2017-18 college football bowl projections: Preseason calls for each of the games

Let's face it. Alabama has been as consistently dominant as any team in the history of college football over the past decade. When -- not if -- the Associated Press Top 25 declares it the preseason No. 1 team on Aug. 21, it will mark the ninth consecutive year that the Crimson Tide have been at the top of the AP Top 25 at the start the season, end of the regular season or end of the postseason. No team can match that. You would be hard pressed to find a team that was ranked No. 1 at any point of nine consecutive seasons. Alabama has won three national championships in the previous eight years, although none of those came in a season in which it was the preseason No. 1.

In that sense, the Tide are due. I am picking them to at least finish the regular season where they start, not because of any sense of being "due" but rather for a much more simple reason: They have the best talent and the best coach. While that does not guarantee a championship, it makes it harder to pick against them.

That said, the margin between the Crimson Tide and the rest of the field is not so large that they cannot be had. I am picking another familiar face at No. 2. Ohio State is the favorite in the Big Ten, but again this season, the Buckeyes will be challenged. Penn State returns a lot of talent, especially on offense, and the Nittany Lions are the defending league champion. The Buckeyes also face Oklahoma in nonconference play.

Southern California is slotted at No. 3 in the preseason College Football Playoff projection. The Trojans were largely considered the best team in college football last season after their 1-3 start. You try to take up that argument with Clemson fans, though. Quarterback Sam Darnold is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

Coming in at No. 4 is preseason ACC favorite Florida State. The Seminoles can make an early statement when they face Alabama in the opening week of the season in Atlanta, where the CFP title game will be played. FSU has most of its defense returning from last season, most notably All-American safety Derwin James, who had last season cut short by a knee injury. Deondre Francois is back to lead the offense.

South Florida is the pick to win the American Athletic Conference and represent the Group of Five in the New Year's Six this season. I have them matched up with projected SEC runner-up Florida in the Peach Bowl. I'm sure the Gators would be thrilled beyond words with that pairing.

With the CFP semifinals in the Rose and Sugar Bowls this year, three of the other four New Year's Six matchups are simply at-large vs. at-large. That provides the greatest opportunity to have games filled with the most highly ranked teams. The best-case scenario for that to happen is for the semifinals to be games between conference champions with either the ACC, Big Ten or SEC left out. That would put the excluded team in the Orange Bowl, which is committed to an ACC versus Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame matchup. The Group of Five champion will likely get one of those six other at-large spots, regardless of ranking, but the remaining five would go to the highest-rated teams left in the CFP Rankings.

Below are my first set of projections for the College Football Playoff and the entire 2017-18 bowl schedule ahead of the start of the season. All times Eastern

2018 College Football Playoff

Date Game / Loc. Time / TV Matchup Prediction

Jan. 8

National Championship
Atlanta

8 p.m.
ESPN

Title game Semifinal winners

Jan. 1

Rose Bowl
Pasadena, Calif.

5 p.m.
ESPN

Semifinal

(2) Ohio State vs. (3) USC

Jan. 1

Sugar Bowl
New Orleans

8:45 p.m.
ESPN

Semifinal

(1) Alabama vs. (4) Florida State

Selection committee bowl games

Date Game / Loc. Time / TV Matchup Prediction

Jan. 1

Peach
Atlanta

12:30 p.m.
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

Florida vs. South Florida

Dec. 30

Fiesta
Glendale, Ariz.

4 p.m.
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

Wisconsin vs. Washington

Dec. 30

Orange
Miami

8 p.m.
ESPN

ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND

Clemson vs Penn State

Dec. 29

Cotton
Arlington, Texas

8:30 p.m.
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

Oklahoma State vs. LSU

Other bowl games

Date Game / Loc. Time / TV Matchup Prediction

Jan. 1

Outback
Tampa, Fla.

Noon
ESPN2

SEC vs. Big Ten

Georgia vs. Nebraska
Jan. 1 Buffalo WW
Orlando, Fla.
1 p.m.
ABC
SEC vs. Big Ten/ACC Auburn vs. Miami
Dec. 30

TaxSlayer
Jacksonville, Fla.

Noon
ESPN
SEC vs. Big Ten/ACC Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech
Dec. 30

Liberty
Memphis, Tenn.

