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College Football Playoff, bowl projections: Alabama locks up No. 1, opens door for Oklahoma

The results of Saturday’s championship games — at least the ones that matter to the College Football Playoff — are almost completely in, and we are now ready to set the field for the fifth edition of the CFP. It starts with Alabama, which rallied behind quarterback Jalen Hurts after another injury to Tua Tagovailoa, came back from a 14-point deficit to beat Georgia 35-28 in the SEC Championship Game.  The Crimson Tide capped off an undefeated, and tonight excepted, historically dominating season to cement their spot as the No. 1 seed.

Oklahoma avenged its only loss of the season with a 39-27 win over Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.  The Sooners finish the season at 12-1 and will most likely face Alabama in the semifinals of the CFP as the No. 4 seed.

Notre Dame ended its season last week and was the No. 3 team in the CFP Rankings this week.  That is unlikely to change based on the results tonight. Clemson, which is still playing Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship Game, will be the second seed in the playoff if the Tigers defeat the Panthers.

Georgia, which picked up its second loss, will be out with a Clemson win, as would potential Big Ten champion Ohio State, even if it beats Northwestern for the Big Ten title this evening. The Bulldogs, despite having an argument as the four best teams, did not win its conference and has two losses on its resume.

A loss by Clemson throws everyone back into the mix. I believe Ohio State would get the fourth spot — with Notre Dame and Oklahoma moving up — in that debate as the only conference champion, but you can make a case for each of those three teams. Note that there is no reason to believe AAC champion UCF is part of this equation under any circumstance.  It is unlikely either Georgia or Clemson would fall behind the Knights, even with a loss by Clemson.  In fact, Ohio State may not either, unless the CFP Selection Committee decides to push UCF past both OSU and Michigan, which was ahead of the Knights in this week’s rankings.

The only remaining debate then is whether an Alabama-Oklahoma semifinal would take place at the location closest for the Tide, which is Arlington, Texas, or in Miami.  Many think that playing in Texas would end up creating a home crowd for the Sooners.  I doubt that.  Alabama fans will have no problem filling half that stadium.  The Tide just got done playing the Bulldogs in Atlanta.  I don’t think playing Oklahoma in Texas will bother them much.

2019 College Football Playoff

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) Notre Dame

Selection committee bowl games

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

Ohio State vs. Washington    

Jan. 1

Fiesta
Glendale, Ariz.

1 p.m.
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

LSU vs. UCF

Dec. 29

Peach
Atlanta

Noon
ESPN

At-large vs. At-large

Florida vs. Michigan

There were few changes based on the results of Saturday’s games since mostly favorites won.  One change involved the Mountain West, where Fresno State upset Boise State for the league title. That means a likely trip to the Las Vegas Bowl for the Bulldogs.

With Virginia Tech’s win over Marshall, the Hokies extended the nation’s longest consecutive bowl streak to 26.  Virginia Tech became the 82nd bowl-eligible team, which means four teams will be eligible and not have a bowl to play in.  Those teams are projected to be Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Louisiana-Monroe and Wyoming.

Check out Jerry Palm’s complete college football bowl projections.

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