Bowl Projections 2018: CFP Predictions, Postseason Outlook Heading into Week 12

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2018

Despite difficulties with his knee, Tua Tagovailoa is expected to play against The Citadel.
Despite difficulties with his knee, Tua Tagovailoa is expected to play against The Citadel.Butch Dill/Associated Press

Alabama has been the best team in the nation by a wide margin since the start of the college football season.

However, if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has problems with his knee, just how much better is the Crimson Tide than teams like Clemson, Notre Dame and Michigan?

It has been widely assumed that even if Alabama were to lose one of its final two regular-season games or the SEC title game to Georgia, Nick Saban and Co. would still get a chance to compete in the College Football Playoffs.

However, if that team does not have Tagovailoa taking shotgun snaps, is that still the case? That may not be a sure thing.

Tagovailoa hurt his knee earlier in the season and came out of last week's game against Mississippi State and did not play in the fourth quarter. However, Saban said he would play this week against The Citadel.

It would appear that Alabama can beat its opponent with ease and that Tagovailoa could sit out, but that's not how Saban wants to play it. 

"Why would we do that?" Saban said, per Matt Zenitz of Al.com. "To say that this is not an important game or he doesn't need to play? I think we need to do a better job of the people playing around him doing what they're supposed to do so he doesn't get hit."

Here is the latest College Football Playoff rankings:

CFP Rankings

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan

5. Georgia
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Washington State
9. West Virginia
10. Ohio State
11. UCF
12. Syracuse
13. Florida
14. Penn State
15. Texas
16. Iowa State
17. Kentucky
18. Washington
19. Utah
20. Boston College
21. Mississippi State
22. Northwestern
23. Utah State
24. Cincinnati
25. Boise State

Syracuse Football @CuseFootball

We defended the Dome. Now we have to defend our state. ‘Cuse vs. Notre Dame. Saturday at Yankee Stadium https://t.co/x9rcjENgIL

Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Michigan are in the Top Four spots, and it looks like Alabama and Clemson should win out in the regular season.

Notre Dame gets a challenge this week when it plays No. 12 Syracuse at Yankee Stadium, and while the Irish are 9.5-point favorites, per OddsShark, the Orange are an explosive team. This could be Notre Dame's most challenging game of the season.

Michigan is at home this week against Indiana, but the Wolverines close the regular season against archrival Ohio State at the Horseshoe Nov. 24.

While Michigan has improved steadily since its season-opening loss to Notre Dame and Ohio State has had several difficult games, the Wolverines will have to be at their best if they are going to get the best of the Buckeyes.

Ohio State has won six in a row in the series and 13 of the last 14 meetings.

Michigan Football @UMichFootball

Michigan remains in the 4️⃣ spot in the @CFBPlayoff rankings. #GoBlue 〽️ https://t.co/vq3HIwVPZm

If Michigan beats Ohio State and Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC title game, the current teams in the Top Four of the CFP rankings should remain there. However, if Georgia upsets Alabama in that game, the Bulldogs would almost certainly be in the playoffs and Michigan could be out.

Here's how we see the College Football Playoff at this point:

Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan

Orange Bowl, Dec. 29: No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame    

Here's how the other New Year's Six bowl games likely play out:

Peach Bowl, Dec. 29: No. 13 Florida vs. No. 11 UCF

Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1: No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 9 West Virginia

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: No. 8 Washington State vs. No. 10 Ohio State

Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1: No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 LSU

In addition to Georgia, there is also a chance for Oklahoma, Washington State, West Virginia and Ohio State to get into the playoffs. The Sooners would appear to have the best chance. They would need the Crimson Tide to beat Georgia and for either Ohio State to beat Michigan or Notre Dame to lose to Syracuse or USC in the regular-season finale.