Bowl projections: Georgia, Alabama swap College Football Playoff spots as upsets benefit Tennessee, Marshall

Bowl projections: Georgia, Alabama swap College Football Playoff spots as upsets benefit Tennessee, Marshall

It was a bad week to play Sun Belt teams, especially if you among the top 10 programs in the college football rankings. Alabama was lucky it didn’t play one, though it was forced to escape a valiant upset effort from Texas on a last-minute field goal. Given the Crimson Tide’s play in that game, there is a change atop the College Football Playoff projections.

With no team more dominant than Georgia thus far and Alabama not impressing over the first two weeks of the season, the Bulldogs are being elevated to No. 1 with the Tide sliding to No. 3. Ohio State, which also managed to avoid the Sun Belt jinx this week, toppled Arkansas State and remains No. 2 in the CFP projection.

The projected No. 4 seed, Oklahoma, took a bit to get going before ultimately having an easy time with Kent State. The Sooners will also hold their spot. So while the same four teams remain in the playoff field, the semifinals have been shaken up.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 9

National Championship
Inglewood, Calif.

Title game Semi-final winners

Dec. 31

Peach Bowl
Atlanta

Semi-final

(1) Georgia vs. (4) Oklahoma

Dec. 31

Fiesta Bowl
Glendale, Ariz.

Semi-final

(2) Ohio State vs. (3) Alabama

The rest of the New Year’s Six screenings were trampled by the Sun Belt starting with Notre Dame who lost at home to Marshall, 26-21, and has now fallen completely out of the New Year’s Six. When the Fighting Irish are not part of the New Year’s Six, they become part of the ACC’s bowl lineup. Notre Dame cannot be selected for a bowl ahead of a team with at least two more wins, which is NC State holds a spot in the Cheez-It Bowl instead of the Irish.

In this situation, Notre Dame will likely get to choose its destination since every bowl that could get the Irish will want them. The best choices are the Holiday Bowl in San Diego or the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. Since Notre Dame played in Southern California already this season, the projection is ND opting to play in the Gator Bowl against Arkansas, which is arguably the best of its potential opponents as well.

Meanwhile, Marshall is now projected to be the Group of Five representative in the New Year’s Six. The Thundering Herd may have to run the table — and that will not be easy. They have Louisiana, Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State on their schedule, but all of those games are at home.

Speaking of Appalachian State, the Mountaineers waltzed into Kyle Field and beat Texas A&M, 17-14. This came just one week after the Mountaineers scored 61 points in a losing effort at home to North Carolina. Isn’t college football wonderful? Tennessee replaces Texas A&M as the expected SEC representative (top team not in the playoff) to the Sugar Bowl. Penn State is now slotted as the opponent for Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

New Year’s Six bowl games

Jan. 2

Pink
Pasadena, Calif.

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Michigan vs. Utah

Jan. 2

Cotton
Arlington, Texas.

at-large vs. at large

USC vs. Marshall

Dec. 31

Sugar
New Orleans

SEC vs. Big 12

Tennessee vs. Baylor

Dec. 30

Orange
Miami

ACC vs. SEC/B1G/ND

Clemson vs. Penn State

The Sun Belt has been at the head of the Group of Five in the early going. The entire Group of Five has five wins over major opposition through two weeks with the Sun Belt holding four of them. Air Force’s win over Colorado on Saturday is the fifth.

If the champion of the Sun Belt does qualify for the New Year’s Six, it would be the first time that has happened. Conference USA also has yet to have a team play in the New Year’s Six. Cincinnati fell out of this week’s projections to give Marshall the spot in the Cotton Bowl.

Don’t see your team? Check out the rest of Jerry Palm’s bowl screenings after Week 2.

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