College Football Playoff projections heading into Week 14. The postseason picture is close to becoming crystal clear as we head into Championship Saturday.
Semifinal No. 1 – Fiesta Bowl
Date: Dec. 31
Location: Glendale, Arizona
Tie-ins: CFP No. 2/CFP No. 3
Fiesta Bowl Projection: No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State
The Tigers have put behind their last-second loss to Pitt and have played some of their best football over the last two weeks, putting Dabo Swinney’s squad in a position to essentially control its own destiny. A win on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game over Virginia Tech would put the Tigers in their second consecutive College Football Playoff.
When this team is on its “A” game, it is tough to stop. We saw Alabama struggle to put the Tigers away last year, and this 2016 squad could give ‘Bama problems again this year if they meet in the CFP—and if the Tigers play a clean game. Turnovers and other mistakes have led to them playing with fire throughout the year, which ultimately cost them against Pitt. But this has been a focused squad the last two weeks, so we’ll see what outfit shows up on Saturday against the Hokies. I’d expect another strong effort from Deshaun Watson, who has a chance to gain some Heisman Trophy votes with a stellar performance.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes passed their big test against rival Michigan in Columbus this past Saturday, taking down the Wolverines in one of the better games we have seen between the schools in recent memory. Urban Meyer’s squad, however, could be in a tough spot. While I can’t see the CFP selection committee leaving out a team that beat Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Michigan, and whose only blemish is a close road loss to Penn State, the Buckeyes are not able to play for a Big Ten title. So would the committee choose a non-champion, especially if James Franklin’s squad comes out on top in Indy on Saturday?
Semifinal No. 2 – Peach Bowl
Date: Dec. 31
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Tie-ins: CFP No. 1/CFP No. 4
Peach Bowl Projection: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Washington
Another year, another SEC Championship game appearance for Nick Saban’s squad. The Crimson Tide have represented the West division in Atlanta each year but one since 2012, and one can argue that ‘Bama would still earn a CFP berth even with a loss to Florida. The Gators come into the contest as 24.5-point underdogs, which makes this the biggest spread in the game’s 25-year history. We have seen the ‘Bama offense play sloppy at times, yet the unit can easily snap out of its funk and pull away from its opponent. Can the UF defense offer enough resistance to make it a game? It likely won’t matter, as the Gators’ offense will not be able to do much against this ‘Bama defense, which looks as good as ever.
Meanwhile, the Huskies dominated Washington State last Friday in the Apple Cup to win their second in a row following their loss to USC. Behind the arm of quarterback Jake Browning, U-Dub used a 28-point first quarter to claim the Pac-12 North title and keep the Apple Cup in Seattle for a fourth straight year. A big test awaits Friday against Colorado, though, as the Buffaloes have won six straight and eight of their last nine contests. Mike MacIntyre should take home nearly every national coach of the year honor, so U-Dub will have its hands full. Still, it’s tough not to see the selection committee choosing a one-loss Pac-12 champ—especially when the lone loss was to USC, which is one of the hottest teams in the country right now.