The Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks are headed back to the Rose Bowl for the third time in six seasons, to face defending national champion Florida State on Jan. 1 in one semifinal game of the inaugural College Football Playoff.
The playoff's selection committee gave Oregon a No. 2 seed into the semifinals, and the Seminoles are No. 3. Top-seeded Alabama was given the right to play closer to home at the other semifinal venue, the Sugar Bowl, where the Crimson Tide will take on No. 4 Ohio State.
"Obviously the inaugural year of the College Football Playoff is exciting for our team and our fans, and it's that much more exciting to be at the Rose Bowl," UO coach Mark Helfrich said.
The Ducks (12-1) clinched their fourth conference title in six years with a 51-13 victory over Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game Friday. Oregon's only loss was to those same Wildcats on Oct. 2, but the Ducks won eight straight from that point on thanks to improved health on the offensive line, a renewed intensity on defense and the brilliance of Heisman Trophy contender Marcus Mariota, among other factors.
"We're a very fast team ourselves, but they do it at such a high level, and with their efficiency, it's off the charts," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "They're unbelievably explosive at what they do. ...
"Both teams will have the same opportunity to learn each other's tendencies, and it's a chance for both coaches to put in things that break your tendencies."
Florida State (13-0) beat Georgia Tech, 37-35, on Saturday to win its third straight ACC championship. The Seminoles, who beat Auburn in the final BCS championship game last season, are riding a 29-game winning streak. They last lost Nov. 24, 2012, to Florida.
Helfrich said the impressiveness of Florida State's 29-game winning streak "will certainly get our guys to sit up straight in the meetings."
Despite that run of success, Florida State slipped to No. 3 in the selection committee's rankings after a series of close games this season that continued against Georgia Tech. Seven of the Seminoles' 13 victories this season were by six points or less.
"To be able to come back and win that many times in a row is absolutely the sign of a winning program, the sign of a bunch of winners, the sign of a quarterback that's obviously been extremely productive," Helfrich said. "Resilient is a great word."
Florida State is led by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who is 276-of-422 for 3,559 yards and 24 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions. Receiver Rashad Greene has 93 receptions for 1,306 yards and seven touchdowns, and is also a talented punt returner. Linebacker Reggie Northrup leads the FSU defense with 113 tackles.
The Ducks were Rose Bowl champions after the 2011 season, and lost to the Buckeyes there after the 2009 season. Oregon beat UCLA 42-30 in the Rose Bowl during the 2014 regular season.
Because this year's Rose Bowl — scheduled to kickoff around 2 p.m. PT on ESPN — is a College Football Playoff semifinal, participating teams' ticket allotments are smaller than usual. Oregon has 12,000 tickets available for sale, rather than the typical 30,000 or more.
Duck Athletic Fund donors and football season-ticket holders have until Monday at 5 p.m. PT to request bowl tickets. If tickets are available once those requests are filled, they will go on sale later in the week. The general public is encouraged to sign up for DUCKMAIL to receive the most up-to-date information.
—By Rob Moseley, GoDucks.com