CBS Sports graphic

The final College Football Playoff Rankings will be released Sunday, setting the stage for the playoff itself as well as the New Year's Six bowls. At least one team will fight for its first national championship of the playoff era, and the decisions made Sunday by the CFP Selection Committee will not only determine which teams get to compete for the title but which have the most manageable path toward the national crown.

No matter which teams are chosen, some playoff history is guaranteed before the field expands to 12 teams beginning next season. Entering the 2023 season ... 

The SEC champion has never been left out of the playoff. Alabama, which beat Georgia 27-24 in the SEC Championship Game, may face an unavoidable hurdle of Texas, which defeated the Crimson Tide 34-24 back on Sept. 9.

An undefeated Power Five team has never been left out of the playoff. Florida State, despite winning the ACC Championship Game in a rock fight against Louisville to remain unbeaten, looked wholly unimpressive starting its third-string, true freshman quarterback. Star signal caller Jordan Travis is out for the season.

The No. 1 team in the penultimate rankings has never missed the playoff. The Bulldogs fell to the Tide, ending a 29-game winning streak dating back to their last loss to Alabama.

No team ranked outside the top six in the penultimate rankings had made the playoff. Texas (No. 7 last week) is expected to make the field, and Alabama (No. 8) has at least a shot as well, whether over UT or FSU.

So, what exactly will happen on Selection Sunday?

Keep on reading for College Football Playoff projections from CBS Sports bowls expert Jerry Palm -- check out his entire 2023-24 bowl projections here -- along with a breakdown of how our college football experts would vote if they were members of the committee. Some of the choices might surprise you.

College Football Playoff projection

Here's how Palm has projected the top four in the CFP. Palm has gone 33 for 36 predicting CFP teams in their correct slots through eight years of the playoff.

Date Game / Loc. Matchup Prediction
Jan. 1
Sugar Bowl
New Orleans
(1) Michigan  vs. (4) Texas

Jan. 1

Rose Bowl
Pasadena, Calif.


(2) Washington vs. (3) Florida State

College Football Playoff expert picks

Here's how our college football staff would vote if they were members of the CFP Selection Committee. (Explanations below as applicable.)

Making their cases

Dodd: Washington has proven itself the No. 1 seed beyond a shadow of a doubt. Tougher road than Michigan. Better wins. Think of beating Ohio State twice. That's essentially what UW did against Oregon. It's the Huskies' playoff to lose.

Sallee / Fornelli / Crosby: There's no doubt that Florida State is sputtering into the CFP, but an undefeated Power Five conference champion must be in. However, it doesn't have to be No. 3. Texas has the best win of the season -- a 10-point road victory over the eventual SEC champion in Alabama. The committee does use the injury factor in its decision making, and the injuries to FSU quarterbacks Jordan Travis and Tate Rodemaker matter. It must determine which aspect means more -- multiple injuries to the most important players on the field or Texas' loss to Oklahoma. The latter means more in terms of overall team worth.

Jeyarajah / Patterson / Cobb: There's little reason to overthink this. Michigan has consistently been treated with a different level of respect than Washington -- before the Wolverines even played quality opponents. UM's 26-0 win over Iowa was ugly but provides enough justification to keep it on top. Florida State didn't look impressive offensively against Louisville, but ignoring a 13-0 season and three ranked wins because the Seminoles dealt with multiple injuries would be ridiculous. Jordan Travis isn't coming back, but both backups will have a full month of first-team reps with their NFL-caliber receiver corps to get ready for primetime. There should be no question about whether the Noles -- an undefeated power conference champion -- get in. Texas went on the road and beat Alabama by 10 points. The games should matter. The Longhorns have the combination of power and resume to reach the field for the first time.

Silverstein: Washington had a tougher road than Michigan, and while the Wolverines were dominant in their games (No. 1 in scoring margin, which the committee loves), road wins for the Huskies against Arizona, USC and Oregon State -- plus two wins over Oregon -- have to count for something. Michigan has the best victory (Ohio State), but it cake-walked through the first 10 weeks of the season. As far as leaving Florida State out, it comes down to the committee's mantra of awarding the four "best" teams. And as a committee member in this scenario, that's how I'm voting.

Unlike when Ohio State was down to its third quarterback in 2014 -- Cardale Jones led a 59-0 rout in his first full start during the Big Ten Championship Game -- FSU squeaked out wins over sub-.500 Florida (with backup Tate Rodemaker) and an overrated two-loss Louisville team (with freshman Brock Glenn). Its best win came in Week 1, and Alabama has simply been a much better team over the latter half of the season. Plus, the Crimson Tide beat the nation's top team in the SEC Championship Game, and their lone loss is to a fellow playoff team. Let me be clear: This would be immensely unfortunate and unfair to FSU, but it's hard to argue this version of Florida State as a "better" CFP contender compared to Alabama. It has a championship-caliber defense, but so does Bama with a much better offense. Either way, the Longhorns should be No. 3.