There is nothing like Rivalry Week to bring clarity to the College Football Playoff and the rest of the bowl games. All but 23 teams are done playing. Conference championship pairings are set. Bowl eligibility has been almost entirely decided. And we now have a lot of clarity from which to determine the bowl projections.
Nowhere is that more true than in the Big Ten where No. 3 Michigan annihilated No. 2 Ohio State 45-23 to take the Big Ten East and all but clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff.
We say "all but" because the Wolverines will face Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game, and you have to wonder whether a loss to the unranked Boilermakers would put Michigan's CFP bid in some doubt depending what other teams do. While it's likely Michigan will be between two- or three-touchdown favorite in the game, even a loss to Purdue is unlikely to cost UM a playoff spot.
In fact, Georgia, Michigan and TCU all appear to be in the playoff, win or lose their league title games. The No. 1 Bulldogs dominated Georgia Tech, 37-14, while the No. 4 Horned Frogs lit up one of the best defenses in the country in a 62-14 win over Iowa State.
The fourth spot belongs to No. 6 USC if it can win the Pac-12 Championship Game and finish 12-1. The Trojans beat No. 15 Notre Dame 38-27 for its second consecutive win over a team in the CFP Rankings.
Waiting in the wings if USC fails is Ohio State, which could back into a CFP spot even at 11-1. That season-opening win over Notre Dame gives the Buckeyes two victories over teams in the CFP Rankings, and Ohio State dominated the rest of its schedule other than Michigan.
What about No. 7 Alabama? Federal law requires we discuss the Crimson Tide in all playoff scenarios. However, unless the CFP Selection Committee decides to move Bama ahead of Ohio State in this week's rankings, there is not much hope for the Tide to make the CFP. In fact, with the two teams between Alabama and No. 10 Tennessee in the rankings both losing (No. 8 Clemson 31-30 to South Carolina, No. 9 Oregon 38-34 to No. 21 Oregon State), there is a chance the Vols could leap the Tide based on their head-to-head result.
Perhaps the most stunning result was No. 5 LSU's loss at Texas A&M. The Aggies came to life for the first time all season and downed the Tigers. 38-23. That put an end to LSU's playoff hopes, but it may be even worse than that for the Tigers. Should LSU drop below Penn State in the CFP Rankings, there is a chance the Tigers will not be in a New Year's Six game at all unless, of course, they beat the Dawgs in the SEC Championship Game.
South Carolina notched its second consecutive win over a team in the top 10 by taking down No. 8 Clemson. The Gamecocks also ended the playoff hopes for the Tigers, as they did to No. 10 Tennessee last week.
Despite initially listing Utah in this week's updated Rose Bowl projection, an overnight change has been made. Washington had no chance to play for the Pac-12 championship, but after its late-night win over Washington State in the Apple Cup, the Huskies should remain the second-highest rated Pac-12 team. That would mean the Rose Bowl would choose them over lower-rated Utah if USC beats the Utes and advances to the CFP.
College Football Playoff
|Date||Game / Loc.||Matchup||Prediction|
|Title game|| Semifinal winners|
New Year's Six bowl games
|Date||Bowl / Location||Matchup||Prediction|
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
|Ohio State vs. Washington|
at-large vs. at-large
|Penn State vs. Tulane|
SEC vs. Big 12
|Alabama vs. Kansas State|
ACC vs. SEC/B1G/ND
| Clemson vs. Tennessee|
Late Saturday night, the Bahamas Bowl announced that UAB would represent Conference USA in that game against previously announced Miami (OH) from the MAC. The other bowls will announce their matchups on the college football version of Selection Sunday on Dec. 4.
For the first time since 2016, at least one 5-7 team will be needed to fill a bowl game. There are currently 79 bowl-eligible teams for 82 spots. Buffalo will host Akron on Friday in its second attempt to get a sixth win after the Bulls lost at home to Kent State in overtime. The Akron game was originally scheduled for Nov. 19 but got postponed due to the massive snowstorm that hit the area that weekend.
New Mexico State is also 5-6 after a 49-14 demolition of Liberty. The Aggies also had a game postponed against San Jose State on Nov. 5, but it will not be made up. Instead, New Mexico State is hoping to schedule a game against an FCS school this week, However, the Aggies already have a win over an FCS school and teams can only count one such win towards the six needed for bowl eligibility. To qualify, New Mexico State will need waivers from the NCAA to allow its opponent to play an extra game and to allow the Aggies to count that one toward bowl eligibility. Of course, they must also win the game.
Even if Buffalo and New Mexico State qualify for bowls, we are still one team short. That allows a 5-7 team to participate. That decision is made based on the most recent APR ratings, which means Rice will play in the postseason. The next two teams in line should Buffalo and/or New Mexico State falter are UNLV and Auburn. All other five-win teams are out of luck.
Don't see your team? Check out Jerry Palm's updated bowl projections after Week 13 as well as the CBS Sports bowl eligibility tracker for updates on what your team needs to do in order to go bowling this season.