Bowl Projections 2018: Predictions, Updated College Football Playoff Outlook

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistOctober 2, 2018

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 29:  Najee Harris #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes against the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The first College Football Playoff rankings arrive at the end of October. 

Between now and the end of the month, the majority of the playoff hopefuls will have their championship credentials tested by programs beneath them in the rankings hungry to take their spots. 

Defending national champion Alabama holds the top spot in the AP Top 25 entering Week 6, while Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson follow in that order. 

Beneath the top four teams in the polls, a quartet of programs are lining up their respective paths to the playoff, some of which involve defeating one or more of the top four teams. 

The top seven teams in the nation will be bowl eligible with one more victory, as will three other teams who aren't chasing playoff glory at the moment. 

      

Bowl Projections

College Football Playoff

Cotton (December 29): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Clemson

Orange (December 29): No. 2 Georgia vs. No. 3 Ohio State

    

New Year's Six 

Rose (January 1): Penn State vs. Washington

Sugar (January 1): LSU vs. Oklahoma

Fiesta (January 1): Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin

Peach (December 29): West Virginia vs. UCF 

    

Other Bowl Projections

New Mexico (December 15): New Mexico vs. Southern Miss

Cure (December 15): Tulane vs. Georgia State

Las Vegas (December 15): Utah State vs. Washington State

Camellia (December 15): Georgia Southern vs. Toledo

New Orleans (December 15): Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State

Boca Raton (December 18): Florida International vs. SMU 

Frisco (December 19): Houston vs. Western Michigan

Gasparilla (December 20): Cincinnati vs. UAB 

Bahamas (December 21): Louisiana Tech vs. Ohio

Idaho Potato (December 21): Boise State vs. Northern Illinois

Birmingham (December 22): South Florida vs. Tennessee 

Armed Forces (December 22): Army vs. San Diego State

Dollar General (December 22): Buffalo vs. Appalachian State

Hawai'i Bowl (December 22): Hawai'i vs. Marshall

First Responder (December 26): Florida Atlantic vs. Virginia

Quick Lane (December 26): Indiana vs. Duke

Cheez-It (December 26): Kansas State vs. Cal 

Independence (December 27): Minnesota vs. Ole Miss

Pinstripe (December 27): Wake Forest vs. Maryland

Texas (December 27): Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M

Music City (December 28): Florida State vs. Missouri 

Camping World (December 28): Syracuse vs. TCU 

Alamo (December 28): Oklahoma State vs. Arizona State

Belk (December 29): Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State

Arizona (December 29): Troy vs. Nevada

Military (December 31): Boston College vs. Navy

Sun (December 31): USC vs. NC State

Redbox (December 31): Colorado vs. Northwestern 

Holiday (December 31): Iowa vs. Oregon

Liberty (December 31): Texas vs. Mississippi State

TaxSlayer (December 31): Miami vs. Florida

Outback (January 1): Michigan State vs. Auburn

Citrus (January 1): Michigan vs. Kentucky 

       

CFB Playoff Outlook

A legitimate argument can be made for four SEC teams to occupy each of the playoff positions if the rankings came out today. 

Alabama is the unquestioned No. 1 overall team, and it doesn't look like the Crimson Tide will be slowing down anytime soon. 

With Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee ahead on the schedule in October, Alabama should move into November undefeated.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 29:  Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to pass against the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

November is when the sorting out of the SEC will occur, as the Crimson Tide play both No. 5 LSU and No. 8 Auburn, and if they win both of those games, a clash with No. 2 Georgia likely awaits in the SEC Championship.

A trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the last thing on the minds of the Georgia Bulldogs, as they face four ranked opponents in the next five weeks. 

The October 13 clash with LSU could serve as an elimination game for playoff contention, while back-to-back clashes with No. 13 Kentucky and No. 22 Florida will be for SEC East supremacy.

If the Bulldogs survive all of those games, Auburn awaits November 10 at Sanford Stadium in yet another playoff elimination game.

If Georgia wins all four of those games, it'll have a case to qualify for the playoff even with a defeat in the SEC Championship.

LSU and Auburn are waiting in the wings to represent the SEC if Alabama and Georgia slip up, and each program has the opportunity to beat the top two teams in the nation and rise in the rankings. 

No. 3 Ohio State's path to the playoff got much clearer following Saturday's win over No. 11 Penn State. 

Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

The victory combined with No. 4 Clemson's close win over Syracuse pushed the Buckeyes above the Tigers into a bit of security at the No. 3 spot in the AP Top 25. 

Much like Alabama, Ohio State's toughest tests come in November in the form of No. 20 Michigan State and No. 15 Michigan. 

Victories in both games would secure the Buckeyes' spot in the Big Ten Championship, with No. 16 Wisconsin the likely foe in that contest. 

Six wins over ranked opponents should be enough for the Buckeyes to advance to the playoff as the Big Ten champions. 

The fight for the fourth playoff position will get contentious between Clemson, LSU, No. 6 Notre Dame, No. 7 Oklahoma and Auburn.

Despite stumbling into a win over Syracuse, Clemson is still undefeated and that's really all that matters. 

The one factor that will hurt the Tigers is the down year in the ACC, as only one of the conference foes on their schedule is ranked. 

If the decision comes down to Clemson, Notre Dame or Oklahoma, the Tigers might not have the resume in December to hold on to the No. 4 spot, but for now, they haven't done anything to lose it. 

Notre Dame needs a third win over a ranked opponent Saturday at Virginia Tech in order to strengthen its resume with a weak schedule for the final six games of the campaign. 

If Oklahoma runs the table, it'll have three quality wins over TCU, West Virginia and Oklahoma State, but there's no guarantee that would be enough for the Sooners compared to consistent Clemson and the national brand of Notre Dame. 

       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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