Bowl Projections 2020: CFP Predictions Ahead of Saturday's Week 15 Matchups

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 12, 2020

Bowl Projections 2020: CFP Predictions Ahead of Saturday's Week 15 Matchups

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    The wait for the matchups that will determine the four College Football Playoff participants is down to one week.

    The Alabama Crimson Tide are the only team ranked in the top four set to be in action during Week 15, and they are expected to roll the Arkansas Razorbacks.

    Nick Saban's squad will take on the sixth-ranked Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game on December 19, which is one of two league title clashes important to the CFP.

    The Clemson Tigers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will play for the second time in the ACC Championship Game. That result will go a long way in determining the complexion of the final four.

    If Clemson gets revenge against Notre Dame, the selection committee could put SEC champion Alabama, ACC champion Clemson, the Ohio State Buckeyes as Big Ten winner and the Fighting Irish in the national semifinals.

Sugar Bowl (January 1): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    The only way Alabama does not qualify for the playoff is if it turns in a disappointing performance in the SEC Championship Game.

    Based off the program's history in Atlanta, that isn't likely to happen. Alabama is 8-4 all time and 6-0 in its past six SEC Championship Game appearances.

    The Crimson Tide asserted their dominance in top 10 matchups with the Texas A&M Aggies and Georgia Bulldogs and torched the rest of their SEC opponents.

    Florida's offense will be the best unit Alabama's defense faces this season, but the Tide should have the firepower to overwhelm the Gators.

    Alabama's offense is more well-rounded than Florida's because of the presence of running back Najee Harris alongside quarterback Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith. The Gators do not have a player with more than 420 rushing yards, while Harris has 1,038 yards of his own.

    Florida could test Alabama's secondary through the Kyle Trask-Kyle Pitts combination, but if the Tide slows down that duo on a few drives and takes away the run game, the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff rankings would remain in that spot.

    Notre Dame will face a different type of matchup against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game since Trevor Lawrence will be under center instead of backup D.J. Uiagalelei.

    The other change Clemson is going through comes on defense, which limited the Virginia Tech Hokies and Pittsburgh Panthers to a combined 27 points in its past two games.

    If Clemson's defense keeps Ian Book and Kyren Williams in check for a few series, that could allow Lawrence and Co. to open up enough of an advantage to win. But if Book achieves a similar level of success to the 47 points put up November 7, the Irish would eliminate Clemson from playoff contention and open the door for Texas A&M.

    But that point total may not be close to attainable since Clemson was missing a few starters in South Bend, Indiana, and is much stronger with them in the lineup.

Rose Bowl (January 1): No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State

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    Ken Ruinard/Associated Press

    Clemson rounded into championship form in its final two regular-season games.

    The Tigers blew past Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech behind Lawrence's steady hand in the pocket and a more stout defense.

    Clemson outscored its past two opponents 97-27, which is a sharp contrast from the two games prior to the team's three-week layoff.

    Dabo Swinney's team allowed 28 first-half points in a six-point win over the Boston College Eagles and then conceded 47 to Notre Dame. If the same Clemson team from the past two weeks shows up in Charlotte, North Carolina, it could come away with its sixth straight ACC Championship Game win over a sixth different opponent.

    Ohio State has played the fewest games of the top four teams, and it would enter the playoffs with six victories if it takes care of the Northwestern Wildcats in the Big Ten Championship Game.

    The lack of on-field time has not set back the Buckeyes in the eyes of the selection committee, who kept them at No. 4 on Tuesday night. So if Ryan Day's side wins its fourth straight conference title, it will have a spot in the national semifinals.

    And if Clemson and Ohio State win their respective games December 19, they will likely be paired together.

    The committee can keep Notre Dame in the top four, but it seems unlikely that it would pit the Irish and Clemson against each other for a third time this season before the CFP National Championship.

    If Ohio State stumbles against Northwestern, Texas A&M could slide into the top four, but that seems unlikely since the Buckeyes have an average margin of victory of 23.4 points.


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