Bowl Projections 2022: CFP Predictions Ahead of Saturday's Key Games
With Thanksgiving weekend comes Rivalry Week in college football, and this year's slate promises to have a huge impact on the College Football Playoff race and the looming bowl schedule.
The big game features second-ranked Ohio State and third-ranked Michigan in their annual grudge match. This one is likely to eliminate one Big Ten team from playoff contention, while the other will head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.
USC and Notre Dame will also be an interesting matchup, as the fifth-ranked Trojans still have a shot at sneaking into the playoff. The Georgia and Georgia Tech matchup isn't as spicy as it was a year ago—the Yellow Jackets are a disappointing 5-6—but the Bulldogs will need to avoid the upset to maintain their No. 1 ranking.
Below, you'll find our projections for this year's playoff, along with picks for the top bowl games based on expected results for this week and the rest of the season.
Bowl Game Predictions
Peach Bowl (December 31): No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 USC
Fiesta Bowl (December 31): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 TCU
New Years' Six Bowls
Rose Bowl (January 2): Michigan vs. Oregon
Cotton Bowl (January 2): Penn State vs. Coastal Carolina
Sugar Bowl (December 31): LSU vs. Kansas State
Orange Bowl (December 30): Clemson vs. Alabama
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State
This game has the potential to rock the College Football Playoff, especially if the Wolverines emerge victoriously.
Ohio State has played a tough schedule—including games against Notre Dame and Penn State—and could conceivably get in as a one-loss team. Selling a one-loss Michigan team could be a little tougher, especially after the Wolverines narrowly escaped Illinois last week.
Michigan is stout in the trenches and could give Ohio State problems on Saturday. The defense can get after quarterback C.J. Stroud, while dual-threat signal-caller J.J. McCarthy could give the Buckeyes fits if he has protection up front.
The deciding factor in this game could be the health of Michigan running back Blake Corum. The Heisman candidate suffered a knee injury last week. While he did return against Illinois and appears poised to play this week, he may not be at 100 percent.
"My knee is good," Corum said, per Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News. "I’ll be fine. I’ll be back."
It won't be a total shock to see Michigan win The Game in back-to-back years, but the prediction here is that the Wolverines can't quite ride Corum to victory. Ohio State escapes with a close win and sends Michigan to the Rose Bowl.
No. 13 Notre Dame at No. 5 USC
It's been a remarkable turnaround season for the Trojans, who are 10-1 after going just 4-8 a season ago. The hiring of head coach Lincoln Riley has paid immediate dividends, but he isn't the only reason for USC's success.
Quarterback Caleb Williams has been spectacular this season and may have positioned himself for a run at the Heisman Trophy. He has thrown for 3,480 yards with 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He's also run for 316 yards and seven touchdowns.
If USC can survive Notre Dame and claim the Pac-12 title, it will have a legitimate case for making the College Football Playoff as a one-loss team.
Getting past Notre Dame won't be easy, though. Following a rough 0-2 start to the season, the Squad from South Bend has rebounded nicely with wins over ranked Syracuse and then-No. 4 Clemson.
With one of college football's better defenses (20.3 points per game allowed), Notre Dame will challenge Williams and the Trojans offense like few opponents have this season. The prediction here, though, is that Williams makes a statement with another big day.
Expect Williams to fully capitalize on his dual-threat ability in this one, finishing with a clutch performance that boosts both the Trojans' playoff hopes and his Heisman candidacy.
Iowa State at No. 4 TCU
Georgia may need a dominant win over Georgie Tech to maintain the No. 1 spot over an undefeated Ohio State squad. However, Texas Christian may have even more at stake in its game against Iowa State.
The Horned Frogs remain undefeated and have beaten ranked opponents in Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas. TCU is also set to play in the Big 12 Championship Game on December 3.
It's vital that TCU enters that game with an unblemished record, however. The Frogs have already beaten Texas and Kansas State and should stand a good chance at ousting whichever opponent is on the docket for the title game. However, a one-loss TCU squad could be harder to put in the playoffs over teams like Michigan, Clemson and LSU.
TCU narrowly defeated Baylor last week and needed some late-game heroics from star quarterback Max Duggan to do it. The unlikely 2022 standout impressively willed the Horned Frogs to victory without many of his top weapons. Derius Davis wasn't active because of a hand injury, while wideout Quentin Johnston and running back Kendre Miller left with injuries during the game.
Roster health could be a huge factor in this one, but the prediction is that Duggan does it again. The Frogs get past the 4-7 Cyclones to keep their playoff bid intact.