Bowl projections: Clemson, Penn State swap spots in College Football Playoff

There is a slight change in the year-end College Football Playoff projections this week.  Clemson has moved up to the No. 3 seed, dropping Penn State to No. 4.  However, the Nittany Lions' 39-38 loss to Ohio State on Saturday is not the reason for the move. That loss was already built into the projections.

Penn State's schedule strength is beginning to suffer.  Michigan State's triple-overtime loss at Northwestern on Saturday means that if both Ohio State and Penn State win out, as projected, then Michigan will have to win at Wisconsin in order to have a chance to finish with nine wins. If that does not happen, Penn State may not have a victory over a team with more than eight wins. The Wolverines, Spartans and Wildcats are expected to reach that total.  The only other teams on Penn State's schedule expected to finish above .500 are Iowa and Georgia State.

Meanwhile, Clemson already has wins over Auburn and Virginia Tech, still has to play NC State, and could face Miami or VT again in an ACC title game.  The Tigers should have at least two teams with nine wins or more on their schedule and could have as many as four.  There is also a decent chance that a couple of other teams on their schedule will finish with at least eight wins.

Depending on what happens in the Big 12, that league's champion could jump Penn State and leave it out altogether.  If Notre Dame finishes 11-1, which is not my current projection, the Irish would very likely be ahead of Penn State as well.

2018 College Football Playoff

DATEGAME / LOC.TIME / TVMATCHUPPREDICTION

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) Clemson

Jan. 1

Sugar Bowl
New Orleans

8:45 p.m.
ESPN

Semifinal

(1) Alabama vs. (4) Penn State

Speaking of the Big 12, there is quite a jumble at the top of the league.  Four teams -- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and resurgent Iowa State -- enter November with one conference loss.  There are still three regular season games among those teams, so things will likely get sorted out before the Big 12 Championship Game, which will also be between two of those teams.  We have reached the point where it becoming more unlikely that the league will produce a 12-1 champion.  Iowa State already has two losses and TCU and the Oklahoma schools each have a road game remaining against another contender.  A two-loss champion is probably not going to make the playoff.

The Pac-12 is down to just a single one-loss team after Washington State lost at ArizonaWashington is now the only team in the conference that can finish 12-1 and have something of a chance at the playoff.

It was a bad week to be an undefeated team.  Besides Penn State and TCU, South Florida also suffered its first loss of the season.  The Bulls lost at home to Houston on Saturday, 28-24.  They still have a chance to represent the Group of Five in one of the New Year's Six games but will have to win out, including at still-undefeated UCF.

Selection committee bowl games

DATEGAME / LOC.TIME / TVMATCHUPPREDICTION

Jan. 1

Peach
Atlanta

12:30 p.m.
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

Oklahoma vs. UCF

Dec. 30

Fiesta
Glendale, Ariz.

4 p.m.
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

Wisconsin vs. USC

Dec. 30

Orange
Miami

8 p.m.
ESPN

ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND

Miami vs. Georgia

Dec. 29

Cotton
Arlington, Texas

8:30 p.m.
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

Okla. State vs. Notre Dame

The middle of college football took some tough losses, too, leaving me three teams short of the number needed to fill the 39 bowl games this season.  I have a whopping 25 teams projected to finish with five wins. From that group, Duke, Minnesota and Vanderbilt are projected to bowl games.

Click here to check out the rest of Jerry Palm's bowl projections after Week 9.

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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