John Bazemore, Associated Press
Alabama linebacker Anfernee Jennings (33) celebrates after the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Alabama and Florida, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Atlanta. Alabama won 29-15.

The second piece of the College Football Playoff puzzle is in place: No. 2 Alabama is in.

If you are looking for a little selection committee chaos on Saturday night, North Carolina is your last hope.

The Crimson Tide (12-1, No. 2 CFP) locked up a spot in the playoff for the second straight season by cruising past Florida 29-15 in the Southeastern Conference title game. Only two more spots to fill and only one more opportunity to mess up what could be an easy night for the selection committee.

If the Tar Heels (11-1, No. 10 CFP) can upset No. 1 Clemson (12-0, No. 1 CFP) in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, the committee might have to order up a few extra pots of coffee.

Chairman Jeff Long and his 11-member panel are gathered inside a resort hotel in North Texas, watching championship Saturday play out. The final rankings come out Sunday, a little after noon.

Unofficially, one spot was decided earlier in the week. Big 12 champion Oklahoma (11-1, No. 3 CFP) is safely in the field.

The winner of the Big Ten championship game between Michigan State (11-1, No. 5 CFP) and Iowa (12-0, No. 4 CFP) later Saturday will be in.

That left only two chances for a shakeup that could create an opportunity for Stanford and maybe Ohio State to snag a spot. Alabama wasn't having any of that. Florida had no chance against the Tide's smothering defense and tailback Derrick Henry very well could have wrapped up a Heisman Trophy with 189 yards on 44 carries and a touchdown. Next stop for Nick Saban's Tide is likely North Texas for a semifinal at the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31.

So it's up to Clemson and North Carolina to provide some suspense on Sunday. If Clemson wins, it's easy: The Tigers are in, probably as the No. 1 team heading to the Orange Bowl to face whichever team lands at No. 4 on Dec. 31.

A victory by the Tar Heels will make the committee choose between North Carolina, with a conference title and a victory against No. 1, Ohio State, sitting at sixth and hoping for a reprieve, and maybe Stanford (10-2, No. 7 CFP).

The Cardinal (10-2, No. 7 CFP) also still have work to do. Stanford was playing Southern California for the Pac-12 championship Saturday night.


Houston won the first American Athletic Conference championship game, beating Temple 24-13 at home to all but lock up the spot in the New Year's Six bowls that goes to the highest-ranked champion from outside the Power Five conferences.

The Cougars are headed for either the Peach Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl, depending on how some of the other championship games play out.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at