Finally this season, college football gave us a slate with some pretty good games on it and a set of results that caused some changes to the New Year's Six bowl projections. The College Football Playoff projection held firm with Alabama and Clemson winning handily and Oklahoma having the week off.
Georgia got a real test from Notre Dame between the hedges but held on for a 23-17 victory. From a playoff perspective, it was a game the Bulldogs could afford to lose. The Bulldogs as a 12-1 SEC champion, even with a loss to the Fighting Irish, would have made the playoff.
It is much harder to see a path for Notre Dame now. Even if the Irish win out, who would they beat that will ultimately impress the CFP Selection Committee? A potential win at Michigan looks a lot less impressive after the Wolverines got pounded at Wisconsin. USC? Nice win for the Trojans over Utah on Friday night, but they are not likely to be better than 8-4.
Notre Dame plays five ACC teams, but none of them are named Clemson. It is possible that Notre Dame could go 11-1 and beat maybe one team in the final CFP Rankings. The Irish would need a lot of help to make the playoff with that resume, no matter how good their loss.
Michigan actually has a better chance to make the playoff than Notre Dame -- or at least a better opportunity to do so based on its remaining schedule. The problem is that the Wolverines look completely incapable of winning out and finishing 12-1. Their new offense is still misfiring, and their defense got dominated by Wisconsin's offensive line and running back Jonathan Taylor.
Michigan is no longer projected to the Cotton Bowl. Wisconsin has taken the Wolverines' place in that game. For all the talk about Michigan's struggles, we risk ignoring how good the Badgers have been to start the season. Taylor gets a lot of attention, as he should, but those 14 second-half points Michigan scored on Saturday were the first Wisconsin had allowed all season. The Badgers are getting it done on both sides of the ball.
2020 College Football Playoff
|Date||Game / Loc.||Matchup||Prediction|
|Title game|| Semifinal winners|
Selection committee bowl games
|Date||Bowl / Location||Matchup||Prediction|
SEC vs. Big 12
| LSU vs. Texas|
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
|Ohio State vs. Oregon|
ACC vs. SEC/B1G/ND
|Virginia vs. Notre Dame|
At-large vs. At-large
|Boise State vs. Wisconsin|
The other projected Cotton Bowl participant has changed as well. Pitt used a trick play to score a touchdown with under a minute to go to hand UCF its first regular season loss in 27 games. That loss knocks the Knights out of the New Year's Six with Boise State taking their place.
The Pac-12 continues to go through its annual ritual of self-cannibalization. Three more teams picked up their first loss of the season and all three were upset losses. Colorado won at Arizona State on Saturday, while Utah lost at USC on Friday.
However, the game we will talk about for years came late in the evening when UCLA -- yes, UCLA -- scored 50 -- yes, 50 – second-half points and erased a 32-point, third-quarter deficit to win at Washington State.
That leaves Cal is the lone remaining undefeated Pac-12 team. Raise your hand if you knew that would be the case four weeks into the season. Now, put it down because you're lying. The Bears have wins at Washington in the league and at Ole Miss in nonconference play. As impressive as they have been so far, I am not convinced they are on their way to 13-0. Regardless, the Pac-12 is one Cal loss from playoff elimination, again.
It could end up being a bad year for borderline bowl-eligible teams. I am currently projecting that they will be a record 82 eligible teams. The problem is that we only need 78. My current bowl projections leave out Buffalo, Liberty, Middle Tennessee and Nevada.