Bowl projections: Georgia stays on top, Tennessee hangs on, TCU replaces Clemson in College Football Playoff

Georgia won its highly anticipated matchup with Tennessee, 27-13, but while the Bulldogs were third with the Volunteers first in last week’s College Football Playoff Rankings, the Dawgs’ win does not change the projected playoff matchups. A nine-point favorite entering the game, Georgia was already projected to beat Tennessee, win the SEC and earn the top spot in the CFP with the Vols expected to take the fourth seed.

Some help will be necessary for Tennessee to slide into the CFP at 11-1. The most important of those developments is Georgia remaining undefeated, winning SEC at 13-0. Any loss for the Dawgs will push them down the rankings, and they are now a ceiling for how high the Vols can finish.

Another important factor for Tennessee is Alabama, which must remain as strong as possible given it is the Vols’ best win. That presence took a hit Saturday night as the Crimson Tide lost at LSU, 32-31 in overtime. Alabama now sits 7-2 on the season and third place in the SEC West behind LSU and Ole Miss. The Tide play the Rebels next week with a chance to claim second place.

Tennessee will also need help from other conferences. Ideally, the SEC would produce the only undefeated team in Georgia. It could still work out for the Vols if there are two or even three unbeaten teams; However, there has never been an unbeaten Power Five team left out of the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State, Michigan and TCU remain undefeated, but the given the Buckeyes and Wolverines must still play one another, the possibility of four undefeated teams went by the wayside Saturday night thanks to Notre Dame’s 35-14 win over Clemson. With the Tigers suffering their first defeat of the season, the ACC champion is now assured to have at least one loss on its record.

As such, there is a new projected top four in the playoff. Clemson drops out with TCU taking its place. The Horned Frogs defeated Texas Tech on Saturday but have a tough stretch of their schedule coming up with games at Texas and Baylor.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 9

National Championship
Inglewood, Calif.

Title game Semifinal winners

Dec. 31

Peach Bowl
Atlanta

Semifinal

(1) Georgia vs. (4) Tennessee

Dec. 31

Fiesta Bowl
Glendale, Ariz.

Semifinal

(2) Ohio State vs. (3) TCU

There is a lot of movement in the other New Year’s Six games as well. Clemson is still projected to be the ACC champion, and since the Tigers are no longer projected to make the CFP, they will go to the Orange Bowl.

LSU, coming off an expected SEC Championship Game loss to Georgia, would take the SEC’s place in the Sugar Bowl. These Tigers are now expected to face Texas, the runner-up to TCU in the Big 12.

After the dust settles, Alabama should be ranked higher than Penn State. The Crimson Tide therefore replace the Nittany Lions in the Orange Bowl projection. Bama would be the fourth SEC team in a New Year’s Six game.

The other two New Year’s Six games maintain the same projects as last week with Big Ten runner-up Michigan meeting Pac-12 champion USC in the Rose Bowl and Pac-12 runner-up Oregon meeting Group of Five representative Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl

New Year’s Six bowl games

Jan. 2

Rose
Pasadena, Calif.

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Michigan vs. USC

Jan. 2

Cotton
Arlington, Tex.

at-large vs. at-large

Oregon vs. Cincinnati

Dec. 31

Sugar
New Orleans

SEC vs. Big 12

LSU vs. Texas

Dec. 30

Orange
Miami

ACC vs. SEC/B1G/ND

Clemson vs. Alabama

Penn State dropping out of the Orange Bowl means the Big Ten will keep its spot in the ReliaQuest Bowl. (The ACC takes the Big Ten slot in that game if the Big Ten is in the Orange Bowl.)

That caused bowl projection changes for several teams in both the ACC and Big Ten. Penn State is now projected to the Citrus Bowl. Illinois moves over to the ReliaQuest Bowl, replacing North Carolina. The Tar Heels are now expected to play in the Cheez-It Bowl.

The SEC had several changes as well due to having a fourth team to qualify for a New Year’s Six game. Most notably, Florida moves from the Las Vegas Bowl to the ReliaQuest Bowl and Mississippi State replaces Arkansas as the opponent for Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.

There are currently 51 bowl-eligible teams, which means we need 31 more to fill every remaining spot. However, I am expecting to come up six teams short, meaning we would need five-win teams play in games. APR rankings are used to decide which five-win teams are allowed to play in bowl games if they are needed.

Army West Point is one of those five-win teams. However, unlike the others, the Black Knights are expected to finish 5-6 instead of 5-7. Army has two wins against FCS opposition and can only count one of those for bowl eligibility.

Also, Army would need to beat Navy on Dec. 10 to become bowl eligible; that game is held one week after the bowl matchups are announced. In this case, the Independence Bowl would have to have a backup team waiting in case the Black Knights were to lose to the Midshipmen.

Don’t see your team? Check out Jerry Palm’s updated bowl projections after Week 10 as well as the CBS Sports bowl eligibility tracker for updates on what your team needs to do in order to go bowling this season.

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