Final SEC bowl projections – Saturday Down South

Now that the conference championship games are over and the makeup games are in the books, it’s time to resume our favorite college football game: Guess What The Committee Will Do!

Yes, there is nothing more exciting than trying to figure out which way the College Football Playoff voters will go. We should have given up a long time ago, but here we are.

Let’s tackle the biggest issue first: Who’s No. 4?

We can argue all day, but, based on this year’s stated criteria and on-field results, we’re predicting that Notre Dame, which lost to Clemson in Saturday’s ACC title game, will stay ahead of No. 5 Texas A&M and grab the 4th and final CFP semifinal spot. Both have compelling cases, both have similar losses to the top 2 teams (the Irish to Clemson, the Aggies to Alabama). But the difference is that Notre Dame beat Clemson and reached their conference title game.

It seems to be a lock that the final rankings on Sunday will have SEC champion Alabama No. 1 and ACC champion Clemson No. 2. The guess here is that Big Ten champion Ohio State will be No. 3, leading to a rematch of last season’s thrilling CFP semifinal between the Tigers and Buckeyes — though we found out Saturday that if that’s the matchup, it will not take place at the Rose Bowl as would normally be the case.

The Crimson Tide would almost certainly pick the Sugar Bowl as their semifinal destination, but against which team? We will find out Sunday.

As for the rest of the SEC? We were way wrong about Florida’s ranking last week. The Gators fell only 1 spot after losing at home to LSU. So would the voters punish the Gators now for losing by 6 in the SEC title game to the undisputed best team in the nation? Who will grab the last New Year’s Day 6 bowl slot?

Let’s break it down.

Aside from Bama, we figure 2 other SEC teams are a lock: Texas A&M and Georgia. We have the mandatory spots for the champions of the Big 12 (Oklahoma), Pac-12 (Oregon) and the top Group of 5 team (American Athletic Conference champion Cincinnati). Based on previous rankings, we think 1-loss Indiana will also land a New Year’s Day 6 bowl bid. The Orange Bowl must take an ACC team — and with Clemson and Notre Dame projected to the Playoff, that will probably be No. 15 North Carolina.

That is 11 teams in the CFP and the other 4 major bowls. So a pair of 3-loss teams from Power 5 conferences are probably battling for that last NYD6 spot: Florida and Iowa State. The Cyclones were ranked No. 6 last week, the Gators No. 7. Both lost by 6 points in Saturday’s conference championship games, and both had to rally from big deficits to make the final score that close. But Florida, again, lost to the best team in the nation. Iowa State lost to a 2-loss Oklahoma team. We think that makes the Gators the more logical candidate (we’ll pretend for one last week that logic is part of the process).

Oh, one more thing: The rules say the top-ranked team from the SEC, B1G or Notre Dame is contracted to the Orange Bowl. That’s No. 5 Texas A&M, so we have the Aggies projected there. But are there really any real rules in 2020? This season, you can theoretically go 2-8 and go to a bowl. Teams are opting out left and right, and bowls have been canceled almost every week. The Armed Forces Bowl upended its entire contracted agreement just recently so it could invite an SEC team (probably one with a terrible record).

What we’re saying is, don’t be shocked if some back-door dealing finds Texas A&M invited to the Cotton Bowl, Florida to the Orange and Georgia to the Peach. All 3 at-large SEC teams would head to their home-state major bowls. Makes perfect sense. That’s not what we’re projecting because we have given up on trying to make sense in 2020. Just don’t be surprised, that’s all.

Now let’s look at the final projections:

Sugar (CFP semi)

Jan. 1

New Orleans

Alabama vs. Notre Dame

Cotton

Dec. 30

Arlington, Texas

Florida vs. Oklahoma

Peach

Jan. 1

Atlanta

Georgia vs. Cincinnati

Orange

Jan. 2

Miami

Texas A&M vs. UNC

Citrus

Jan. 1

Orlando

Auburn vs. Northwestern

Gator

Jan. 2

Jacksonville, Fla.

Kentucky vs. N.C. State

Outback

Jan. 2

Tampa, Fla.

Missouri vs. Iowa

Liberty

Dec. 31

Memphis

Ole Miss vs. TCU

Texas

Dec. 31

Houston

Arkansas vs. Texas

Armed Forces

Dec. 31

Fort Worth, Texas

Miss. St. vs. Arizona St.

Music City

Dec. 30

Nashville

Tennessee vs. Minnesota