Bowl Predictions 2020: Complete CFP Projections Following Week 10
The Clemson Tigers can still qualify for the College Football Playoff, but their margin of error to do so is gone.
Dabo Swinney's side lost the game of the season to date Saturday to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who are now the front-runner in the ACC.
Clemson and Notre Dame are expected to play each other one more time in the ACC Championship Game. Barring an injury to Trevor Lawrence, the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft will be available to play in Charlotte, North Carolina, on December 19.
The path for the ACC to put both Clemson and Notre Dame in the playoff got clearer Saturday, with the Georgia Bulldogs suffering their second loss of the season to the Florida Gators.
Notre Dame, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes are the favorites to advance to the playoff, and if Clemson beats the Irish in their prospective second meeting, both teams could receive playoff positions.
With that scenario in play, the Cincinnati Bearcats, BYU Cougars, Oregon Ducks and a few others have to hope for a second Notre Dame win over Clemson to clear a path to the No. 4 seed.
Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
Alabama should take over as the No. 1 team in the country Sunday.
The Crimson Tide were two poll points shy of Clemson in the Week 10 AP Top 25, and they should slide into that position after their bye week.
Nick Saban's side faces a much weaker LSU Tigers program in Week 11 before welcoming the Kentucky Wildcats and Auburn Tigers to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
While it may be surprising to say this, Alabama's toughest test left in the regular season could come Dec. 5 against the Arkansas Razorbacks, who are 3-3 under first-year head coach Sam Pittman and have been competitive in every game.
Alabama should still have the talent advantage to get past its next four opponents to set up a potential SEC Championship Game clash with Florida, who can capture the SEC East crown by winning out.
The Crimson Tide and Gators met in back-to-back SEC Championship Games in 2015 and 2016. Alabama won those contests by a combined 83-31.
Florida proved Saturday it has closed the talent gap to Georgia in the SEC East, but beating Alabama is a whole other animal. Until a team shows it can beat the Crimson Tide, they have to be viewed as the SEC favorite.
Notre Dame is expected to be No. 3 behind Alabama and Ohio State, which does not guarantee it has a playoff berth.
The Fighting Irish likely have to play Clemson again, and if the Tigers were close to beating Notre Dame with D.J. Uiagalelei under center, Lawrence could push them toward a victory.
Brian Kelly's program is the only one with a win over the No. 1 team in the FBS, which will separate it from any other contender in the discussion for the No. 4 seed.
If Notre Dame's resume includes a double-overtime win over Clemson and a close loss to the Tigers at full strength, that should be enough to convince the selection committee to put it in over the Big 12 and Pac-12 champions, the best Group of Five team and the second-best SEC program.
To reach that point, the Irish need to beat the Boston College Eagles, North Carolina Tar Heels, Syracuse Orange and Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Three of those four games are on the road.
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
Ohio State's playoff resume will not look as strong as it would like it to be because of the struggles of the Michigan Wolverines and Penn State Nittany Lions.
In fact, Ohio State's November 21 home game with the Indiana Hoosiers could present the toughest challenge of the season for Ryan Day's team.
The Buckeyes earned their third straight double-digit victory Saturday, steamrolling the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at home.
A road trip to face the Maryland Terrapins in Week 11 could be tricky for the Buckeyes, but they also are a few levels up than Penn State and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, whom Maryland just beat in back-to-back games.
Ohio State's biggest test may still come from Michigan, which might be a team desperate for a victory come December 12.
With more parity in the Big Ten West, a much weaker foe could emerge to play the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Until a team proves it can beat the Big Ten's elite program, it has to be considered one of the four playoff participants.
Clemson has to play error-free football in its next three games to get a shot at avenging its loss to Notre Dame.
If the Tigers return to the ACC Championship Game with Lawrence leading the charge, they could split the season series with the Irish and put both teams in the playoff.
Clemson should not fall more than three places in the Week 11 polls. Georgia only fell two spots for losing by 17 on the road to Alabama in Week 7.
Were the Tigers to win the rematch, they would likely slot into the No. 3 seed by way of their most recent win over the Fighting Irish.
If Ohio State fails to jump Alabama in the rankings, we could see the Buckeyes and Tigers duel for the second straight season in a national semifinal.
New Year's 6
Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M
Peach Bowl: Florida vs. Cincinnati
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Orange Bowl: BYU vs. Miami
Georgia's second loss may take it out of New Year's Six contention.
If Florida loses the SEC Championship Game to Alabama, it would slide into one of the eight New Year's Six positions.
Texas A&M could be the at-large SEC representative since it is 5-1, with its only loss coming against Alabama. Its home win over Florida is the best victory on its resume. If the Aggies win out, they could finish in the top five or six, which could set them up with a clash against one of their old Big 12 rivals.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys narrowly avoided defeat to the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday to remain with one loss in the Big 12. The Iowa State Cyclones, whom the Cowboys beat, are the only other Big 12 team with a single defeat.
If Oklahoma State gets past the Oklahoma Sooners in Week 12, it has a real chance to enter the Big 12 Championship Game as the favorite to land a New Year's Six berth.
Oregon put in a strong performance in its season debut Saturday, but it still needs some help to climb up from No. 12 to join the playoff discussion.
BYU and Cincinnati both need to win out, have Clemson lose a second time to Notre Dame and Alabama beat Florida to create a path to the No. 4 seed.
The pair of Group of Five teams looked dominant again in Week 10 and could remain undefeated. If the results fall in their favor, one of them could be the No. 4 seed. But for now, they are on the outside looking in.