Bowl Predictions 2019: Projections and Odds For CFP Final and Top Matchups

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 8, 2019

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) runs against Georgia during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

For the third time in four years, a program from the SEC topped the final College Football Playoff rankings.

This time around the No. 1 seed carries more significance because the LSU Tigers avoided the Clemson Tigers in the semifinal round. 

The Oklahoma Sooners will not be an easy opponent in the Peach Bowl, but they are perceived as the weaker foe compared to the reigning national champion. 

Clemson is headed to the Fiesta Bowl to face the Ohio State Buckeyes in a rematch of the 2016 playoff semifinal at the same location. 

The knock against Dabo Swinney's team is its weak ACC schedule, but it has been as dominant as LSU and Ohio State for a majority of the regular season. 

                   

College Football Playoff Schedule

All Times ET; Odds via Caesars

Saturday, December 28

Peach Bowl: No. 1 LSU (-12) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (4 p.m.) 

Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson (-1.5) (8 p.m. ET) 

           

New Year's Six

Cotton Bowl (December 28): Memphis vs. Penn State (Noon, ESPN)

Orange Bowl (December 30): Florida vs. Virginia (8 p.m., ESPN)

Rose Bowl (January 1): Wisconsin vs. Oregon (5 p.m., ESPN) 

Sugar Bowl (January 1): Georgia vs. Baylor (8:45 p.m., ESPN)

       

Other Bowls

Bahamas Bowl (December 20): Charlotte vs. Buffalo (2 p.m., ESPN) 

Frisco Bowl (December 20): Kent State vs. Utah State (7:30 p.m., ESPN2)

New Mexico Bowl (December 21): San Diego State vs. Central Michigan (2 p.m., ESPN))

Cure Bowl (December 21): Georgia Southern vs. Liberty (2:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

Boca Raton Bowl (December 21): SMU vs. Florida Atlantic (3:30 p.m., ABC)

Camellia Bowl (December 21): Arkansas State vs. Florida International (5:30 p.m., ESPN)

Las Vegas Bowl (December 21): Washington vs. Boise State (7:30 p.m., ABC)

New Orleans Bowl (December 21): Appalachian State vs. UAB (9 p.m., ESPN)

Gasparilla Bowl (December 23): UCF vs. Marshall (2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Hawai'i Bowl (December 24): BYU vs. Hawai'i (8 p.m., ESPN) 

Independence Bowl (December 26): Miami vs. Louisiana Tech (4 p.m., ESPN)

Quick Lane Bowl (December 26): Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan (8 p.m., ESPN)

Military Bowl (December 27): North Carolina vs. Temple (Noon, ESPN)

Pinstripe Bowl (December 27): Wake Forest vs. Michigan State (3:20 p.m., ESPN)

Texas Bowl (December 27): Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma State (6:45 p.m., ESPN)

Holiday Bowl (December 27): USC vs. Iowa (8 p.m., FS1)

Cheez-It Bowl (December 27): Washington State vs. Air Force (10:15 p.m., ESPN)

Camping World Bowl (December 28): Notre Dame vs. Iowa State (Noon, ABC)

First Responder Bowl (December 30): Western Kentucky vs. Western Michigan (12:30 p.m., ESPN)

Music City Bowl (December 30): Mississippi State vs. Louisville (4 p.m., ESPN)

Redbox Bowl (December 30): California vs. Illinois (4 p.m., Fox)

Belk Bowl (December 31): Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech (Noon, ESPN)

Sun Bowl (December 31): Florida State vs. Arizona State (2 p.m., CBS)

Liberty Bowl (December 31): Navy vs. Kansas State (3:45 p.m.. ESPN)

Arizona Bowl (December 31): Wyoming vs. Georgia State (4:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

Alamo Bowl (December 31): Utah vs. Texas (7:30 p.m., ESPN)

Citrus Bowl (January 1): Alabama vs. Michigan (1 p.m., ABC)

Outback Bowl (January 1): Auburn vs. Minnesota (1 p.m., ESPN)

Birmingham Bowl (January 2): Boston College vs. Cincinnati (3 p.m., ESPN)

Gator Bowl (January 2): Tennessee vs. Indiana (7 p.m., ESPN)

Idaho Potato Bowl (January 3): Ohio vs. Nevada (3:30 p.m., ESPN)

Armed Forces Bowl (January 4): Tulane vs. Southern Miss (11:30 a.m., ESPN)

Mobile Alabama Bowl (January 6): Louisiana vs. Miami (Ohio) (7:30 p.m., ESPN)

        

CFB Final Projection

No. 1 LSU vs. No. 3 Clemson 

LSU possesses the likely Heisman Trophy winner in Joe Burrow, a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson and a defense that allowed 17 points in the last two weeks. 

