College Football Playoff early picks, predictions for the 2018 Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl

We'll be lined up on Saturday with two of the biggest college football games of the year set to determine the contestants for the College Football Playoff National Championship. With No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Oklahoma, the CFP Selection Committee has set up the potential for instant classics in its semifinals.

Each of the last four College Football Playoffs has given us memories that have forever defined the sport, from Ohio State's win in 2014 to Tua Tagovailoa's overtime game-winner a year ago, and given the quality of the participants, it seems certain we'll have that again. Will Oklahoma's record-breaking offense triumph despite its record-breaking (for vastly different reasons) defense? Will Alabama and Clemson meet again? Will Notre Dame stun naysayers and be legitimate contenders in the field?

Though we have the right to change our minds before the CFP semifinals kick off, here's where we stood on the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl when they were announced back in early December.

Orange Bowl -- No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma: The first week of December was for the Tua Tagovailoa vs. Kyler Murray debate, and in late December, we get to see the battle settled on the field as these two dynamic quarterbacks go back and forth with a title game bid on the line. Murray's late push in the discussion for the best quarterback in college football was boosted by his Big 12 title game MVP performance, while Tagovailoa's health remains one one of the biggest talking points for the contest following his high ankle sprain against Georgia.

Cotton Bowl -- No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame: With a combined 25-0 record, Clemson and Notre Dame have yet to see defeat in 2018. The Tigers and Irish have shared several opponents thanks to Notre Dame's partnership with the ACC, and we should expect a game that's played at a very high level given the opportunity to plan and prepare for the contest. Both teams have maintained their winning ways even through changes at the quarterback position, and it's likely that the game will come down to how well Trevor Lawrence and Ian Book can move the ball against two of the best defenses in the country.

And now, onto our picks. These may change over the coming week leading into the CFP.

College Football Playoff early picks
CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories