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CFP Bowl Projections 2019: Predicting Playoff, New Year's Games

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2019

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterback Jalen Hurts #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners breaks free for a 28-yard touchdown run against defensive end Tyler Lacy #89 and linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga #11 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first quarter on November 30, 2019 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

This may come as a shock, but there's going to be some debate over the fourth team to get into the College Football Playoff in 2019. 

With just one week to put the finishing touches on resumes, the playoff field is far from crystal-clear. Not only will there be some controversy over who the selection committee puts into the final slot, but they have some decision to make about spots 1-3. 

Heading into conference championship weekend, there are three powers that remain undefeated in Ohio State, LSU and Clemson. The ACC favorite is likely slotted in at No. 3 due to its schedule, but the debate between LSU and Ohio State only got more complicated.

The Buckeyes made their case to move from No. 2 to No. 1 when they drubbed Michigan 56-27. However, the Tigers responded in kind with a 50-7 win over Texas A&M. 

The battle for the fourth spot is fairly straightforward yet inevitably controversial. It would appear that Alabama's Iron Bowl loss to Auburn breaks down the race to potential Big 12 champion Oklahoma or potential Pac-12 champion Utah as the final team to make it in. 

Of course, if both teams find a way to lose their conference championship games, then true chaos will ensue. 

For now, here's a look at the projected playoff field and New Year's Six games. 

     

Bowl Projections

College Football Playoff

Peach Bowl (Dec. 28): No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma

Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 28): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson

              

New Year's 6

Cotton Bowl (Dec. 28): Boise State vs. Florida

Orange Bowl (Dec. 30): Virginia vs. Alabama

Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1): Georgia vs. Baylor

Rose Bowl (Jan. 1): Utah vs. Penn State

      

College Football Playoff Picture

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 30: Tyler Huntley #1 of the Utah Utes sets to throw a pass against the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half at Rice-Eccles Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Let's be clear: Both Oklahoma and Utah are the favorites to be No. 4, but it's far from a done deal. Oklahoma will take on a Baylor team that held a 25-point lead against them before squandering it in the second half. 

The Sooners needed every ounce of magic they could get from Jalen Hurts in an incredible second half. That's either a sign of what's to come after Oklahoma figured out the Baylor defense or an improbable feat to have to duplicate. 

Utah will look to complete its Pac-12 run with a win over a team ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25 for the first time this season. And that explains the crux of the Oklahoma vs. Utah debate that is sure to rage if both teams win Saturday. 

The Sooners have a more complete record if you're just looking at wins and losses. They hold wins over ranked teams like Baylor and Oklahoma State as signature wins. Even Texas was ranked when OU won the Red River Rivalry. 

The only team that was ranked at the time the Utes beat them was Arizona State. 

However, the style points have been there for the Pac-12 power. Utah has had no problem in separating from opponents, winning seven of their eight games since losing to USC by double digits. Meanwhile the Sooners have had a hard time putting away middling Big 12 teams such as TCU and Iowa State. 

That worry could have been put to bed by the Sooners' convincing win in Bedlam, though. A thorough performance against the Pokes could put them ahead of the Utes in the next set of rankings on Tuesday, clearing the stage for them to get in with another win over a ranked opponent in Baylor on Saturday. 

The race could get even more interesting if Georgia pulls off an upset in the SEC Championship Game. The Dawgs were No. 4 heading into the weekend and did nothing to lose that ranking in beating down rival Georgia Tech. 

If they find a way to upset LSU, the committee could see it fit to keep both the Tigers and the Dawgs in the final field and leaving out two Power Five conference champions. 

Certainly that wouldn't leave anyone claiming SEC bias. 

     

New Year's 6 Storylines

BOISE, ID - NOVEMBER 16: Wide receiver Akilian Butler #7 of the Boise State Broncos runs into the open field during second half action against the New Mexico Lobos on November 16, 2019 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won the game 42-9.
Loren Orr/Getty Images

Looking at the major bowls outside of the playoff, two interesting storylines emerge. The first is an interesting race for the Group of Five bowl berth. The top-ranked G5 team is given an automatic berth in one of the New Year's Six bowls, and that distinction currently belongs to Memphis.

The Tigers, however, have one more test to face before officially earning that bid. They'll need to beat Cincinnati in the AAC Championship Game just one week after beating them 34-24. 

Beating a quality team in back-to-back weeks is a difficult task. And with Boise State just two spots behind them in the last College Football Playoff rankings, the Broncos are waiting in the wings to steal that bid if the Bearcats get revenge in the AAC title game.

Boise State has to beat Hawaii in the Mountain West title game. The Broncos beat the Warriors 59-37 earlier this season and have a much easier test than the Tigers have. 

The Rose Bowl will also have an interesting selection ahead of it. The Big Ten champion has been shut out of the College Football Playoff in recent years, but it looks like Ohio State is a lock to be in the field this year so the bowl will need to take the best of the rest. 

That's going to be difficult to decide. Before Rivalry Week, Minnesota was the next highest-rated team sitting at No. 8, followed by Penn State at No. 10 and Wisconsin at No. 12. 

With the Badgers' big win over the Golden Gophers, they will most likely jump Penn State, but can we expect them to stay above the Nittany Lions if and when Ohio State reenacts their 38-7 demolition of Bucky?

The situation harkens to 2015 when Michigan State was set to get in the playoff with a win over Iowa in the championship game and force the committee to choose between championship-game loser Iowa or perennial blue blood Ohio State. It was the conference's position that it would take the highest-ranked team then, which ended up being Iowa; the Hawkeyes lost to Michigan State 16-13. 

Now the committee will have to decide between Penn State and Wisconsin. The disparity between name brands doesn't exist like it did in four years ago, but the resumes are nearly the same. If Wisconsin is blown out in the conference title game, that would make it two times that Wisconsin has been embarrassed in big-game situations.

If that's the case, the Rose Bowl might opt for the Nittany Lions, whose two losses were to Michigan (by seven) and Ohio State (by 11). It might not be quite as intriguing a decision as the Top Four, but it's another reason why being on the committee is not always an envious position.