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Bowl projections: Michigan, Oklahoma State enter College Football Playoff with Alabama on outside looking in

Bowl projections: Michigan, Oklahoma State enter College Football Playoff with Alabama on outside looking in

Rivalry Week is in the books, which means Championship Week is upon us along with the penultimate set of bowl projections before the announcement of the College Football Playoff and other bowl matchups on Sunday, Dec. 5.  Sometimes, information leaks out in advance, and the CBS Sports bowl projections page will be updated as that happens throughout the week.

For example, East Carolina accepted a bid to the Military Bowl on Saturday.

The big news of the weekend is that Jim Harbaugh finally did it! He won the game he was hired to win as Michigan beat Ohio State, 42-27. The Wolverines are projected to take the Buckeyes’ previous spot as the No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff behind No. 1 seed Georgia. The Bulldogs are expected to cement that spot with a win over Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

Cincinnati, which finished its regular season with a 35-13 win at East Carolina, is still projected into the No. 3 spot. However, there is now a change at No. 4.

With Oklahoma State winning its first edition of Bedlam since 2014, it is projected to finish the season as the Big 12 champion with a win next Saturday over Baylor. The Cowboys previously beat the Bears 24-14 back on Oct. 2. That would put Oklahoma State ahead of projected two-loss Alabama for the final spot in the playoff.

The CFP Selection Committee is supposed to give preference to conference champions if a decision between two teams is close.  Alabama needed four overtimes to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl. While anything can happen in a rivalry game, especially that one, it is just further evidence that Alabama has not been Alabama of late. The committee already moved the Tide down a spot this week based partly on its level of play. Though a loss to No. 1 Georgia next week would certainly not be a bad defeat, it is projected to cost Alabama a spot in the CFP.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 10

National Championship

Title game Semifinal winners

Dec. 31

Orange Bowl
Miami Gardens, Fla.


(1) Georgia vs. (4) Oklahoma State

Dec. 31

Cotton Bowl
Arlington, Texas


(2) Michigan vs. (3) Cincinnati

In the New Year’s Six, we have an unfortunate rematch between Oregon and Ohio State as part of the projections. The Ducks are the expected Pac-12 champions, and the Buckeyes are projected to be the highest-ranked Big Ten team after the Wolverines, which are projected for the CFP. However, the Rose Bowl could choose Michigan State instead if it wants to avoid the regular-season rematch — and it is the Rose Bowl’s choice, not that of the committee.

Of course, if Utah beats Oregon, problem solved. Utah would face Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, unless Iowa upsets Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game. If that happened, the CFP matchups would change with the Hawkeyes playing in the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champions.

Pittsburgh is listed for the Peach Bowl as the projected ACC champion, but if Wake Forest wins, the Demon Deacons would get that spot instead. It seems unlikely that either of those teams would be sent out west to play in the Fiesta Bowl.

There are so many possibilities left based on championship game outcomes. Check back later this week for my take on each team’s path to the College Football Playoff, no matter how ridiculous some of those scenarios may be.

New Year’s Six bowl games

Jan. 1

New Orleans

SEC vs. Big 12

Alabama vs. Baylor

Jan. 1

Pasadena, Calif.

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Ohio State vs. Oregon

Jan. 1

Glendale, Ariz.

At-large vs. At-large

Michigan State vs. Notre Dame

Dec. 30


At-large vs. At-large

Ole Miss vs. Pittsburgh

Another possible regular-season rematch shows up in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, which I’m projecting to select West Virginia and Maryland. Those two played each other in the season opener. The Big 12 selection process is likely to leave the bowl with the Mountaineers, but the Big Ten, which has the final say on where its teams go, could swap Penn State there and put Maryland in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Thanks to four wins by teams that were at least a touchdown underdog on Saturday, we have 83 bowl-eligible teams, including 13 of 14 SEC teams, setting a record for an FBS conference. After a season of projecting that at least two 5-7 teams would be needed to fill the bowls, we instead ended up with one more than needed. That means Ball State is not projected to go to a bowl despite being eligible.

The Bahamas Bowl is expected to announce its participants this week in advance of the championship games because of the time needed for those teams to prepare for international travel. That is a Conference USA vs MAC matchup, and the teams participating in those championship games will not be selected for the Bahamas Bowl.

Don’t see your team? Check out the rest of Jerry Palm’s updated bowl projections.