College Football Playoff, bowl projections: Preseason calls for each of the 2018-19 games

To say that Alabama football has been a dynasty over the last decade may be understating things.  Last season, the Crimson Tide picked up their fifth national championship in the last nine seasons, a feat unmatched in the AP Top 25 era.  Alabama has opened No. 1 in the preseason edition of the CBS Sports 129, and it will surely start from the pole position again when the writers' vote is released in a couple of weeks.

When that happens, the Crimson Tide will have held the top spot in 29 of the last 32 polls.  It will also mark the 10th consecutive year that Alabama has been at the top of the AP Top 25 at either the start the season, the end of the regular season or the 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 10 consecutive seasons, but it will be actually be 11 for Alabama.  The last season in which the Tide did not have a single No. 1 ranking was 2007.

I cannot argue with that success.  I feel like I pick Alabama No. 1 in the preseason bowl projections every year, but there is no reason not to.  The Crimson Tide have the best talent and best coach, year-in and year-out.  This season, we do not know who the starting quarterback will be, but whether it is Jalen Hurts (who started every game last year) or College Football Playoff National Championship hero Tua Tagovailoa, that player will be a top Heisman Trophy candidate.  That's a tough problem to have.

That does not mean Alabama is invincible.  In fact, none of those five championships have seen the Crimson Tide go wire-to-wire at the top of the polls, and only in 2009 did they finish the season undefeated.

Dabo Swinney has built a relatively new powerhouse at Clemson, one that is now beginning to rival the one Nick Saban has built at Alabama.  Clemson, my pick for the No. 2 seed in the CFP, figures to be a strong favorite again in the ACC and will be trying to make its fourth consecutive playoff.  The Tigers have finished the regular season at No. 1 two of the last three years only to lose in the CFP to the Tide.  Clemson is also trying to decide on a quarterback with senior returning starter Kelly Bryant trying to hold off five-star freshman Trevor Lawrence.

Ohio State has the talent to make another run through the Big Ten, but the question surrounding the Buckeyes is whether Urban Meyer will be there to guide them?  We will not have the answer to that question for another week or so as Ohio State evaluates Meyer's status with the team.  He is on paid administrative leave while the school investigates what he knew about former assistant coach Zach Smith's domestic violence issues.  On the field, all eyes will be on Dwayne Haskins as he replaces four-year starter JT Barrett at quarterback.  The Buckeyes just missed out on last year's CFP because of a 31-point loss at Iowa.

I am picking Oklahoma to repeat as Big 12 champion and land the last spot in the CFP despite the loss of Heisman winner Baker Mayfield to the NFL.  The Sooners could have Kyler Murray at quarterback; he has signed a big contract with the Oakland A's to play baseball and will begin that career at the end of this season.  If it's not Murray behind center, it will be Austin Kendall.  Lincoln Riley will try to duplicate the success he had in his first season, which was one of the best head coaching debuts in college football history.

2019 College Football Playoff

Date Game / Loc. Time / TV Matchup Prediction

Jan. 7

National Championship
Santa Clara, Calif.

8 p.m.
ESPN

Title game Semifinal winners

Dec. 29

Cotton Bowl
Arlington, Tex.

4/8 p.m.
ESPN

Semifinal

(1) Alabama vs. (4) Oklahoma

Dec. 29

Orange Bowl
Miami

4/8 p.m.
ESPN

Semifinal

(2) Clemson vs. (3) Ohio State

The CFP semifinal games this year will be in the Orange and Cotton Bowls.  In the seasons where the Rose and Sugar Bowls are not part of the playoff, there is a possibility that some good teams could get aced out of the New Year's Six because of conference contracts.  The Rose and Sugar Bowls will get teams from their contracted conferences regardless of ranking.  That means, if my projections are correct, the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 are guaranteed a second team in the New Year's Six.  That would also be true of the Pac-12 should it put a team in the CFP.

I have Boise State as the representative of the Group of Five.  I think the Broncos have a little easier run to a possible undefeated or one-loss season than any of the teams in the American Athletic Conference.  The AAC champion figures to be a contender for that spot also, and it could be a favorite if it posts a one-loss season or better.

Selection committee bowl games

Date Bowl / Loc. Time / TV Matchup Prediction

Jan. 1

Sugar
New Orleans

8:45 p.m.
ESPN

SEC vs. Big 12

Georgia vs. Texas

Jan. 1

Rose
Pasadena, Calif.

5 p.m.
ESPN

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Wisconsin vs. Washington

Jan. 1

Fiesta
Glendale, Ariz.

1 p.m.
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

Stanford vs. Boise State

Dec. 29

Peach
Atlanta

Noon
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

Miami vs. Penn State

Once you get outside of the New Year's Six, merit is not a significant factor in bowl selection, unless it is contracted.  Bowls are looking to put good matchups together that will draw a good crowd and eyes to the TV sets.  ESPN owns several bowls and will sometimes change even conference affiliations at the last minute to create matchups that it wants for its games. 

The Big Ten has contracted some level of no-repeat clauses for its bowl games.  You can see how that impacts this projection.  Purdue is slotted for the Outback Bowl in Tampa even though Iowa and Michigan are also available.  However, the Wolverines and Hawkeyes are the last two Big Ten teams to play in that game, so there is almost no chance of either of them being placed in Tampa this season.

There are 39 bowl games again this season, which means 78 eligible teams are needed out of the 129 playing at the FBS level.  I came up two short.  Vanderbilt and Nevada are projected to be in bowl games with 5-7 records.  If such a need arises, APR decides which 5-7 teams can play in the postseason.

Coastal Carolina has completed its transition from FCS to FBS and can compete in the postseason if it earns the right. Liberty is just starting that transition and is not considered an FBS program until the 2019-20 season. Former Sun Belt members Idaho and New Mexico State had to find new homes.  The Vandals dropped down to FCS, while the Aggies are playing as an independent.

Other bowl games

Date Game / Loc. Time / TV Matchup Prediction

Jan. 1

Citrus
Orlando, Fla.

1 p.m.
ABC

SEC vs. Big Ten/ACC

Auburn vs. Michigan State
Jan. 1 Outback
Tampa, Fla.
Noon
ESPN2
SEC vs. Big TenFlorida vs. Purdue
Dec. 31

Gator
Jacksonville, Fla.

7:30 p.m.
ESPN
SEC vs. Big Ten/ACC Texas A&M vs. Michigan
Dec. 31Holiday
San Diego, Calif.
7 p.m.
FS1  
Big Ten vs. Pac-12Iowa vs. Arizona
Dec. 31

Liberty
Memphis, Tenn.

3:45 p.m.
ESPN

SEC vs. Big 12

Miss. State vs. Kansas State
Dec. 31San Francisco
Santa Clara, Calif.
3 p.m.
FOX
Big Ten vs. Pac-12Northwestern vs. Utah
Dec. 31Hyundai Sun
El Paso, Tex.
2 p.m.
CBS  
Pac-12 vs. ACCOregon vs. North Carolina
Dec. 31Military
Annapolis, Md.  
Noon
ESPN 
ACC vs. AACNC State vs. Navy
Dec. 29NOVA Arizona
Tucson, Ariz.  
5:30 p.m.
CBSSN  
MWC vs. Sun Belt  
UNLV vs. New Mexico State  
Dec. 29 Belk
Charlotte
Noon
ABC

SEC vs. ACC

Missouri vs. Florida State

Dec. 28

Alamo
San Antonio, Tex.

9 p.m.
ESPN

Big 12 vs. Pac-12

West Virginia vs. USC
Dec. 28  
Camping World
Orlando, Fla.  
5:15 p.m.
ESPN  
Big 12 vs. ACC
TCU vs. Notre Dame
Dec. 28Music City
Nashville, Tenn.
1:30 p.m.
ESPN
SEC vs. B1G/ACCSouth Carolina vs. Virginia Tech
Dec. 27 Texas
Houston
9 p.m.
ESPN

Big 12 vs. SEC

Oklahoma State vs. LSU
Dec. 27Pinstripe
New York
5:15 p.m.
ESPN
Big Ten vs. ACCNebraska vs. Louisville
Dec. 27 Independence
Shreveport, La.
1:30 p.m.
ESPN

SEC vs. ACC

Vanderbilt vs. Duke
Dec. 26Cheez-It
Phoenix
9 p.m.
ESPN  
Big 12 vs. Pac-12Iowa State vs. California
Dec. 26Quick Lane
Detroit
5:15 p.m.
ESPN  
Big Ten vs. ACCNevada vs. Wake Forest
Dec. 26First Responder
Dallas
1:30 p.m.
ESPN  
Big 12 vs. CUSAColorado State vs. Southern Miss
Dec. 22 Hawaii
Honolulu
10:30 pm
ESPN

CUSA vs. MWC

Marshall vs. Wyoming
Dec. 22Dollar General
Mobile, Ala.  
7 p.m.
ESPN  
MAC vs. Sun Belt  
Ohio vs. Arkansas State
Dec. 22Armed Forces
Fort Worth, Tex. 
3:30 p.m.
ESPN  
Big Ten vs. ArmyCincinnati vs. Army
Dec. 22 Birmingham
Birmingham, Ala.
Noon
ESPN
SEC vs. AAC Arkansas vs. UCF
Dec. 21 Idaho Potato
Boise, Idaho
4 p.m.
ESPN
MWC vs. MAC Utah State vs. Buffalo
Dec. 21Bahamas
Nassau  
12:30 pm
ESPN  
MAC vs. CUSANorthern Illinois vs. MTSU
Dec. 20 Gasparilla
Tampa, Fla.

8 p.m.
ESPN

AAC vs. ACC/CUSA

South Florida vs. UAB
Dec. 19 Frisco
Frisco, Tex.
8 p.m.
ESPN
AAC vs. CUSA/MAC/Sun
Houston vs. Toledo
Dec. 18 Boca Raton
Boca Raton, Fla.
7 p.m.
ESPN
AAC vs. CUSA Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic
Dec. 15

New Orleans
New Orleans

9 p.m.
ESPN

Sun vs. CUSA             

ULM vs. Louisiana Tech
Dec. 15Camellia
Montgomery, Ala.  
5:30 p.m.
ESPN  
MAC vs. Sun BeltWestern Michigan vs. App. State
Dec. 15Las Vegas
Las Vegas  
3:30 p.m.
ABC  
Pac-12 vs. MWC  
Colorado vs. Fresno State
Dec. 15

AutoNation Cure
Orlando, Fla.

2:30 p.m.
CBSSN

AAC vs. Sun Belt

Temple vs. Troy

Dec. 15

New Mexico
Albuquerque, N.M.

2 p.m.
ESPN

CUSA vs. MWC

North Texas vs. San Diego State
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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