ATLANTA --Through all the Big 12 smoke and fire, the College Football Playoff selection committee will see a brightly lit red exit sign when it convenes Sunday to determine its inaugural four-team field.
Err, make that a scarlet-colored exit sign.
Ohio State's 59-0 trouncing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game is the committee's escape from the Baylor-TCU controversy, if it chooses to bail out of its most controversial task: whether to keep No. 3-ranked Texas Christian in the field, or bump the Horned Frogs in favor of Baylor. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State won conference championship games to secure three of four spots in the field. The selection committee is expected to pick among Ohio State, Baylor and TCU for the final spot, although it's unclear which seed that spot will be.
Without a conference title game, the Big 12 closed its season Saturday declaring co-champions between TCU and Baylor, even though the Bears beat TCU 61-58 on Oct. 11. As such, the selection committee's decision to rank No. 3 TCU three spots ahead of the No. 6 Bears has drawn blistering criticism. A tougher schedule, which included Big Ten foe Minnesota, has been among the reasons cited for TCU's higher ranking.
Putting the Buckeyes in the playoff would spare the committee the Big 12 backlash -- but after moving TCU up to No. 3 last week, there is no indication that it's looking for an easy way out.
Here are 10 other things you need to know from the day in college football:
- If the last two weeks are telling, the best way to attack Alabama is to throw the long ball. But for the second week in a row, that tactic has proven to be a losing formula, albeit a productive one. Missouri's offense gashed the Crimson Tide with completions of 32, 63 and 47 yards to wide receiver Jimmie Hunt Saturday in a 42-13 SEC Championship Game loss to the Crimson Tide. But with no room for a running game against Alabama's stout defensive front, and the short passing game producing little more, the deep pass wasn't enough for Missouri to stay in the game. Last week, Auburn's Nick Marshall torched Alabama's secondary for 456 passing yards, including five completions of 30 yards or more. But that wasn't enough either, and the Crimson Tide's trip to the inaugural College Football Playoff has now been booked.
And speaking of books, the book on Alabama's defense will be easy for its national semifinal opponent: chuck it deep.
- OK, so it's just one game. But who can deny that Cardale Jones is college football's best No. 3 quarterback? The Ohio State reserve, behind Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett in the preseason, led a 59-0 blowout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game to put OSU within reach of a playoff spot. Jones completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. In a playoff party that will include the likes of quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, Jones could be crashing the party as the new kid.
- The triple-option offense gave Florida State all it wanted. But Jameis Winston was more than Georgia Tech could take. Florida State's Heisman-winning quarterback completed 21 of 30 passes for three touchdowns to lead the Seminoles to a 37-35 win in the ACC title game. Georgia Tech ran for 331 yards as coach Paul Johnson's option offense confounded the FSU defense. Yet it was Seminoles freshman rusher Dalvin Cook who ran best -- 177 yards on 31 carries.
- So much for Bryce Petty's concussion being a worry this week. Baylor's star senior quarterback connected on 34 of 40 passes against a solid Kansas State defense, for 412 yards, to lead the Bears to a 38-27 win over KSU. Whether that was enough to get Baylor into the CFB Playoff field is an entirely different question, but a win over the Wildcats should go a long way toward evening the strength-of-schedule argument against TCU.
- Style points, people. Texas Christian scored them. TCU's case for the playoff was made in blowout fashion against Iowa State, 55-3, highlighted by a 55-yard throwback screen to star quarterback Trevone Boykin. It could have been worse, as the Horned Frogs took a knee at the end of the game with a chance to score in the 60s. But whatever point TCU could make to the selection committee against a hapless opponent like Iowa State was made. Now, the Horned Frogs just have to wait and see if their place in the CFP rankings (No. 3) holds.
- Like track meets? The American Athletic Conference title game didn't disappoint. Cincinnati outlasted Houston 38-31 in a game that produced over 1,000 yards of total offense at Paul Brown Stadium. On Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals -- who scored just three points in their last home game against the Cleveland Browns Nov. 6 -- will hope some of that offensive mojo is still lingering as they play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- One true fourth-place team. The Big 12's "One True Champion" motto might ring a little hollow this year with Baylor and TCU sharing the title, but Oklahoma finished squarely and solely in fourth-place in the league Saturday with a 38-35 overtime loss to Oklahoma State. Superfrosh Samaje Perine ran for 151 yards and two scores on 26 carries for the Sooners, but it wasn't enough to win the annual "Bedlam" rivalry.
- Incoming SMU coach Chad Morris has a big rebuilding job ahead. But at least he'll inherit a team coming off a win. The Mustangs avoided a winless season Saturday, beating UConn 27-20 to finish 1-11.
- From a one-win team to the one-loss sort ... Marshall closed out the year with a 26-23 win over Louisiana Tech to win Conference USA as quarterback Rakeem Cato threw for 308 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Thundering Herd (12-1) missed a perfect season by the thinnest of margins: a 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky.