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College football bowl projections: Notre Dame’s stock rises as Florida, Cincinnati enter New Year’s Six

Clemson was able to come back from 18 points down against Boston College and pull out a victory without star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is out due to a positive COVID-19 test. He will also miss next week’s game at Notre Dame, but that is a problem for another week.

If Notre Dame is able to knock off Clemson with Lawrence out of action only for the Fighting Irish to lose to the Tigers in the ACC Championship Game — leaving each team with one loss against the other — it will be interesting to see how the College Football Playoff Selection Committee treats them.

I think it would clearly rank Clemson ahead, but how much credit would Notre Dame get for the first win? The committee cannot assume Clemson would have won the first matchup if Lawrence had played.  There is a chance it might be enough to keep Notre Dame in playoff contention, although as always, that would depend on what other teams do. The scoring margins in those games would matter. The CFP Selection Committee has yet to deal with a situation where a conference championship game’s participants lost only to each other during the season. 

Even though there are no changes to the College Football Playoff projection, thanks to that Clemson comeback, there are changes in the other New Year’s Six games.

Most notably, Notre Dame is now projected in the Orange Bowl, replacing Miami. That is not about the Irish or the Hurricanes but rather North Carolina’s loss at Virginia. Notre Dame still has a game at UNC that I had been projecting as a loss, but that is no longer the case. Notre Dame is now projected ahead of Miami at the end of the season and will wind up in the Orange Bowl spot that goes to the highest-rated ACC team available.

The Hurricanes are now projected to the Peach Bowl where they would face Cincinnati.  The Bearcats are coming off back-to-back dominating performances against two of the better teams in the AAC. They are now projected to represent the Group of Five in the New Year’s Six, replacing Boise State.

Penn State took its second consecutive loss to start the season, which is just part of a strange start to the Big Ten slate this year. It is the first time the Nittany Lions started conference play at 0-2 since 2010.  Meanwhile, Purdue, Indiana and Northwestern are each 2-0 in league play at the same time for the first time ever.

Florida came off its COVID-19 break in the schedule with a 41-17 win over Missouri. I have the Gators replacing the Nittany Lions back in the New Year’s Six for now. Florida is projected into the Cotton Bowl to face Oklahoma State, which I still have winning the Big 12 despite an overtime loss to Texas on Saturday.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 11

National Championship
Miami

Title game Semifinal winners

Jan. 1

Rose Bowl
Pasadena, Calif.

Semifinal

(2) Ohio State vs. (3) Alabama

Jan. 1

Sugar Bowl
New Orleans

Semifinal

(1) Clemson vs. (4) Oregon

New Year’s Six bowl games

It was been a busy week in the world of bowls with the Football Bowl Association announcing its schedule for Bowl Season, the new name for the college football postseason. The list did not include the Quick Lane Bowl and the new Fenway Bowl, which were officially canceled for 2020. That brings the total number of cancellations so far to six.

However, a new bowl was added as ESPN created the Montgomery Bowl for this season only to stand in for the Fenway Bowl. The game will be played in Montgomery, Alabama, and the conferences that will provide the teams are still unknown. Until that is announced, I am treating as simply a matchup of at-large teams, which means I finally found a home for Liberty, which does not have a primary bowl contract for this season.

Also, the New Mexico Bowl may be moved out of Albuquerque this season due to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, making travel to and from the bowl site difficult.  Also, the Las Vegas Bowl did not appear on the calendar, but the Pac-12 said on Thursday that it expects the game to be played.

So, that leaves us with 37 bowls for this season — for now.

Check out Jerry Palm’s complete 2020 bowl projections.

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