Bowl projections: Michigan replaces Ohio State in College Football Playoff as LSU, Clemson chances ruin

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 on 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 headresult.

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.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 9

National Championship
Inglewood, Calif.

Title game Semifinal winners

Dec. 31

Peach Bowl
Atlanta

Semifinal

(1) Georgia vs. (4) USC

Dec. 31

Fiesta bowl
Glendale, Ariz.

Semifinal

(2) Michigan vs. (3) TCU

New Year’s Six bowl games

The numerous shakeups across Rivalry Week will result in massive changes to the remainder of this week’s bowl projections. Those will be revealed Sunday morning in an update to this story.

For now, you can check out the CBS Sports bowl eligibility tracker for updates on what your team needed to do in order to go bowling.

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