TUSCALOOSA -- For a second straight season, the Alabama Crimson Tide secured a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
Coming off a 29-15 win over Florida in the SEC Championship Game, the Crimson Tide (12-1) earned the No. 2 seed and a matchup with No. 3 Michigan State (12-1) in Arlington, Texas.
"We know what kind of physical, tough teams they have at Michigan State, and it will be a real challenge for our team," Tide coach Nick Saban said during his interview on ESPN.
The committee slotted Clemson (13-0) at No. 1 with Oklahoma (11-1) checking in at No. 4 for a showdown in Miami. Both games will take place on ESPN on Dec. 31.
The winners will meet in Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 11.
Alabama and Michigan State have only met once with that contest coming in the 2010 Capital One Bowl when the Crimson Tide defeated the Spartans, 49-7, to cap off a 10-3 season.
None of the current players for either side were on the team that season.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio touched on what he expects from Alabama.
"They're going to be very well coached, they're going to be disciplined," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "They're going to play with a lot of toughness."
Over the last two weeks, there was discussion about whether Alabama should jump Clemson for the top spot. But committee chairman Jeff Long said there was no debate this week.
"Clearly Clemson No. 1," Long said while on ESPN. 'Three top-10 victories on their resume now. Undefeated ACC champs. Really very little discussion. Certainly we went over it but clearly Clemson is the No. 1 team in the nation."
Clemson defeated North Carolina on Saturday to win the ACC Championship. Michigan State knocked off previously undefeated Iowa to claim the Big 10 championship. The Big 12 doesn't have a conference championship game, but the Sooners won the league.
"I'm really proud of our team," Saban said. "We lost early in the season and responded well and improved throughout the season. I know our players are excited about the opportunity that they have to play a very, very good Michigan State team that has had good wins this year over Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Iowa."
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--RB Derrick Henry has carried Alabama's offense. Henry now has 1,986 yards for his career to set the Southeastern Conference's all-time single-season mark for rushing yards. Alabama's offense isn't that hard to figure out. The question is can anyone stop Henry.
--LB Reggie Ragland is the man in the middle for Alabama. With Michigan State preferring to play a physical brand of football, Ragland should get a lot of work in this game. Ragland leads Alabama with 90 tackles.
--P JK Scott could be a secret weapon when it comes to flipping field position if Alabama's offense does struggle. Scott punted six times for a 51.2-yard average against Florida. Scott has found his rhythm in recent weeks. He is averaging 47.6 yards per punt (33 punts for 1,572 yards) over the past seven games.
--CB/PR Cyrus Jones has been a top performer in two phases of the game for Alabama. Jones has returned three punts for touchdowns, while also taking on the task of guarding the opposing team's best wide receiver. He'll have the same responsibilities in this one.
BOWL HISTORY: The Crimson Tide will be making its eighth straight New Year's bowl appearance under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide also played in the 2009 Sugar Bowl (2008 season -- 31-17 loss to Utah), the 2010 BCS National Championship Game (2009 season -- 37-21 victory over Texas), the 2011 Capital One Bowl (2010 season -- 49-7 win over Michigan State), the 2012 BCS National Championship Game (2011 season -- 21-0 victory over LSU), the 2013 BCS National Championship Game (2012 season -- 42-14 victory over Notre Dame), the 2014 Sugar Bowl (2013 season -- 45-31 loss to Oklahoma) and the 2015 Sugar Bowl (2014 season -- 42-35 loss to Ohio State).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I got to see that 22-play drive last night, and it was pretty awesome. I was rooting for the Spartans after being there for 10 years myself and rooting for my former assistant Mark. And glad they came out on top. And certainly going to be a huge challenge for us to play against a great quarterback like Connor Cook, and we're certainly looking forward to coming to Cotton Bowl." -- Alabama coach Nick Saban.