College football playoff, bowl projections: Paths for Ohio State, New Year’s Six hopefuls with firm spots

With the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday, it’s time to examine the prospects for the teams still chasing the four-team field. There are basically five teams competing for those spots, with only four of them actually participating in conference championship games played on Friday and Saturday.

Because it’s such a short list this year, we’ve expanded this annual story to take a look at what the options are for the four remaining New Year’s Six games outside of the playoffs. There’s not much flexibility with so many conference calls involved, but there’s still some intrigue.

Without further ado, here is a list of the remaining CFP contenders in order of their current ranking along with an explanation of what each team can achieve this weekend. Let’s take a look at how these teams are doing in Championship Week and the upcoming final CFP leaderboards.

College Football Playoff Ways

The Six Paths of the New Year

The New Year’s Six options are more numerous. After the CFP pairings are determined, the Rose, Sugar, and Orange Bowls will select teams for their games. Here’s how that’s going to play out.

rose bowl

If the Big Ten and/or Pac-12 champions advance to the playoffs, the bowl may select its substitutes. Traditionally, these were the highest-ranking teams left over from these conferences. However, the Rose Bowl has the ability to select its contestants from a “cluster” of similarly ranked teams.

If Michigan and USC had both won this weekend, the Rose Bowl could have stayed with a rematch of last year’s game between Ohio State and Utah. That would have been far from ideal. The Rose seemed willing to insert No. 8 Penn State of the Big Ten and/or No. 12 Washington of the Pac-12 to ensure the game doesn’t repeat itself. The Buckeyes have played at the Rose Bowl twice in the past four years, while the Nittany Lions have not played since 2016. The Huskies were a Pac-12 opportunity as the Utes, in addition to last year’s Rose Bowl they would have suffered their fourth loss.

However, all of that became moot on Friday night when Utah defeated USC to ensure the Pac-12 champion advanced to the Rose Bowl. With Ohio State making the playoffs and Michigan already securing a spot, Penn State is now projected to represent the Big Ten at the Rose Bowl. The wild card is Purdue, which would be automatic in this game if the Boilermakers become the Spoilermakers against Michigan.

  • Michigan wins: Penn State vs. Utah
  • Purdue wins: Purdue vs. Utah

sugar bowl

Similarly, the Sugar Bowl Conference features champions of the SEC and the Big 12. The Big 12 situation is fixed. With TCU winning or losing a playoff team, Kansas State will be in the Sugar Bowl as either a Big 12 champion or as a substitute for the Horned Frogs. If Georgia wins, No. 6 Alabama will replace the Bulldogs in that game. Otherwise, LSU steps in as conference master.

  • Georgia wins: Alabama vs. Kansas State
  • LSU wins: LSU vs. Kansas State

orange peel

This bowl only gets one conference champion. The ACC title winner is the anchor, with No. 9 Clemson versus No. 23 North Carolina deciding the berth as neither team can make the playoffs. The opponent is the top-ranked team not remaining in the playoffs, Rose Bowl, or Sugar Bowl from the SEC, Big Ten, or Notre Dame. This representative will be from the SEC and will be either Alabama or No. 7 being Tennessee.

  • Georgia wins: Tennessee versus Clemson or North Carolina
  • LSU wins: Alabama versus Clemson or North Carolina

cotton bowl

This is the only game with at-large spots. One of those goes to the automatic qualifier of the Group of Five, which will be the winner of the AAC bout between No. 18 Tulane and No. 22 UCF. The other spot simply goes to the highest rated team that has not yet been in a New Year’s Six game.

These options are USC, Tennessee, or Washington. Which is unknown where USC will fall, but at 11-2 the Trojans are the most likely team to finish last in the New Year’s Six.

The highest-ranked team that has absolutely no chance of playing in the New Year’s Six is ​​No. 13 from Florida State. However, that doesn’t mean that all top 12 teams will qualify. In fact, the UK Champion will not be in the top 12. And Purdue wouldn’t rank that high as a Big Ten champion either.

Alongside this list of competitors, CBS Sports published my update Bowl projections for the 2022-23 season Friday night. As a reminder, these projections do not represent the current state of affairs, but rather my expectation based on the league games of the conference on Saturday.

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