College Football Playoff 2018: Updated Rankings and Bowl Predictions

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2018

The high-flying Crimson Tide are one game away from playing in the national semifinals.
The high-flying Crimson Tide are one game away from playing in the national semifinals.Associated Press

Georgia finds itself just where it wants to be as it approaches the SEC Championship Game on Saturday. The question is whether the Bulldogs will still be inside the College Football Playoff structure after they meet Alabama.

The likelihood is that they will not. Alabama has been the best team in the nation since the start of the season and is a 12.5-point favorite over Georgia, per OddsShark.

Alabama comes into the game with a perfect record, and its smallest margin of victory this year has been 22 points.

If Georgia can stay close, it will be behind a superior effort from quarterback Jake Fromm. He has thrown 24 touchdown passes this season, and he has to avoid interceptions.

If the Bulldogs lose, Oklahoma, Ohio State and UCF appear to have the best chance to fall into the No. 4 spot in the rankings.

Below is a projection for the teams that will feature in the two CFP semifinals and the four other New Year's Six bowl games, as well as score predictions.


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)

11. Washington (10-3)
12. Penn State (9-3)
13. Washington State (10-2)
14. Texas (9-3)
15. Kentucky (9-3)
16. West Virginia (8-3)
17. Utah (9-4)
18. Mississippi State (8-4)
19. Texas A&M (8-4)
20. Syracuse (9-3)
21. Northwestern (8-4)
22. Boise State (10-2)
23. Iowa State (7-4)
24. Missouri  (8-4)
25. Fresno State (10-2)


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

Alabama would almost certainly be a heavy favorite if the Crimson Tide were to meet the Sooners in this national semifinal game, and it seems likely the Sooners would have a difficult time holding the Alabama offense intact.

Tua Tagovailoa leads an explosive Crimson Tide offense, and he is clearly one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Tagovailoa came into prominence against Georgia in last year's CFP National Championship when he threw three TD passes, including the game-winner in overtime.

Tagovailoa has not slowed down since, as he has passed for 3,189 yards with 36 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a crew of excellent receivers in Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle and Irv Smith Jr.

Jeudy is the most prominent of the bunch, having caught 56 passes for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns, while the other three receivers have combined for 23 scores.

The Crimson Tide has a dominant and hard-hitting defense, led by Quinnen Williams. The defensive lineman has 58 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks, and he is capable of causing huge problems for the Sooners.

If Tagovailoa has any serious competition for the Heisman Trophy, it is likely to come from Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray. He is a superb athlete who has thrown for 3,674 yards and 37 touchdowns and also has 853 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

Murray has a pair of superb receivers in Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb. Those two have combined for 121 receptions and 2,146 yards along with 19 touchdowns. Oklahoma is averaging 50.2 points per game, and the Sooners should be able to move the ball and score with some degree of efficiency, even though the Crimson Tide is capable of playing shutdown defense.

The big problem for Oklahoma is that it has struggled on defense throughout the season, and that unit has had its biggest problems in recent weeks. The Sooners have allowed 40 points or more in their past four games.

Head coach Lincoln Riley has to figure out a way to slow down the Alabama offense, but he may not have the tools to do so.

This looks set to be another high-scoring game, and while Oklahoma should be able to present a formidable challenge for 30 minutes, the second half would belong to the defending national champion.


Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Notre Dame

While Alabama has been lauded for its personnel and performance all year, the Clemson Tigers may not be far behind.

The Tigers have to win one more game to hold on to their position as the No. 2 team, and that is against Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship Game. Clemson is favored by 27.5 points, according to OddsShark.

If the Tigers meet expectations and pummel the Panthers, they will meet Notre Dame in the second CFP semifinal. Notre Dame finished its regular season with a win over USC.

Notre Dame has raised its level of play this season, and quarterback Ian Book has completed 197 of 280 passes for 2,468 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Wide receivers Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool are a pair of top receivers who have combined for 1,434 yards and 12 touchdowns. Running back Dexter Williams gives the Irish a productive ground game, and he has gained 941 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.

Clemson is led by Trevor Lawrence, who has completed 200 of 302 passes for 2,488 yards with 22 scoring passes and four interceptions. Running back Travis Etienne is one of the top players at his position in the nation, having gained 1,307 yards while averaging 8.0 yards per carry. 

Both Clemson and Notre Dame have played excellent defense this season, with the Tigers allowing 14.0 points per game and the Fighting Irish allowing 17.3 points per game.

Notre Dame should welcome the opportunity to play in the national semifinals for the first time in school history.

While the Tigers may be ranked higher, we see the Fighting Irish playing their best game under head coach Brian Kelly and earning a spot in the CFP National Championship against Alabama.


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