In an effort to take a break from realignment, let’s jump into our CBS Sports preseason bowl projections. It should come as no surprise that the game’s two most powerful conferences are likely to dominate the College Football Playoff Rankings and therefore the four-team CFP field.

Will college football fans be thrilled with that development if it comes about? Unlikely. However, as the Big Ten and SEC become even more powerful in the near future, fans will probably see more of this going forward.

Let’s take a look at the projected top four.

1. Georgia is looking for a third consecutive championship, something we have not seen in college football since Minnesota did it from 1934-36. The Bulldogs are still deciding among three quarterbacks to replace Stetson Bennett, but they are otherwise loaded again and have supplanted Alabama as not just the king of the SEC but the king of college football.

2. Michigan will be looking for a three-peat of Big Ten championships, but the Wolverines have not won a national title since 1997. Michigan leads the conference with 13 national titles, but that is the only one since 1948. The Wolverines are the only one of the four projected playoff teams with a returning starting QB. J.J. McCarthy is back to lead an offense that also returns running back Blake Corum and three starters off the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line.

3. Alabama is not exactly going away quietly. The Crimson Tide still have the weapons to challenge Georgia for both the SEC  and national titles. Like Georgia, they have a three-player battle for the starting QB role. Among those competing is Jalen Milroe, who started a couple of games in place of an injured Bryce Young last season. The Tide have a more favorable schedule this season with LSU, Tennessee and Texas all at home.

4. Ohio State is trying to figure out which quarterback will the throw the ball roughly 100 times to wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Jr.  Like with Georgia and Alabama, whoever wins the QB battle is likely to be an extremely productive player. The Buckeyes have now lost two in a row to Michigan after having only dropped two of the prior 19 matchups. It is nice to have this rivalry be competitive again. The game is at Michigan this season, so the prediction here is that the Wolverines make it three straight.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 8

National Championship

Title game Semifinal winners

Jan. 1

Rose Bowl
Pasadena, Calif.


(2) Michigan vs. (3) Alabama 

Jan. 1

Sugar Bowl
New Orleans


(1) Georgia  vs. (4) Ohio State

The other New Year’s Six bowl games should produce some solid matchups as well … but also an unfortunate one. The Orange Bowl is contracted to take the ACC champion, which is projected to be Florida State, and the highest-rated team from among the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame. In this projection, that is LSU, which opens the season against FSU. If the Sugar Bowl were not part of the CFP this season, LSU would have ended up there.

Texas is expected to play in a New Year’s Six game for just the second time. The predicted Big 12 champion is projected to play ACC runner-up Clemson in the Peach Bowl. Longhorns faithful will probably just be glad to not make a fourth consecutive appearance in the Alamo Bowl.

Boise State is the projected participant from the Group of Five. I have the Broncos in a place that brings back fond memories as they are expected to face the final Pac-12 champion, USC, in the Fiesta Bowl

Penn State may suffer again from sharing a division with Michgian and Ohio State, or it could turn all this on its head, but I have the Nittany Lions in the Cotton Bowl against Big 12 runner-up Kansas State.

New Year’s Six bowl games

Much will change after this season, which marks the final edition of the four-team CFP. Next year, the playoff will expand to 12 teams, though thanks to realignment Armageddon this summer, the format may be tweaked.

That is due to the likely demise of the Pac-12, which is now down to just four teams. Barring something unforeseen, that league will not play next season. Even if it does, its composition will be drastically different with some surely prepared to argue it no longer deserves a “Power Five” designation. That may cause the remaining power conferences to reduce or (less likely) entirely eliminate automatic berths in the expanded CFP. (Presently, the field is expected to be compiled with the six highest-rated conference champions and six at-large teams.)

Conference realignment is also causing the bowls that are currently contracted with the Pac-12 to search for new partners.

As a (very) old-school Big Ten guy, I personally was sad to see the end of the Big Ten-Pac-12 relationship with the Rose Bowl, which is coming with the new version of the CFP. However, now it is a blessing because we do not need the Rose Bowl to look for a new partner for the Big Ten. It is appropriate that the final Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup in the Rose Bowl featured Penn State and Utah, teams that got to those conferences through realignment.

There are only 79 teams predicted to be eligible for 82 bowl spots, which means we will need three 5-7 teams to fill the gaps.  Those are chosen by the highest APR rating among those teams. Michigan State, UNLV and Wake Forest take those spots in these projections.

Don’t see your team? Check out Jerry Palm’s complete preseason bowl projections.

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