Bowl Predictions 2018: Projections for College Football Playoff

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 25, 2018

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, left, avoids Southern California linebacker Jordan Iosefa during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

After the final full Saturday schedule in college football, 81 teams are eligible to play in bowl games.

However, not all of the programs that reached the six-win mark will play in the postseason since there are 78 bowl berths available.

Nothing will be finalized until next Sunday, but teams are starting to fall into place for certain bowls based on where certain programs finished and which teams clinched bowl eligibility Saturday.

At the top of the college football mountain are the four teams set for the College Football Playoff, but who joins Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame is up for debate after Week 13.

Oklahoma and Ohio State both have legitimate claims to get into the playoff as the No. 4 seed, but Georgia can't be counted out either, as a win by the Bulldogs over Alabama in the SEC Championship would trigger the ultimate chaos scenario.


Bowl Projections

College Football Playoff

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

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


New Year's Six

Peach Bowl (December 29): Michigan vs. Florida

Fiesta Bowl (January 1): UCF vs. Washington State

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

Sugar Bowl (January 1): Texas vs. Georgia


Other Bowls

New Mexico Bowl (December 15): Fresno State vs. North Texas

Cure Bowl (December 15): Tulane vs. Georgia Southern

Las Vegas Bowl (December 15): Boise State vs. Arizona State

Camellia Bowl (December 15): Western Michigan vs. Louisiana

New Orleans Bowl (December 15): Marshall vs. Appalachian State

Boca Raton Bowl (December 18): South Florida vs. Florida International

Frisco Bowl (December 19): Toledo vs. Southern Miss

Gasparilla Bowl (December 20): Memphis vs. UAB

Bahamas Bowl (December 21): Eastern Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee State

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (December 21): Utah State vs. Ohio

Birmingham Bowl (December 22): Cincinnati vs. BYU

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

Dollar General Bowl (December 22): Buffalo vs. Troy

Hawaii Bowl (December 22): Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech

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

Quick Lane Bowl (December 26): Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech

Cheez-It Bowl (December 26): Nevada vs. Northern Illinois

Independence Bowl (December 27): Miami vs. Missouri

Pinstripe Bowl (December 27): Purdue vs. Duke

Texas Bowl (December 27): TCU vs. Vanderbilt

Music City Bowl (December 28): NC State vs. Auburn

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

Alamo Bowl (December 28): West Virginia vs. Utah

Belk Bowl (December 29): Pittsburgh vs. South Carolina

Arizona Bowl (December 29): San Diego State vs. Arkansas State

Military Bowl (December 31): Boston College vs. Houston

Sun Bowl (December 31): California vs. Virginia

Redbox Bowl (December 31): Michigan State vs. Stanford

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

Holiday Bowl (December 31): Oregon vs. Wisconsin

Gator Bowl (December 31): Iowa vs. Texas A&M

Outback Bowl (January 1): LSU vs. Penn State

Citrus Bowl (January 1): Kentucky vs. Northwestern


Playoff Predictions

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma

Alabama has displayed why its the best team in college football on countless occasions this season.

Rarely have the Crimson Tide showed flaws, which is why the SEC Championship matchup with head coach Nick Saban's team will be difficult for Georgia, even though the Bulldogs are familiar with the Tide.

Alabama will be the No. 1 team in every poll entering Week 14, and it will remain on top of the FBS with a tight victory over Georgia.

Georgia is one of the few teams in the nation who could challenge Alabama in most facets of the game, but like he was in the national championship in January, Tua Tagovailoa will be the difference-maker for the Tide.

In the case Alabama falls short, a debate between the Crimson Tide's credentials as a one-loss defending national champion would be judged against one-loss conference champions Oklahoma and Ohio State, but the more likely scenario involves a comparison between the resumes of the Sooners and Buckeyes.

Both Oklahoma and Ohio State earned massive victories in conference play in Week 13, but we believe the Sooners will be ranked just above the Buckeyes in the playoff rankings, which will lead to a scenario in which head coach Lincoln Riley's team just has to win to get into the final four.

Although Oklahoma's defense hasn't impressed anyone, it came up with a couple of big turnovers to assist Kyler Murray's offensive outburst in Friday's win over West Virginia.

And while most neutral observers will argue Ohio State's win over Michigan was more impressive, the Sooners can flip the script with a controlling win over Texas while the Buckeyes are stuck playing Northwestern.

With the opportunity to earn another quality win by avenging their only loss of the season ahead of them, the Sooners will earn a slight advantage over Ohio State and land in the playoff for a showdown between the top two players in the Heisman Trophy race.


No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame

One-fourth of the playoff field is set, as Notre Dame capped off its perfect regular season with a victory over USC.

No one can deny the playoff case for the undefeated Fighting Irish, who will watch championship weekend closely with an eye on potential postseason opponents.

Clemson appears to be the most likely foe for head coach Brian Kelly's team, as the Tigers are expected to roll against a five-loss Pittsburgh team that fell to Miami Saturday.

Richard Shiro/Associated Press

Head coach Dabo Swinney's Tigers should use the ACC Championship as a starting point for playoff preparations, as they'll bank on the momentum created by a blowout win over Pittsburgh to set the tone for a clash with the Fighting Irish.

Clemson has been nearly as dominant as Alabama in recent weeks, as it held its last five opponents to a combined 74 points, and 35 of those came from South Carolina in Week 13.

Notre Dame's defensive numbers aren't as impressive as Clemson's, but the Irish have still been in control of the majority of their contests.

The intriguing matchup between the Tigers and Fighting Irish comes in the trenches, as the Notre Dame offensive line known for pumping out NFL products faces a Clemson defensive line that boasts four potential first-round picks in the 2019 NFL draft.

The only scenario in which this matchup changes before next Sunday is if Alabama falls to Georgia, which would then throw off the playoff seeding and send Clemson into the top spot, with Notre Dame likely second.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.