make some money, consider that all four teams are in the top 20 in scoring and in the top 22 in points per possession. Take the over at every opportunity!
And take Texas in this one because it is more of a complete team.
College Football Playoff predictions
Here's how our CBS Sports college football experts are picking the winners straight up.