The College Football Playoff Committee revealed its final rankings, including the four-team championship field, on Sunday, and the state of Texas will be represented for the second consecutive year.
The Texas Longhorns were awarded the No.3 seed in this year’s College Football Playoff after finishing the season 12-1 and dismantling Oklahoma State 49-21 in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday.
“What a great accomplishment for this team,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said as he addressed the media after the committee announced the playoff field. “I’m happy for those kids. Now, kind of the cherry on top is an opportunity to compete for a national championship. I think our guys earned it. They’ve had a great season, and I think we’re playing our best football right now at the right time.”
After dominantly winning the conference championship, many began calling for the Longhorns’ inclusion in the College Football Playoff, but the team had entered the day needing some help. Once Alabama knocked off No.1 Georgia in the SEC Championship, the path became more evident, and Texas seemed almost guaranteed to have a spot in the field.
“We were focused on the win,” quarterback Quinn Ewers told the media on Sunday. “But at the same time, we realized and understood that if we went out there and played like we did yesterday, it would be a very hard decision for [the committee] not to put us in.”
Texas joins Michigan, Washington, and Alabama in the playoff and will play No.2 Washington in a national semifinal game in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. It is the second consecutive year that the Longhorns will face the Huskies in the postseason after losing 27-20 in last year’s Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
Of course, there is an added layer to the matchup with Washington, as Sarkisian served as the Huskies’ head coach from 2009 to 2013.
“Washington still holds a special place to me,” Sarkisian told ESPN. “I got my first head coaching opportunity there and had five tremendous years trying to rebuild that program. What coach DeBoer’s been able to do and what they’ve been able to do over the last couple of seasons has really been a tremendous run.”
The Longhorns are just two years removed from a 5-7 season in which they failed to qualify for a bowl game but have now won their first conference title since 2009 and will make their first-ever playoff appearance since college football adopted the four-team system 10 years ago.
“I think in the back of our heads, we always knew that if we won the Big 12 Championship, other accolades would come with it,” Ewers said. “Our bullseye is now on a national championship for sure.”
Texas and Washington will be the second semifinal game and will play at 7:45 p.m. CT on Monday, January 1. The winner will advance to the National Championship Game against either No.1 Michigan or No.4 Alabama on January 8 in Houston.
It is the final four-team playoff as the field is set to expand to 12 teams next season.