Final SEC bowl projections after conference championship games
Trying to guess what the College Football Playoff committee will do from week to week has been a fool’s errand.
But we have to try again because the votes have one major decision after this weekend’s conference championship games:
Who’s No. 1?
A couple of weeks ago, Ohio State rose to No. 1 in the CFP rankings, passing LSU.
Clemson — owner of a 28-game winning streak after demolishing Virginia in the ACC title game — has settled in at No. 3. But every analyst on TV seems to be talking about how nobody wants to play Clemson, so being the No. 1 team vs. No. 2 has some meaning.
LSU beat Georgia in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game way more impressively than Ohio State defeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. About that, there is no debate. And because the CFP voters have a history of emphasizing conference title games quite a bit, LSU seems like a logical candidate to jump back to the No. 1 spot and get No. 4 Oklahoma in the CFP semifinals.
That would mean Ohio State and Clemson, 2 unbeaten teams with the 2 longest winning streaks in the country, would square off in the other semifinal.
If that happens, LSU gets to influence its semifinal destination and it seems obvious that the Peach Bowl in Atlanta would be the preferred destination for the Tigers over the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona.
What else shook out after the conference championship games?
Well, Oregon took out No. 5 Utah in Friday’s Pac-12 title game, which greatly simplified the CFP committee’s choice. The 4 playoff teams are completely obvious. But how far will the Utes fall? Last week we speculated that a close loss would keep Utah in the top 10 and thus ahead of Auburn and Alabama.
Nope. A close loss was not what Utah experienced. The Ducks beat the Utes soundly, 37-15. So now we are projecting that Utah will fall behind No. 11 Auburn (and No. 12 Alabama), so the Tigers will take their Iron Bowl victory with them into a New Year’s 6 bowl. We say it’s the Cotton vs. American Athletic Conference champion and Group of 5 representative Memphis.
As for Georgia? The Dawgs might only fall 1 spot after losing to undefeated LSU, with the committee reasoning that UGA should not be punished too harshly even for a 27-point loss. On the other hand, the voters could decide that the way Florida closed the season was impressive enough to vault the Gators past the Dawgs and into the Sugar Bowl despite Georgia’s head-to-head win. We say that will not happen and that Georgia will go to the Sugar Bowl while the Gators stay in the Sunshine State and get rewarded with a trip to the Orange Bowl.
With that, here are our final SEC bowl projections after the weekend’s conference championship games: