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Column: Ranking the top three College Football Playoffs (hint: this one makes the cut)

I’m just happy Alabama and Clemson didn’t make it this year.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s hard to believe that this year will mark the ninth edition of the College Football Playoff. It’s certainly made for interesting postseasons — some bad, some good. There have been mismatches and historical matchups. There have been blowouts and overtime games. Here are my top three college football playoff years.

  1. 2014: (4) Ohio State defeated (1) Alabama, then (2) Oregon

Obviously, this was going to take the top spot. It was the first College Football Playoff and it was the best. Not so much the Florida State/Oregon game, as the Ducks won 59-20, but Ohio State’s journey to hoisting the National Championship trophy is one of the greatest stories in college football ever!

Let’s relive the glory days for a minute. Braxton Miller was supposed to lead this team to the Natty. Then he got injured before the season even started and J.T. Barrett took the reins, taking the Bucks to an 11-1 record. The 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in the second game of the season ignited a fire that would not be relinquished.

Then J.T. got injured against Michigan, and in comes Cardale Jones. After whomping Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship, the Buckeyes slid in as the No. 4 seed as a major underdog against Bama. After being down 21-6 in the second quarter, Ohio State proceeded to score four straight touchdowns, holding on to win 42-35.

Onto the Natty against Oregon — the Buckeyes just overpowered them. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 246 yards (how did I forget about this) and 12 Gauge passed for 242 yards as Ohio State won 42-20. The storyline and magic of this year is purely unmatched: playing the entire postseason with the third-string quarterback, defeating the big, bad, No. 1 Crimson Tide and then taking down Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota to win it all. There hasn’t been anything like it since.

2. 2022: Georgia v Ohio State, Michigan v TCU, Winner: ?

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

I truly believe this postseason is shaping up to be one of the best playoffs yet. I know it hasn’t happened yet, but the way everything has fallen into place is intriguing.

Georgia finished its season undefeated, but has been tested a couple times against Missouri and Kentucky. Could the defending champs be taken down by the Bucks? Speaking of Ohio State, I feel like destiny is coming into play for them. The fact that Utah took down Caleb Williams’ USC AND TCU lost just to ensure the Buckeyes made the playoff makes me feel like this team simply isn’t done yet.

Michigan has been super interesting to watch this entire year, as they also finished undefeated, yet looked like they were going to lose in the first half for a decent portion of their games. However, the Wolverines looked dominant against Ohio State, so perhaps they are better than everyone thought.

OR, they could be a fraud. Maybe it wasn’t that Michigan played well, but the Buckeyes just played poorly. And if any team could expose this, I think it could be TCU. The Horned Frogs are so intriguing, and Max Duggan is a DOG. While I obviously want an Ohio State/Michigan rematch in the final, I certainly smell some upsets brewing.

3. 2017: (4) Alabama defeated (1) Clemson, then (3) Georgia

LSU v Alabama Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

This year was FILLED with big names! Starting with the playoff, Alabama’s Jalen Hurts faced off against Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and the No. 4 Tide came out on top. Watson and the Tigers didn’t even score a touchdown. Alabama won 24-6, and advanced to the title game.

As for the other playoff game, it was Jake Fromm of Georgia versus Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma. All four of these quarterbacks were great in college — it’s crazy to think that they all played in the same playoff. This Rose Bowl was a classic, as it was an offensive shootout. Georgia was down 31-17 at the half before scoring four unanswered TDs. Oklahoma took the lead, then the Bulldogs’ Nick Chubb rushed for a touchdown to tie it up 45-45 and send it into overtime.

Two field goals sent the game into double overtime, and Sony Michel (him and Chubb on the same team, OMG) scored the winning touchdown, sending Georgia to the Natty.

The Bulldogs got on top early, 13-0 at halftime. Then, Nick Saban switched from Hurts to Tua Tagovailoa and the now-Dolphins QB saved the day. Down 20-13 in the fourth quarter, Tua’s pass to Calvin Ridley tied it up, sending the game into OT. Of course, the overtime winner was to DeVonta Smith, giving the Tide the win. Man, these teams were star-studded.