It’s time to pick a College Football Playoff.
Championship weekend is in the books, and this is how we think the College Football Playoff pairings — which will be announced at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday — will look. The semifinals will be played at the Capital One Orange Bowl and Allstate Sugar Bowl on Dec. 29, and the College Football Playoff championship game will be Jan. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
We’ll also pick the New Year’s Day Six bowls, which will be unveiled at 3 p.m. on Sunday. With that mind, here are the four teams in, the first two out and our New Year’s Day Six picks for the 2018 bowl season:
1. Alabama (13-0)
Nick Saban had it planned all along, right? Alabama rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the second half, Tua Tagovailoa left with a leg injury and it was Jalen Hurts to the rescue with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives that clinched Alabama’s fifth consecutive College Football Playoff appearance in a 35-28 victory. Alabama will be the favorite as usual, and that likely means a trip to the Capital One Orange Bowl this time.
2. Clemson (13-0)
Clemson completed an unbeaten season and fourth straight ACC championship run under Dabo Swinney, and that guarantees a spot in the Playoff. Travis Etienne made a statement with a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of scrimmage against Pitt, and it didn’t stop in a 42-10 victory. The Tigers have looked like the team best-suited to challenge Alabama all season. They will have to go through undefeated Notre Dame in the Allstate Cotton Bowl Classic first.
3. Notre Dame (12-0)
The Irish did not have to play on conference championship weekend, and that’s OK. Notre Dame punched its ticket with a perfect regular season, and Brian Kelly’s decision to roll with Ian Book at quarterback helped transform the team into something more. The Irish averaged 33.8 points per game, but a defense led by defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and cornerback Julian Love allowed just 17.2 points per game — 11th in the FBS. There are many comparisons being drawn to 2012. We’ll find out what has changed on the biggest stage.
4. Oklahoma (12-1)
The Sooners made their case with a 39-27 victory against Texas in the Big 12 championship game; a game where the defense came up with two clutch plays in the fourth quarter. Kyler Murray was his usual brilliant self with 379 passing yards, 39 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. Oklahoma’s offense proved it can score 40 on anybody. Will the defense leave the door open for Ohio State?
5. Ohio State (12-1)
Dwayne Haskins capped a record-setting season by leading the Buckeyes to a 45-24 victory against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship. That margin will at least create a conversation with the Sooners, but the committee would have a hard time explaining how Ohio State leapfrogged Oklahoma, who beat a higher-ranked opponent. The Buckeyes won their third Big Ten championship under Urban Meyer, and a Rose Bowl berth isn’t the worst consolation prize. They also could be ranked No. 6 behind our next team.
6. Georgia (11-2)
The Bulldogs played the Crimson Tide tight, but a two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff and it’s difficult to envision Georgia getting in with that second loss in coming against Alabama in the SEC championship game. Georgia could be No. 5 in the final rankings, but they will have to settle for a Sugar Bowl appearance against either Texas or West Virginia, depending on how the rankings shake out.
New Year’s Day Six bowl picks
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Clemson vs. Notre Dame
Capital One Orange Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: LSU vs. UCF
Rose Bowl Game: Ohio State vs. Washington
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Texas