NEW ORLEANS — The College Football Playoff proved its worth on its very first try.

Neither Oregon nor Ohio State would have had a prayer at the national title under the Bowl Championship Series, snubbed in favor of SEC champion Alabama and an undefeated Florida State. Now the Ducks and Buckeyes will face each other Jan. 12 for the inaugural playoff championship, and all but the most disgruntled TCU fan has to admit after Thursday’s games that both Oregon and Ohio State are worthy of the opportunity.

The Seminoles were the defending national champs, proud owners of a 29-game winning streak that dated back to Nov. 24, 2012. And Oregon eviscerated them like a non-conference patsy in a 59-20 drubbing at the Rose Bowl that wasn’t even as close as the score indicated.

It took the Ducks all of seven minutes late in the end of the third quarter to bury the Seminoles. Florida State couldn’t keep up with Marcus Mariota and Oregon’s lightning-fast offense, which marched 81 yards in five plays for one score and 43 yards in two plays for another.

The Ducks defense, meanwhile, managed the unthinkable, making Jameis Winston look almost sympathetic after Tony Washington returned his mindless fumble for a TD that sealed the game.

It seemed as if another rout was on at the Sugar Bowl when Alabama took a 21-6 lead midway through the second quarter. But the Buckeyes stunned Alabama with 28 unanswered points — behind its third-string quarterback, no less — and finished off the upset with a 42-35 victory.

That vaunted Tide defense was powerless as Cardale Jones rumbled 27 yards into the red zone through a gap as wide as an interstate. Two plays later, the Buckeyes stunned Alabama on a trick play, with Evan Spencer finding Michael Thomas in the end zone to pull within 1.

On the next drive, Jones connected with Devin Smith on a 47-yard score to give the Buckeyes a 27-21 lead, their first since a field goal on their opening series.

And that Ohio State defense that wasn’t supposed to be able to hang with the SEC speed? Defensive Steve Miller had an answer for that, sprinting 41 yards for a TD after picking off Blake Sims.

If Oregon and Ohio State can put on half the shows they did Thursday, this first title game is going to be all kinds of fun. That, remember, is why we wanted a playoff in the first place.

Despite its goal of matching the two best teams in the title game, the BCS routinely managed to suck the fun out of college football.

One year of debate about who the rightful national champion was would have been too much, and it didn’t just happen once. USC, Auburn, Boise State — someone was always howling about being left out or overlooked, often with good reason. Even when the result wound up being right, the process was needlessly messy and irritating when it should have been quite simple.

If you want to claim to be the best, prove it on the field.

The playoff structure isn’t perfect, and it will surely be tweaked in the years to come. But the two best teams will be playing for the national title come Jan. 12, and you can’t argue with that.

PHOTOS: All the action from the Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Ohio State

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