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Bowl Predictions 2015: Projections for College Football Playoff Contenders

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2015

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) breaks a tackle by Rutgers defensive back Anthony Cioffi (31) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Mel Evans/Associated Press

We're still a little over a week away from the first College Football Playoff rankings being released on November 3, but the playoff picture is already starting to take shape. 

This week's playoff projection features four undefeated teams in the playoff, with three others just on the outside in the other New Year's Six bowl games. 

While the playoff picture is relatively easy to sort out right now, we could be on the verge of chaos in college football. 

Of the four teams in the playoff in this projection, each one plays at least one more ranked opponent this season. 

New Year's Six Bowl Projections
BowlMatchupPredicted Winner
Rose BowlStanford vs. Michigan StateStanford
Fiesta BowlHouston vs. FloridaFlorida
Peach BowlMichigan vs. Notre DameNotre Dame
Sugar BowlAlabama vs. TCUAlabama
Cotton Bowl/CFP SemifinalOhio State vs. ClemsonOhio State
Orange Bowl/CFP SemifinalBaylor vs. LSUBaylor

Notable Teams

Houston Cougars

Tom Herman
Tom HermanBob Levey/Getty Images
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The top-ranked team from the "Group of Five" schools receives an automatic bid into one of the New Year's Six bowl games, and that honor will be a hotly contested battle down the stretch. 

In this projection, the edge is given to Houston, based primarily on its remaining schedule. 

Memphis is currently the highest-ranked Group of Five team, but it travels to Houston on November 14 and then to Temple the following week.

Houston, meanwhile, is in excellent position to run the table if the Cougars can defend their home turf against Memphis. 

After helping Ohio State to the national championship a season ago, first-year Houston head coach Tom Herman has his Cougars in line for a trip to one of the biggest bowl games in school history. 

Ohio State Buckeyes

J.T. Barrett
J.T. BarrettJim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

With J.T. Barrett back as the starter, Ohio State returned to dominance against Rutgers and began to regain its stranglehold on the No. 1 spot. 

Much has been made of Ohio State's weak schedule, but the rise of Michigan gives the Buckeyes two quality opponents to close out their season. 

It's been a safe assumption since the beginning that an undefeated Ohio State squad would be given an opportunity to defend its title, but the Buckeyes' No. 1 spot was far from a guarantee given their presumed strength of schedule. 

If the Buckeyes knock off Michigan and Michigan State, however, they will likely have the resume to match the perception that they're the most talented team in the country. 

LSU Tigers

Brandon Harris
Brandon HarrisJonathan Bachman/Associated Press/Associated Press

LSU enters its bye week with a perfect 7-0 mark, and it now has an extra week to prepare for Alabama. 

As the only undefeated team in the SEC, LSU controls its own destiny for a conference title and a trip to the College Football Playoff.

The Tigers have lost four straight against Alabama, so a victory in Tuscaloosa is no easy task. But as Alabama struggles with inconsistent play, LSU just keeps getting stronger. 

Leonard Fournette's dominance has been well-documented this season, but Brandon Harris' play at quarterback has been improving as LSU becomes a more well-rounded team. 

According to CFB Film Room, Harris has completed over 50 percent of his passes beyond 10 yards down the field in his last two SEC contests, a dramatic improvement over his early-season performance: 

If the last two weeks is the real Brandon Harris, LSU might run away with the SEC.. pic.twitter.com/4nos2FBcpK

— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 23, 2015

A well-rounded LSU squad should be considered the SEC favorite at this point in the season. 

Clemson Tigers

Deshaun Watson
Deshaun WatsonSteve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Did any team make a bigger statement in Week 8 than Clemson?

Miami is a sinking ship, and Al Golden may not survive the season, but Clemson handing the once-proud Hurricanes the worst loss in school history is still an accomplishment. SportsCenter noted the history: 

Before today, Miami's worst loss was by 56 points vs Texas A&M in 1944.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 24, 2015

Head coach Dabo Sweeney has his squad playing well on both sides of the ball, with Shaq Lawson leading the defense and Heisman Trophy contender Deshaun Watson carrying the Tigers on offense. 

Thanks to Florida State's loss to Georgia Tech, Clemson is now the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC.

If Syracuse loses to Florida State next week, Clemson can wrap up the ACC Atlantic Division by defeating the Seminoles on November 7—with two ACC games still left on the schedule. 

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