NFL Draft Kyler Murray Football (copy)

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2018, file photo, former Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray (1) carries the ball in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida Atlantic, in Norman, Okla. This year, LSU will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the College Football Playoffs.

As luck would have it last Sunday, I had just checked out of the Atlanta hotel and was on the way out when I noticed a fair-sized gaggle of LSU fans clustered around some TVs in the lobby bar.

My first thought was how well the hotel staff had already tidied up the place from the raucous SEC championship celebration of the night before, probably involving some of those same fans.

But, oh yeah.

Must be the selection show, the College Football Playoffs.

Just as I sidled up to the crowd, a huge cheer went up, complete with lots of hugging and kissing and L-S-You-ing!

Up on the screen they were showing the logo of The Ohio State University.

I played dumb, which, granted, really wasn't much of a stretch.

Why are you people so excited to see Ohio State's name up there? You're obviously LSU fans.

Because they're No. 2 … and they're fixing to show the Tigers as No. 1.

Sure enough, she was right. Apparently that made it a foregone conclusion that LSU would be No. 1 and the Tigers popped up there directly, somewhat of an anticlimax, eliciting only a few leftover fist bumps.

But does being No. 1 really matter?

It does this year. That's what they all say anyway.

I thought it was only important to be one of the four, to just get in?

Most years. Not this year. It's the Clemson factor.

LSU and Ohio State were both stumping like crazy for that No. 1 spot because No. 3 was reserved for Clemson and there's this nagging suspicion that Clemson, the defending champion, might really be the best team in the country this year too.

As you may be aware, the way the math works out, the No. 2 seed has to play the No. 3 seed in the semifinals.

And nobody seemed to want that fate. I'm not sure playing No. 4 Oklahoma is any bargain, but, anyway, it's advertised as the lesser of two evils.

If not for that No. 1 carrot on a stick, LSU might as well not have shown up in Atlanta since the Tigers could have lost to Georgia and still made the final four. Instead, there was enough incentive in the fine print that they put together one of their best games of the season, sort of "making a statement" as they say, mainly about being a "complete team."

Ohio State had kind of the same deal, and the Buckeyes didn't really show up until the second half against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, which may have cost them.

It does bring to mind that, if the Clemson Fear Factor was the narrative here, how come Clemson wasn't the No. 1 seed? OK, other than clear and present evidence that those Tigers haven't played anybody all season.

It was also pointed out that being the No. 1 seed gave LSU first dibs on the playing site, either Atlanta or the Phoenix area. So it takes the Tigers (and fans) back to Atlanta, an easier trek to a stadium the Tigers obviously took a liking to.

At any rate, the hotel lobby seemed pretty pleased.

And I didn't have the heart to drop the dumb act and tell them to be careful what they wished for.

Upon further review, as good of a deal as it sounds like, it turns out that LSU will have to overcome the No. 1 seeding if the Tigers are to win their fourth national championship, the third of this young century.

If being the No. 1 seed is so important — this year or any year — then explain to me why the No. 1 seed has never emerged as the national champion.

Granted, it's early in the process. This is only the sixth year of this playoff format, and we can all thank LSU for at least beating Georgia.

If not, there would have been no choice but to put two SEC teams in the playoffs again, which would have enraged the rest of the country and nudged college football closer to expanding the format in the quest to turn it into the NFL, except with marching bands and better game officials.

Sorry for getting off topic.

But it is true that in its brief history the No. 1 seed has never won the thing.

The No. 1 seed is 3-2 in the semifinal games and 0-3 in the championship games.

The garden spot is No. 2, where teams are 4-1 in semifinals and 3-1 in championship games.

No. 3 ­— looking at you, Clemson — has also never won it all, and is 1-4 in the semis.

No. 4 is 2-3 in semis, but has won both times it made the championship.

That's all the more amazing because either Alabama or Clemson has been the No. 1 seed all five years, and those two have combined to win the last four championships (Ohio State won the first as a four seed).

So while Bama and Clemson have tossed the title back and forth the last four years, it was (curse of?) the No. 1 seed that lost each time.

For that matter, even in the old BCS days, which picked only the final two, LSU won both of its national titles (2003 and 2007) as the No. 2 seed. Saddled with the No. 1 seed, it lost to No. 2 Alabama.

Again. It's a small sample size. Probably nothing to worry about.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at

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