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Bowl Projections 2018: CFP Predictions After Latest Playoff Rankings

Joe Tansey

The second College Football Playoff rankings of the season gave us little to debate. 

The playoff discussion is as straightforward as it can be at the moment, as each of the top four teams are deserving of their positions, and if they all win out, they'll be in the playoff. 

Since this is college football, we're expecting something to go haywire during the final four weeks of games that will shake up the rankings and stir up the playoff debate. 

Although the specter of a playoff-altering upset is out there, there's plenty of confidence in each of the teams in playoff positions to finish strong and set up a pair of mammoth clashes. 

             

Bowl Projections

College Football Playoff

Cotton Bowl (December 29): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan 

Orange Bowl (December 29): No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame 

                

New Year's Six

Peach Bowl (December 29): UCF vs. Georgia

Fiesta Bowl (January 1): Oklahoma vs. Kentucky 

Rose Bowl (January 1): Ohio State vs. Washington State

Sugar Bowl (January 1): West Virginia vs. LSU

              

Other Bowls

New Mexico Bowl (December 15): San Diego State vs. North Texas 

Cure Bowl (December 15): Akron vs. Arkansas State 

Las Vegas Bowl (December 15): Fresno State vs. USC 

Camellia Bowl (December 15): Western Michigan vs. Coastal Carolina

New Orleans Bowl (December 15): Marshall vs. UL-Monroe

Boca Raton Bowl (December 18): South Florida vs. Florida International

Frisco Bowl (December 19): Nevada vs. Toledo

Gasparilla Bowl (December 20): Memphis vs. Miami

Bahamas Bowl (December 21): Ohio vs. Middle Tennessee State

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (December 21): Boise State vs. Northern Illinois

Birmingham Bowl (December 22): Cincinnati vs. California

Armed Forces Bowl (December 22): Temple vs. Appalachian State

Dollar General Bowl (December 22): Buffalo vs. Georgia Southern 

Hawaii Bowl (December 22): Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech 

First Responder Bowl (December 26): BYU vs. Georgia Tech 

Quick Lane Bowl (December 26): Army vs. UAB 

Cheez-It Bowl (December 26): Baylor vs. Colorado

Independence Bowl (December 27): Virginia Tech vs. Oregon

Pinstripe Bowl (December 27): Iowa vs. Duke

Texas Bowl (December 27): Oklahoma State vs. Missouri

Music City Bowl (December 28): NC State vs. Arizona State 

Camping World Bowl (December 28): Syracuse vs. Texas Tech 

Alamo Bowl (December 28): Texas vs. Arizona

Belk Bowl (December 29): Boston College vs. South Carolina

Arizona Bowl (December 29): Utah State vs. Troy

Military Bowl (December 31): Virginia vs. Houston

Sun Bowl (December 31): Stanford vs. Pittsburgh

Redbox Bowl (December 31): Purdue vs. Washington

Liberty Bowl (December 31): Iowa State vs. Texas A&M 

Holiday Bowl (December 31): Utah vs. Wisconsin

Gator Bowl (December 31): Northwestern vs. Florida

Outback Bowl (January 1): Mississippi State vs. Penn State 

Citrus Bowl (January 1): Auburn vs. Michigan State

           

College Football Playoff Predictions

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan

All Alabama and Michigan have to do to reach the playoff is beat two weak opponents, defeat a rival and win a conference championship game. 

The unstoppable Crimson Tide, led by Heisman Trophy favorite Tua Tagovailoa, scored at least 39 points in every game before the 29-0 rout of LSU, which honestly felt more like 59-0. 

Butch Dill/Associated Press

Although Alabama's resume might not look as good as the other three playoff teams, it'll eventually turn out fine with three ranked foes left on the schedule. 

Mississippi State is the latest team tasked with trying to slow down the Tide offense, and although the Bulldogs could put up a fight defensively, they lack the consistent offense to challenge Nick Saban's team for four quarters. 

Alabama's Week 12 game with The Citadel will feel more like a walk through practice, while the Iron Bowl matchup with Auburn is one-sided given the Tigers' inconsistency, and if Gus Malzahn's team loses to Georgia Saturday, they'll be even less faith in it pulling off an upset at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

If the Tide pass all three November tests as they should, they'll enter the SEC Championship Game undefeated. 

A win over Georgia will solidify Alabama's spot atop the playoff rankings, but a loss will throw everything off. 

Alabama could still get in with a loss to Georgia, but we don't see a defeat in the Tide's future. They'll be able to outduel Kirby Smart's team on offense, as they average 13.2 more points per game than the SEC East champion. 

While Alabama's been flexing its offensive muscle, Michigan's shined on defense during its climb up to No. 4. 

The Wolverines possess the top defense in the FBS, and their stats on that side of the ball will only improve with Rutgers and Indiana ahead in the next two weeks. 

Leon Halip/Getty Images

The only challenge left on Michigan's schedule is Ohio State, who could make a compelling case to qualify for the playoff if it wins out.

Despite facing a fight from the Buckeyes, Michigan will use its recent poor history against the Buckeyes and playoff qualification as motivation to get past its biggest rival and win the Big Ten East. 

A win in the Big Ten Championship Game over a weaker Big Ten West opponent, who right now would be Northwestern, will set the Wolverines up for a clash of the nation's top defense against the first-ranked offense. 

               

No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame

Although the ACC hasn't lived up to expectations in 2018, it's going to be a major player in the playoff discussion over the next two weeks.

No. 2 Clemson faces a difficult road trip to Boston College in Week 11, while No. 3 Notre Dame takes on Syracuse at Yankee Stadium in Week 12.

If the Tigers and Fighting Irish pass those tests and win out, they'll be squaring off in a national semifinal because of Notre Dame's head-to-head win over Michigan putting it at the No. 3 seed. 

Clemson's proved it's the only team in the nation capable of matching Alabama's dominance, with its 77-point outburst against Louisville being the latest example of that.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

However, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers respond to a prime-time road environment at Boston College, especially if they go down. 

While falling behind is a possibility against the Eagles, the Clemson defensive line will have a say in how the game plays out, as the powerful front four stops Boston College's top offensive weapon in running back A.J. Dillon.

As long as Clemson knocks off Boston College, it'll be in the playoff. Home games against Duke and South Carolina, as well as the ACC Championship Game, could all be blowouts. 

As for Notre Dame, it faces a matchup with Syracuse in a week's time that could be trickier than expected, as the Orange are in the mix for a New Year's Six bowl if they win out. 

Jim Young/Associated Press

What will eventually separate the Fighting Irish from their final of four ACC opponents is their experience in winning tight games. 

Brian Kelly's team won four one-possession games and has proved on a few occasions that it can absorb the best punch from its opponents, with Week 10's win over Northwestern being the latest contest in which that occurred. 

A potential matchup between the Tigers and Fighting Irish could turn into a defensive struggle, as both programs rank in the Top 20 in scoring defense. 

              

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

   
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