College Football Playoff 2018: Full Bowl Predictions for Biggest Matchups

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2018

The Georgia Bulldogs need to beat Alabama in the SEC title game if they want to remain in the CFP rankings.
The Georgia Bulldogs need to beat Alabama in the SEC title game if they want to remain in the CFP rankings.John Bazemore/Associated Press

There was finally some change in the College Football Playoff rankings this week, as Georgia replaced Michigan as the No. 4 team and moved into the playoff structure.

However, there is anything but smooth sailing for the Bulldogs, as they have to face the juggernaut that is the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday. The Bulldogs need to beat Nick Saban's undefeated team if they want to remain a playoff team.

If they don't win that gameand OddsShark shows bookmakers believe they are 13.5-point underdogsthe No. 4 spot is likely to go to either Oklahoma or Ohio State. Unbeaten UCF would also appear to have a shot, but the severe leg injury to quarterback McKenzie Milton hurts the argument that the Knights are one of the four best teams in the nation.

Oklahoma would appear to have the inside track since they are one spot ahead of the Buckeyes in the CFP rankings.

While the conference championship games still have to be played and the bowl bids have yet to be announced, we are still making our predictions on how the College Football Playoff semifinals (Cotton and Orange Bowls) will look, as well as the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Peach Bowls once the bids are announced.

We also make predictions on the New Year's Six bowl games.


College Football Playoff Rankings

1. Alabama (12-0)

2. Clemson (12-0)

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

4. Georgia (11-1)

5. Oklahoma (11-1)

6. Ohio State (11-1)

7. Michigan (10-2)

8. UCF (11-0)

9. Florida (9-3)

10. LSU (9-3)


Predicted Major Bowl Games and Outcomes

College Football Playoff

Parenthetical numbers denote CFP rankings.

Dec. 29

Cotton Bowl, Arlington, Texas: Alabama (1) vs. Oklahoma (5), Alabama 49, Oklahoma 38

Orange Bowl, Miami: Clemson (2) vs. Notre Dame (3), Notre Dame 24, Clemson 23

Peach Bowl, Atlanta: Florida (9) vs. Michigan (7), Michigan 30, Florida 21


Jan. 1

Sugar Bowl, New Orleans: Georgia (4) vs. Texas (14), Georgia 37, Texas 26

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California: Ohio State (6) vs. Washington (11), Washington 28, Ohio State 27

Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Arizona: LSU (10) vs. UCF (8), LSU 38, UCF 24


Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma

The Crimson Tide are college football's pre-eminent team, and this year's edition may be the strongest team that head coach Nick Saban has ever had.

Previous Alabama teams were known for their defensive prowess along with talented running backs and wide receivers, but quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's presence gives this team an edge it has not had in the past.

Tagovailoa is a brilliant quarterback who has the dexterity, arm strength and touch needed to drive this team to a national championship.

The quarterback has completed 189 of 269 passes for 3,189 yards with 36 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has great escapability, as he has run for 211 yards while averaging 4.7 yards per carry with five rushing touchdowns.

In addition to Tagovailoa, the Crimson Tide has a pair of running backs in Damien Harris and Najee Harris, and those two have combined for 1,383 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Wideout Jerry Jeudy is Alabama's top receiver, having caught 56 passes for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns. In addition to Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs III and Irv Smith Jr. can all be game-changing pass-catchers, as they have combined for 23 TD receptions.

The Sooners, once again, have one of the most devastating offensive teams in the league. Oklahoma is averaging 50.2 points per game, and Lincoln Riley's team is nearly as dangerous on the ground (264.3 yards per game) as it is through the air (319.4 yards per game).

A year after Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy as a Sooner, Kyler Murray is triggering this year's offense. While Tagovailoa may be the favorite for this year's award, Murray deserves respect, as he has thrown for 3,674 yards and 37 touchdowns while running for 853 yards and seven touchdowns.

Kennedy Brooks has rushed for 993 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Trey Sermon has 863 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb are Murray's two best receivers, and they have combined for 121 receptions and 2,146 yards along with 19 touchdowns.

The big problem for the Sooners is their defensive inefficiency. They allow more than 30 points per game, and that means Tagovailoa and the Alabama offense will have a green light for 60 minutes.

Alabama's defense will have it hands filled with Murray & Co., but the Crimson Tide will get several key stops and roll to a win and a berth in the CFP National Championship at Levi's Stadium on January 7.


Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Notre Dame

While Alabama is on top in college football, Clemson is right behind. The Tigers beat Alabama in the CFP National Championship two years ago, and Dabo Swinney's team is not intimidated by any opponent it faces.

The Tigers face Pittsburgh in the ACC title game Saturday, and that game has the look of a one-sided rout, as Clemson is favored by 27.5 points, per OddsShark.

Clemson has its own dominant superstar at quarterback in freshman Trevor Lawrence. He has put sensational numbers on the board this season, completing 200 of 302 passes for 2,488 yards with an eye-opening 24-2 TD-inteception ratio.

Lawrence has explosive help out of the backfield in running back Travis Etienne, who has rushed for 1,307 yards and 19 touchdowns. His most eye-catching statistic is his 8.0 yards-per-carry mark, and that number indicates that he is always capable of busting out a long play.

Wideout Tee Higgins leads the Tigers with 49 receptions for 766 yards and eight touchdowns, while freshman Justyn Ross has contributed 32 catches for 629 yards and six scores.

The unbeaten Tigers are also playing a powerful brand of defense, allowing just 14.0 points per game. 

That's just a little bit better than Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish are giving up 17.3 points per game. 

Notre Dame has been producing consistently on offense, having scored 30 points or more seven times. Quarterback Ian Book is a dynamic performer who has been incredibly accurate this season, completing 70.4 percent of his passes (197 of 280) for 2,468 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.

He gets plenty of support from running back Dexter Williams, who has gained 941 yards and 12 touchdowns. Wide receivers Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool can make game-changing plays for Book, and those two receivers have combined for 1,434 yards and 12 touchdowns.

While Clemson won't overlook Notre Dame, the Tigers may still be somewhat surprised by the nastiness and competitiveness of Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish. Look for Notre Dame to emerge with a narrow victory and earn a spot against Alabama in the national title game.