Bowl Predictions 2018: Projections for Top Playoff Contenders Before Week 7

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistOctober 13, 2018

Notre Dame running back Dexter Williams, left, celebrates a touchdown with offensive lineman Robert Hainsey (72) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Notre Dame won 45-23. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Steve Helber/Associated Press

As the college football season enters Week 7, eight teams are already bowl eligible, including the top five teams in the AP Top 25. 

Over a dozen programs can join that group with victories Saturday, as three teams from the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 all have five regular-season victories. 

At the moment, the College Football Playoff picture is straightforward, as the SEC, Big Ten and ACC champions have a seat at the table and Notre Dame is on track to join them. 

There will be plenty of changes to playoff projections in the coming weeks, but a pair of teams appear to be in good shape, while others face a more difficult path.


Bowl Projections 

College Football Playoff

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

Orange Bowl (December 29): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Notre Dame


New Years' Six

Peach Bowl (December 29): UCF vs. Oregon

Fiesta Bowl (January 1): Texas vs. Wisconsin

Rose Bowl (January 1): Penn State vs. Washington

Sugar Bowl (January 1): West Virginia vs. Georgia 


Other Bowls

New Mexico Bowl (December 15): New Mexico vs. Florida Atlantic

Cure Bowl (December 15): Army vs. Arkansas State

Las Vegas Bowl (December 15): San Diego State vs. Utah

Camellia Bowl (December 15): Toledo vs. Georgia Southern 

New Orleans Bowl (December 15): UTSA vs. Western Michigan

Boca Raton Bowl (December 18): Temple vs. Marshall

Frisco Bowl (December 19): Houston vs. BYU

Gasparilla Bowl (December 20): Memphis vs. UAB 

Bahamas Bowl (December 21): Ohio vs. Florida International

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

Birmingham Bowl (December 22): South Florida vs. Vanderbilt

Armed Forces Bowl (December 22): Navy vs. Baylor

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

Hawai'i Bowl (December 22): Hawai'i vs. Middle Tennessee State

First Responder Bowl (December 26): Indiana vs. Wake Forest

Quick Lane Bowl (December 26): Virginia vs. Illinois

Cheez-It Bowl (December 26): Texas Tech vs. USC 

Independence Bowl (December 27): Florida State vs. South Carolina

Pinstripe Bowl (December 27): Northwestern vs. Pittsburgh

Texas Bowl (December 27): TCU vs. Missouri

Music City Bowl (December 28): Syracuse vs. Mississippi State

Camping World Bowl (December 28): Boston College vs. Iowa State

Arizona Bowl (December 28): Utah State vs. Troy

Alamo Bowl (December 28): Oklahoma vs. California

Belk Bowl (December 29): Miami vs. Texas A&M 

Military Bowl (December 31): Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati 

Sun Bowl (December 31): Colorado vs. NC State

San Francisco Bowl (December 31): Fresno State vs. Washington State

Liberty Bowl (December 31): Oklahoma State vs. Auburn 

Holiday Bowl (December 31): Stanford vs. Maryland

Gator Bowl (December 31): Michigan State vs. LSU 

Outback Bowl (January 1): Kentucky vs. Iowa

Citrus Bowl (January 1): Florida vs. Michigan 


Playoff Path Is Clear For Ohio State, Notre Dame 

Of the teams in contention for places in the College Football Playoff entering Week 7, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 5 Notre Dame are in the best shape. 

The Buckeyes passed their main test on the road against No. 8 Penn State and don't face another ranked foe until No. 12 Michigan in the final week of the regular season. 

Ohio State's schedule got easier because of the struggles experienced by Michigan State and Nebraska failing to gain traction in Scott Frost's first year as head coach. 

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 6:  Mike Weber #25 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs with the ball against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Three wins over ranked foes plus a Big Ten Championship victory over No. 15 Wisconsin would be plenty to bolster Ohio State's resume and put them in the playoff. 

Notre Dame is in a similar situation, as it knocked off Michigan to start the season and then rolled past Stanford and Virginia Tech in the last two weeks. 

The only concern about the Fighting Irish's resume is Stanford and Virginia Tech are both out of the Top 25 at the moment. 

Although the wins over ranked foes still count because the Cardinal and Hokies were in the polls at the time, their results for the rest of the season will skew Notre Dame's strength of schedule. 

Syracuse looks like the most difficult team left on Notre Dame's schedule since Florida State and USC are down, which means the Fighting Irish might have to blow out a few teams just to reinforce their spot among the top four teams in the nation. 

If Ohio State and Notre Dame win out, they'll be on a collision course to play each other unless No. 1 Alabama slips up somewhere. 


Plenty Left To Figure Out in SEC 

The SEC is the conference most likely to receive two berths into the College Football Playoff.

No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia would play each other in the SEC Championship if current form holds, and that would be the ideal situation for the league. 

Michael Woods/Associated Press

Beneath the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs, No. 13 LSU and No. 14 Florida could make compelling cases to the selection committee if they beat the top teams in the conference. 

LSU has the opportunity to earn regular-season wins over Alabama and Georgia, while Florida could beat Georgia to earn a spot in the SEC Championship alongside Alabama.

Even though LSU and Florida would be worthy of entering the playoff as SEC champion, the better scenario to get two teams in features Alabama and Georgia given how well both teams have played. 

There's always a chance that a one-loss Alabama or Georgia makes the playoff due to the strength of the SEC and the down years of the Big 12 and Pac-12.

There's plenty left to play for, but if Alabama and Georgia are both undefeated heading into the SEC Championship, one of them could knock out Clemson or Notre Dame, but as of now, we're sticking with the Crimson Tide to represent the SEC because of Georgia's difficult schedule over the next month. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90


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