Bowl Predictions 2020: College Football Playoff Predictions for Top Teams

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 22, 2020

Bowl Predictions 2020: College Football Playoff Predictions for Top Teams

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    The Ohio State Buckeyes are viewed as the front-runner to reach the College Football Playoff out of the Big Ten, but to follow through on that title, they need to play cleaner than they did on Saturday. 

    Ohio State eked out a seven-point win over the Indiana Hoosiers, who were down by 28 points early in the third quarter. 

    The top threat standing in the way of a playoff berth for Ryan Day's squad is now the Northwestern Wildcats, who emerged as the Big Ten West favorite with a win over the Wisconsin Badgers. 

    Northwestern is one of the outside playoff contenders that will be lurking beneath the top four over the coming weeks. 

    At the top of the rankings sit the Alabama Crimson Tide, who turned in yet another dominant performance in Week 12. 

    The other two primary playoff contenders did not suit up Saturday. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were on a natural bye week, and the Clemson Tigers experienced a late postponement of their clash with the Florida State Seminoles. 

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    We did not learn anything new about Alabama on Saturday. 

    The Crimson Tide put up 63 points on an overmatched Kentucky Wildcats defense to move one step closer to the SEC Championship Game. 

    Mac Jones padded his Heisman Trophy resume with 230 passing yards and two touchdowns. DeVonta Smith was responsible for 144 receiving yards and a pair of scores. 

    If Alabama flexes the same offensive dominance in its next two games, it would enter its showdown with the Florida Gators in terrific form.

    The Auburn Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks should be tougher tests for Alabama, but the Tide have proved to possess the superior talent in a landslide over all of its SEC foes. 

    A potential loss to Florida is the only thing standing in Alabama's path to the No. 1 overall seed and a matchup with the No. 4 seed in the Sugar Bowl. 

    If Clemson wins the potential rematch with Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game, the Irish would likely drop to the No. 4 seed. 

    Notre Dame faces a tricky Week 13 trip to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels, who at one point this season were ranked in the Top Five. 

    If Brian Kelly's side continues its high scoring rate, it could breeze past what should be its final legitimate challenger before the December 19 title clash. 

    Due to Clemson's Week 12 postponement, we do not have an idea of what Trevor Lawrence looks like after a long COVID-19 impacted layoff, but if he returns to his No. 1 overall draft pick form, Notre Dame's defense needs to be much better. In the last two games, Notre Dame allowed 71 points to Clemson and Boston College. 

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

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Ohio State appeared to be in cruise control at the start of the third quarter against Indiana, but then it let the visitors back in the game. 

    After inching within seven points, Indiana gained 18 yards on two drives to come up short, but the fact that it was in the position for a tying score has to be concerning for the Buckeyes. 

    Due to the truncated Big Ten schedule, Ohio State does not have many more games to fine-tune its defensive approach before the December 19 Big Ten Championship Game. 

    The Illinois Fighting Illini, Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines are not expected to threaten Ohio State much in its final three regular-season games, so an improvement in form could come during that stretch. 

    Margin of victory could be important for the Buckeyes in their attempt to impress the playoff selection committee. Alabama is the best team in the FBS right now, but if the Tide somehow turns in an uninspiring performance, the Buckeyes could close the gap if they are dominant moving forward. 

    Clemson has not been on the field since its November 7 defeat to Notre Dame. The absence should not hurt its playoff chances since it has still played four more games than Ohio State. 

    Lawrence's first start since October 24 is now scheduled to happen against the Pittsburgh Panthers in Week 13. 

    If the junior signal-caller turns in a strong performance, he could strum up confidence within the squad with eyes on the ACC Championship Game. 

    A year ago, Lawrence produced 14 touchdown passes in four November games and followed that up with 302 yards and four scores against the Virginia Cavaliers in the ACC Championship Game. 

    If Lawrence posts similar totals moving forward, he could cause plenty of trouble to the Notre Dame defense and ensure Clemson of a place in the national semifinals. 

New Year's 6

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Cotton Bowl: Iowa State vs. Texas A&M

    Peach Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Indiana

    Orange Bowl: Miami vs. Florida

    Fiesta Bowl: BYU vs. Oregon

    If Notre Dame defeats Clemson for a second time, there are three teams that could make a claim to the No. 4 seed right now. 

    The Cincinnati Bearcats earned their toughest win of the season to date on Saturday against the UCF Knights, who have been one of the most successful Group of Five programs in recent years. 

    Cincinnati has two more road games left, including one on December 12 versus the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, to bolster its undefeated status. 

    Where Luke Fickell's side lands in the first CFP rankings release will show how much work has to be done to land in the Top Four. 

    The committee traditionally does not value Group of Five schools in comparison to Power Five squads, so Cincinnati may have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. 

    Florida and Texas A&M are both directly outside the Top Four. If Florida beats Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, it has a strong playoff case. Losses by Florida and Clemson could make the Aggies the front-runner for the final spot. 

    Indiana will be an interesting case to follow in the coming weeks, as it could land in the New Year's Six through a Top 10 ranking if it wins out. 

    A strong finish by Tom Allen's side could keep the Northwestern Wildcats out of a top bowl as the Big Ten's second-best team. 

    The Big 12's best teams have two losses, so the champion of that league would slide into a New Year's Six bowl. 

    The Pac-12 could produce a playoff contender in either the Oregon Ducks or USC Trojans, but both teams need to surge up the rankings in the coming weeks to reach that conversation.

                  

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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