Burrow has passed every test thrown in front of him, including in the SEC Championship Game triumph over the Georgia Bulldogs. 

The senior has 4,715 passing yards, 48 touchdowns and seven consecutive 300-yard performances. 

While Oklahoma's defense deserves credit for improvements in wins over Oklahoma State and Baylor, the top units in the FBS have not been able to stop Burrow. 

Georgia entered Atlanta with the second-best scoring and rushing defense, and it was torched for 37 points and 481 total yards. 

Between Chase, Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU has enough weapons to challenge an Oklahoma passing defense that allows 198.5 passing yards per game, which is the same total as Georgia. 

Jalen Hurts and CeeDee Lamb are capable of hurting the Tigers secondary on occasion, but that unit is coming off one of its best outings of the season, as Derek Stingley Jr. picked off a pair of passes and it limited Jake Fromm to 225 passing yards.

With its near-unstoppable offense expected to produce a large total, the defense of the SEC champion does not have to be perfect, and it should focus more on limiting the big-play potential of Hurts and Lamb.

As for Clemson, its defense could be the difference-maker in getting past Ohio State. 

The ACC champion ranks ninth in the FBS in rushing defense, which is just two positions behind the Buckeyes. 

Additionally, the five-time playoff participant has allowed an opponent to hit 20 points once, and that was North Carolina on September 28. 

Of course, the knock against Clemson's defense will be it racked up those numbers versus easier opponents and Ohio State's totals should be deemed more impressive because of the competition in the Big Ten.

But what the Tigers contain that the Buckeyes do not have is playoff experience. 

Trevor Lawrence threw for 300 yards in both playoff contests a year ago, while Travis Etienne, Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins accounted for four touchdowns in the final.

After experiencing early-season struggles, Lawrence has at least three passing scores in his last eight games and is coming off a 16-of-22, 302-yard outing versus Virginia. 

Clemson's elite collection of offensive talent could put Ohio State under pressure, and its lack of turnovers could be the difference.

Even though Justin Fields has 601 passing yards and seven touchdowns in the last two contests, he lost three of his four fumbles against Penn State and Wisconsin.

In a game where the margins are expected to be slim, the Georgia transfer can't make similar errors, and since he has been more turnover-prone than Lawrence, the edge could go to Clemson. 

          

Other Top Matchups

Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Baylor

Possibly the best New Year's Six matchup involves the losers of the SEC and Big 12 Championship Games. 

Georgia, who finished fifth in the playoff rankings, fell in New Orleans to Texas a year ago, while Baylor progressed from 6-6 and a Texas Bowl appearance to 11-2 and a Sugar Bowl berth. 

The clash features a pair of strong defenses, as the Bulldogs did not give up more than 20 points to an opponent until it faced LSU, while the Bears allowed 16 points in two games prior to their loss to Oklahoma. 

D'Andre Swift could face some trouble versus the Baylor defensive line led by James Lynch, who has 12.5 sacks

Lynch may also pose difficulties for Jake Fromm, who has been taken down eight times in the last five games. LSU sacked the Georgia junior three times Saturday. 

Fromm's totals could be low since he will be without Lawrence Cager and Dominick Blaylock because of injuries. Blaylock suffered a torn ACL Saturday, per Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.

That could allow Matt Rhule's to limit the SEC East winner's scoring capabilities, which in turn could make it a low-scoring affair. 

Since both squads concede fewer than 20 points per game, there likely will not be many big plays, and it could be close throughout.

That is where the experience of Fromm, who has played in three SEC Championship Games and a national championship, may shine through, as one or two scoring drives may be enough to win. 

                

Citrus Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan

The Alabama Crimson Tide and Michigan Wolverines both experienced disappointing seasons that ended with defeats to their respective rivals. 

The Citrus Bowl could serve as preparation for the 2020 campaign for sophomore Mac Jones, who replaced Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback after the latter suffered a season-ending injury. 

Against Western Carolina and Auburn, the sophomore produced 610 passing yards and seven touchdowns, but he was picked off twice. 

He will face a Michigan passing defense that ranks fifth in the FBS with 173.8 yards allowed per contest. 

However, the Wolverines face a challenge from Alabama's star-studded wide receiver corps led by DeVonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy, who combined for 22 touchdowns.

In between losses to Penn State and Ohio State, Jim Harbaugh's side outscored opponents 166-45, so Shea Patterson could muster enough to keep up with Alabama in a shootout. 

But it must be noted the last time the Crimson Tide failed to make a New Year's Six bowl or championship game, they blew out Michigan State 49-7 in the 2011 Capital One Bowl.

                          

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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