When it came to the four teams that would ultimately participate in the College Football Playoff, not much drama was anticipated heading into conference championships. It was simply a matter of which team would wind up in the No. 4 spot, USC or Ohio State.
Well, Utah beat USC for the second time this season, 47-24 in the 2022 Pac-12 Championship Game, to knock the Trojans out of playoff contention. In fact, USC will most likely be ranked behind Utah when the final CFP Rankings come out Sunday afternoon on the CFP Selection Show.
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Ohio State will therefore back into the College Football Playoff for the third time in the last four seasons, most likely as the No. 4 seed. That will make the Big Ten just the second conference in CFP history to put two teams in a singular four-team field, joining the SEC.
The Buckeyes’ positioning only comes into some question because Kansas State handed TCU its first defeat of the season in the Big 12 Championship Game with the Wildcats avenging their regular-season loss to the Horned Frogs in overtime.
I believe TCU will remain ahead of Ohio State in the CFP, but even if it does not, forget any notion of Alabama moving up along with Ohio State and supplanting TCU. That would be completely unwarranted. If TCU’s jerseys read “Oklahoma” or Alabama’s said “Ole Miss,” no one would even entertain this discussion point.
Filling out the top of the four-team field, Georgia locked up the first seed in the playoff and its first SEC Championship Game victory since 2017 in a rout of No. 14 LSU, and Michigan clinched the second seed by winning its second straight Big Ten Championship Game, this season over Purdue.
College Football Playoff
|Date||Game / Loc.||Matchup||Prediction|
|Title game||Semifinal winners|
(1) Georgia vs. (4) Ohio State
The Rose Bowl will feature Pac-12 champion Utah, which is making a repeat appearance in the Granddaddy of Them All after winning a second straight league crown. Penn State will represent the Big Ten in place of league champion Michigan as the highest-ranked Big Ten team not playing in the CFP.
USC should stay high enough in the CFP Rankings to earn a spot in the Cotton Bowl. That possibility arises because the Big Ten put a second team in the CFP. Ohio State being out of the at-large pool for the New Year’s Six opens the door for the Trojans.
Like Kansas State earlier in the day, Tulane also avenged a regular-season loss in the AAC Championship Game. The Green Wave throttled UCF 45-28 to win the league crown and advance to their first major bowl game since 1939 when undefeated Tulane faced similarly undefeated Texas A&M in the 1940 Sugar Bowl. Tulane will represent the Group of Five in this year’s Cotton Bowl against USC.
Speaking of the Wildcats, their Big 12 championship clinches a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Kansas State will face Alabama, the replacement for SEC champion Georgia.
The Orange Bowl will get ACC champion Clemson, which handled North Carolina 39-10 in the ACC Championship Game. Tennessee will be the opponent for Clemson as the highest-ranked team remaining from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame. A Clemson-Tennessee matchup seems appropriate for an Orange Bowl.
New Year’s Six bowl games
|Date||Bowl / Location||Matchup||Prediction|
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
|Penn State vs. Utah|
at-large vs. at-large
|USC vs. Tulane|
SEC vs. Big 12
|Alabama vs. Kansas State|
ACC vs. SEC/B1G/ND
|Clemson vs. Tennessee|
Buffalo and New Mexico State were the last teams to become bowl eligible this week, albeit in different ways. Buffalo beat Akron 23-22 to pick up its sixth win and earn a bowl berth. NMSU got a waiver from the NCAA to participate as a five-win team.
New Mexico State went out and picked up a sixth win anyway over FCS Valparaiso in a game added late this weekend, but it does not count toward the six needed the Aggies needed because only one FCS opponent can be counted and NMSU beat Lamar earlier this season. The waiver put the Aggies in a bowl anyway.
With the rest of the field set, only Rice will participate as a 5-7 team this season. That may be just as well as given next team in line, UNLV, fired its coach this week and was considering declining a bowl bid if offered.
Don’t see your team? Check out Jerry Palm’s updated bowl projections as well as the CBS Sports bowl eligibility tracker with all 82 spots now filled for the 2022-23 bowl games.