Bowl Predictions 2020: Projections for College Football Playoff Contenders

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistOctober 25, 2020

Ohio State running back Trey Sermon, right, cuts up field against Nebraska linebacker Collin Miller during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

The Ohio State Buckeyes' first audition for the College Football Playoff committee went off as smooth as it could for a team starting its season in late October. 

Ryan Day's side cruised past the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first of its eight Big Ten matchups before the conference championship game December 19. 

Ohio State's path to the playoff appeared to get easier since the Penn State Nittany Lions knocked themselves out of contention with a loss to the Indiana Hoosiers. 

After Penn State's loss, there are eight active programs that could make some type of case to qualify for the final four. The Oregon Ducks could join that group when the Pac-12 resumes play. 

At the moment, Ohio State still sits in an elite group alongside the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide as national championship favorites.


CFB Playoff and New Years' Six Predictions

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Georgia

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Ohio State

Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma State 

Orange Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Florida

Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin

Peach Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Miami


Ohio State's 52-17 victory is the latest example of the dominance we expect out of the Buckeyes when they play lesser opposition in the Big Ten. 

Nebraska hung with the Big Ten favorite for most of the first half, but the Buckeyes overwhelmed the visitors to Ohio Stadium in the second half. 

Justin Fields went 20-of-21 with 276 passing yards and led the Buckeyes with 54 rushing yards on 15 carries. He produced three total touchdowns. Fields is expected to place himself in the Heisman Trophy race alongside Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones and a few others.

He could further vault into the conversation in Week 9, when Ohio State visits Penn State in a game that was supposed to feature two Top 10 teams. 

With the nature of the eight-game Big Ten season, Penn State sits in a must-win position Saturday to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. A loss could keep it out of a New Years' Six bowl.

The Big Ten's second-best hope for the New Years' Six could lies in the Big Ten West with the Wisconsin Badgers. The Michigan Wolverines still have to play Ohio State, and they made Wisconsin's path to the Big Ten Championship Game easier by defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers. 

We did not learn anything new about the on-field potential of Clemson and Alabama in Week 8, as they stormed to double-digit wins over the Syracuse Orange and Tennessee Volunteers, respectively.

The most significant development from those two contests was the season-ending injury suffered by Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Nick Saban confirmed the news to CBS Sports' Jamie Erdahl.

The Crimson Tide still has a pair of incredible wide receivers in DeVonta Smith and John Metchie III healthy. The two wideouts combined for 1,055 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. 

Alabama will replace Waddle by sliding its large collection of 5-star players up the depth chart, and it can do so during an easier stretch of its schedule. 

The SEC West side does not face a Top 25 team for the rest of the regular season, and its biggest remaining clash is the Iron Bowl matchup with the Auburn Tigers on November 28.

With the drop-off from the LSU Tigers and the inability of the Mississippi State Bulldogs to replicate their opening win over LSU, Alabama should be in good shape for its next two games. 

Clemson has the most difficult matchup left on its schedule of the top three playoff contenders, as it faces the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on November 7. 

Dabo Swinney's side put up 40 points for the fifth consecutive week and should produce similar totals in its tune-up game against the Boston College Eagles. 

Notre Dame is the next contender that can throw a wrench in the playoff picture. The Georgia Bulldogs failed to do so in Week 7 against Alabama. 

Even if the Irish lose November 7, they could be in the mix for the fourth playoff spot alongside Georgia since there is the possibility of playing Clemson for a second time in the ACC Championship Game. 

An undefeated Big 12 or Pac-12 champion could halt Notre Dame and Georgia from dominating the race for the No. 4 seed.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys survived a test at home from the Iowa State Cyclones to move to 4-0, but they still have plenty of work to do to remain undefeated. 

Mike Gundy's team faces the Texas Longhorns, Kansas State Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners in the next three games and plays four of its final five away from Stillwater, Oklahoma. 

If Oklahoma State remains perfect in that stretch, its playoff candidacy will become more serious. It should be the lone Big 12 contender left since it is the lone Top 15 and unbeaten side in the conference. 

The Cincinnati Bearcats have an outside shot of jumping into the playoff picture as the top Group of Five team.

Cincinnati earned a valuable road win over the SMU Mustangs Saturday and already sit in a Top 10 position. It will take a handful of upsets to push the Bearcats toward the top four, but they deserve credit for putting themselves in the position to pounce in a season with plenty of unexpected results. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.


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