College Football Playoff 2020: Full Bowl Predictions for Biggest Matchups
The College Football Playoff is on track to welcome at least three familiar faces to its latest version.
Each one of the top four teams in the CFB Playoff rankings has qualified for the playoff in its six-year history.
The Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes seem like safe picks to place into the playoff because of the disparity between them and their opponents in their respective conference championship games.
The final two spots depend on the result of the ACC Championship Game between the Clemson Tigers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
If Clemson wins, the committee could be inclined to keep both ACC squads in the top four. If Notre Dame wins, the door will be open for a first-time playoff participant, such as the Texas A&M Aggies or Iowa State Cyclones.
Sugar Bowl (January 1): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
There is playing great football, and then there is the level Alabama has been at this season.
The Crimson Tide have soared above their competition in the SEC and made a strong case to be the No. 1 overall seed in the playoff.
Nick Saban's team has three double-digit victories over Top 25 teams, and it scored at least 40 points in nine of its 10 games.
Saturday night's SEC Championship Game could be more of a coronation for the Crimson Tide as the kings of the conference again instead of a battle between them and the Florida Gators.
Saban is 8-1 in the conference title clash. His only loss came in 2008 to Florida, when Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow led the Gators.
There is always a chance Alabama plays beneath its high level, but it has displayed no let up over the 10-game SEC campaign, and it is facing a Florida team with little to play for after its playoff aspirations were dashed by an upset loss to the LSU Tigers in Week 15.
Notre Dame appears to be in decent shape to make its second playoff in three years as long as it plays a close game with Clemson.
The Fighting Irish are playing an improved Tigers team, with signal-caller Trevor Lawrence back in the fold. Clemson's defense has improved in the past two games by holding each of its opponents under 20 points.
Clemson has not allowed an ACC Championship Game opponent to score more than 20 points since 2016.
Notre Dame could end that run of defensive dominance, but it may not be able to keep up with Lawrence and Co. if the Clemson defense makes a few stops that it could not get in the first meeting between the programs November 7.
If Notre Dame possesses a resume with one loss by a close margin to a Clemson team it has beaten this season, it could be hard for the committee to drop it three spots and out of the top four.
The other factor playing into the committee's decision may be Texas A&M's early-season loss to Alabama. There may be a preference to put Notre Dame in a fresh matchup with Alabama instead of a SEC West rematch with a potentially predictable result.
Rose Bowl (January 1): No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State
Clemson could be involved in the No. 2-versus-No. 3 game for the third straight year if it beats Notre Dame on Saturday.
Dabo Swinney's program will not eclipse Alabama with an ACC Championship Game victory, which could put it in a rematch with Ohio State.
A year ago, Clemson won the battle between the ACC's and Big Ten's premier programs at the Fiesta Bowl. If the two sides meet on New Year's Day, it will likely be at the Rose Bowl.
Clemson does not have to win by a specific margin to get into the playoff since it was ranked third in Tuesday night's rankings. The Tigers have won the past five ACC Championship Games, and Lawrence has not lost a start against a conference opponent.
With a win, Clemson should slot into the No. 2 spot ahead of Ohio State, which enters Saturday one spot beneath the ACC side. Ohio State has played the fewest amount of games of any playoff contender, but it has benefited from a high ranking all season.
All the Buckeyes have to do is defeat the Northwestern Wildcats to secure one of the four playoff positions.
The Buckeyes own a three-game winning streak in the Big Ten Championship Game and have not lost to Northwestern since 2004.
If Ohio State wins, it would ensure that the playoff features representatives from at least three conferences.
New Year's 6
Cotton Bowl (December 30): Iowa State vs. Florida
Peach Bowl (January 1): Cincinnati vs. Georgia
Fiesta Bowl (January 2): USC vs. Indiana
Orange Bowl (January 2): Texas A&M vs. North Carolina
The results of the Big 12 and Pac-12 Championship Games will to help shape the New Year's Six matchups.
If sixth-ranked Iowa State defeats the Oklahoma Sooners for the second time, it will land in the Cotton Bowl as the conference champion.
There is a chance the Cyclones remain in the top 10 with a loss since the selection committee has shown in the past few weeks that it values Matt Campbell's side more than undefeated Group of Five teams or one-loss power-five sides.
The USC Trojans can lock up the first New Year's Six berth Friday night with a win over the Oregon Ducks.
Since the Rose Bowl is hosting a semifinal game this season, the Pac-12 winner will head to the Fiesta Bowl.
If Texas A&M remains at No. 5, it could be involved in an enticing matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels, who would be the ACC NY6 representative if Clemson and Notre Dame both make the CFP.
Both the Aggies and Tar Heels could be in the playoff mix in 2021, and a potential head-to-head showdown may serve as a showcase of two challengers to the nation's elite programs.
After the cancellation of the Sun Belt Championship Game, the Cincinnati Bearcats are likely the only Group of Five team to land in the New Year's Six.
The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are ranked 12th and needed a victory in the Sun Belt title game and some help elsewhere on conference championship weekend to be at the bottom of the top 10 and secure a marquee bowl berth.