12:30 p.m.
ABC

SEC vs. Big 12

Arkansas vs. Kansas State
Dec. 29 Belk
Charlotte
1 p.m.
ESPN

SEC vs. ACC/ND

Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech

Dec. 29

Sun
El Paso, Texas

2 p.m.
CBS

Pac-12 vs. ACC/ND

Utah vs. Pittsburgh
Dec. 29 Music City
Nashville, Tenn.
4:30 p.m.
ESPN

SEC vs. B1G/ACC/ND

Kentucky vs. Northwestern
Dec. 29 Arizona
Tucson, Ariz.
5:30 p.m.
CBSSN
MWC vs. Sun Belt Wyoming vs. Idaho
Dec. 28 Military
Annapolis, Md.
1:30 p.m.
ESPN

AAC vs. ACC/ND

Navy vs. NC State
Dec. 28 Camping World
Orlando, Fla.
5:15 p.m.
ESPN

Big 12 vs. ACC/ND

Texas vs. Louisville
Dec. 28 Holiday
San Diego
6 p.m.
FS1

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Michigan vs. Oregon
Dec. 28 Alamo
San Antonio
9 p.m.
ESPN

Big 12 vs. Pac-12

Oklahoma vs. Stanford
Dec. 27 Independence
Shreveport, La.
1:30 p.m.
ESPN

SEC vs. ACC/ND

BYU* vs. Syracuse
Dec. 27 Pinstripe
New York
5:15 p.m.
ESPN

Big Ten vs. ACC/ND

Iowa vs. Notre Dame
Dec. 27 Foster Farms
Santa Clara, Calif.
8:30 p.m.
Fox
Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Minnesota vs. UCLA
Dec. 27 Texas
Houston
9 p.m.
ESPN

Big 12 vs. SEC

TCU vs. Texas A&M
Dec. 26 Quick Lane
Detroit
TBA
ESPN

Big Ten vs. ACC/ND

Indiana vs. Old Dominion*
Dec. 26 Heart of Dallas
Dallas
TBA
ESPN

Big 12 vs. CUSA

Air Force* vs. Western Kentucky
Dec. 26 Cactus
Phoenix
TBA
ESPN

Big 12 vs. Pac-12

West Virginia vs. Washington St.
Dec. 24 Hawaii
Honolulu
8:30 p.m.
ESPN

MWC vs. AAC

Colorado State vs. UCF
Dec. 23 Birmingham
Birmingham, Ala.
Noon
ESPN
SEC vs. AAC Georgia Southern* vs. Memphis
Dec. 23 Armed Forces
Fort Worth, Texas

3:30 p.m.
ESPN

Big Ten vs. Army Michigan State vs. Army
Dec. 23 Dollar General
Mobile, Ala.
7 p.m.
ESPN

MAC vs. Sun Belt

Toledo vs. Arkansas State
Dec. 22 Bahamas
Nassau
12:30 p.m.
ESPN

MAC vs. Sun Belt

Western Michigan vs. MTSU
Dec. 22 Idaho Potato
Boise, Idaho
4 p.m.
ESPN
MWC vs. MAC Boise State vs. Northern Illinois
Dec. 21 St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg, Fla.

8 p.m.
ESPN

CUSA vs. AAC

Southern Miss vs. Tulsa
Dec. 20 Frisco
Frisco, Texas
8 p.m.
ESPN
AAC vs. CUSA/MAC/Sun
Houston vs. Ohio
Dec. 19 Boca Raton
Boca Raton, Fla.
7 p.m.
ESPN
AAC vs. CUSA Temple vs. Marshall
Dec. 16

New Orleans
New Orleans

1 p.m.
ESPN

Sun vs. CUSA/MWC

Appalachian State vs. UTSA
Dec. 16

Cure
Orlando, Fla.

2:30 p.m.
CBSSN

AAC vs. Sun Belt

Cincinnati vs. Troy

Dec. 16

Las Vegas
Las Vegas

3:30 p.m.
ABC

Pac-12 vs. MWC

Colorado vs. San Diego State

Dec. 16

New Mexico
Albuquerque, N.M.

4:30 p.m.
ESPN

CUSA vs. MWC

Louisiana Tech vs. New Mexico

Dec. 16

Camellia
Montgomery, Ala.

8 p.m.
ESPN

MAC vs. Sun Belt

Miami (OH) vs. South Alabama
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jerry Palm started writing about sports on the Internet right after Al Gore invented it. He was the first to bring RPI out in the open and is one of the pioneers of predicting the March Madness bracket.... Full Bio

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