How much drama are we in store for on Sunday during the College Football Playoff rankings show?
There shouldn’t be much, to be honest. Yeah, TCU lost on Saturday, but the only spot that should be up for grabs is the fourth spot. And with just one other one-loss team in college football, the decision should be relatively straightforward. Does 11-1 Ohio State get the spot or 12-2 USC after the Trojans lost to Utah on Friday night?
We think the committee will go with the team with fewer losses even though it played one fewer game. Here’s how we believe the playoff and New Year’s Six bowls will shake out when they are announced after noon ET on Sunday.
Peach Bowl No. 1 Georgia (13-0) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (11-1)
Let’s get the formality out of the way first. Georgia entered the weekend in the top spot and did nothing to relinquish it in an easy 50-30 win over LSU in the SEC title game. By virtue of being the highest seed, Georgia gets to play in the semifinal closest to home. And the Peach Bowl will be very happy to have the Bulldogs.
Ohio State is our pick to get into the playoff over USC after the Trojans suffered their second loss of the season on Friday night in the Pac-12 title game. The Buckeyes are the only team with one loss that wasn’t playing on championship weekend and should get into the playoff’s final spot ahead of Alabama. If the committee thought Alabama was better than Ohio State, its chance to rank the Tide over the Buckeyes came and went on Tuesday.
Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Michigan (13-0) vs. No. 3 TCU (12-1)
It’s hard to see the middle two spots of the playoff field changing much despite TCU’s loss. Michigan took care of business in the Big Ten title game on Saturday night and is entrenched at No. 2. That’s not in question.
It’s possible that TCU’s spot in No. 3 is in question, but there’s also no good alternative answer either. Is Ohio State going to move past TCU by virtue of not playing the week after a 22-point loss in its last game? After all, this is a TCU team that lost to a top-10 team in overtime. The game was a lot closer than Ohio State’s loss to Michigan in Week 13. The Horned Frogs should stay in the third spot. And even if the committee wanted to put Ohio State ahead of TCU, does it really want to have Michigan play Ohio State again in the semifinals?
Cotton Bowl: USC (11-2) vs. Tulane (11-2)
The Trojans drop out of the College Football Playoff and into the Cotton Bowl thanks to that loss to Utah. Hopefully the layoff between the Pac-12 title game and the Cotton Bowl is enough for Caleb Williams’ left hamstring to heal. He was electric until he injured it at the end of a 59-yard run in the first half.
Tulane is the representative from the Group of Five conferences as it’ll be the highest-ranked non-Power Five team on Sunday. The Green Wave won the AAC title at home against UCF on Saturday and the Cotton Bowl will be Tulane’s first major bowl appearance since the 1939 Sugar Bowl.
Orange Bowl: Clemson (11-2) vs. Tennessee (10-2)
The Volunteers looked like they were going to be out of the New Year’s Six mix if USC made the playoff. But Ohio State’s likely leap into the top four means Tennessee will get to end the season in Miami as the Orange Bowl will be attended by orange-clad fans from both sides.
The Vols will start Joe Milton at QB after Hendon Hooker’s season-ending ACL injury while it could be Cade Klubnik’s time to shine for the Tigers. He replaced D.J. Uiagalelei early in Clemson’s ACC title game win over North Carolina on Saturday night.
Rose Bowl: Utah (10-3) vs. Penn State (10-2)
The Pac-12’s spot in the Rose Bowl was likely going to Washington if the Utes had lost to USC. But since Utah won the conference for a second consecutive season, it heads to Pasadena for a second straight season.
Penn State, meanwhile, was likely heading to Pasadena even before Utah’s win over USC. The Rose Bowl has the leeway to avoid having teams appear in the game in back-to-back seasons. And with Ohio State in the Rose Bowl a season ago, Penn State looked set for the Rose Bowl if the Buckeyes missed the playoff.
Sugar Bowl: Kansas State (10-3) vs. Alabama (10-2)
The Wildcats were headed to the Sugar Bowl no matter what happened on Saturday but now they’re going as Big 12 champions after beating TCU. It’s the first Sugar Bowl appearance in school history and would be the first time Kansas State has ever played Alabama.
The Crimson Tide will be in the Sugar Bowl as the highest-ranked SEC team outside the CFP. We’ll wait and see if Bryce Young will play in the game or if he’ll sit it out in preparation for the NFL draft. Will Anderson is also in line to make a similar decision.