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Final bowl projections, updated after Championship Saturday

Here are picks for all 40 bowl games, updated as key games go final in college football’s final Saturday.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Georgia Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, I update a board of projected winners for every FBS game, tally up records, and guess what the Playoff committee and bowl committees would do with the results. Things get closer and closer to eventual accuracy, but more importantly, it’s some weekly fun!

Below, projections for all 40 2018 bowl games. I’ll update as needed throughout college football’s final Saturday before Selection Sunday.

First, the College Football Playoff

  • Orange (Miami): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
  • Cotton (Arlington, Texas): No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
  • Championship (Santa Clara, California): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Clemson

Bama and Clemson were obvious calls. Notre Dame was already in.

The fourth spot was expected to come down to Ohio State or Oklahoma. I think OU probably has the better case there, but ... Georgia remained in the debate, like it or not, after being the first team all year to nearly beat Alabama.

I expected the committee would drop UGA, rather than snubbing two Power 5 conferences to put in the first-ever two-loss team (which did also lose a blowout to LSU). Georgia is a better football team than either Oklahoma or Ohio State. Gotta win to make it in, though.

The No. 1 seed is usually determined by proximity to campus, though the committee elected to give Bama the Orange, since it’s much further from Oklahoma’s campus. A new wrinkle!

Next: the rest of the New Year’s Six

Automatic bids:

  • Rose (Pasadena, California): Ohio State vs. Washington
  • Sugar (New Orleans): Texas vs. Georgia

Thanks to the rankings up top, these are all essentially booked.

At-large bids:

  • Peach (Atlanta): Florida vs. Michigan
  • Fiesta (Glendale, Arizona): LSU vs. UCF

We knew these four teams would be playing each other. I’d long held out hope we’d get Florida-UCF in the Peach, a local SPITE BOWL, but the committee opted for a Helmet Game instead, and a familiar one at that. Doing the better Peach Bowl would’ve still given us a Helmet Fiesta, though. The committee’s guidance against sending a team to a repeat game is evidently more important than making sure these games have heat.

And with that, I’m done updating this post for this year. One thing that makes predictions really difficult for the rest of these games: some of them start wheeling and dealing conference ties, often via ESPN. I abide by the rules, but on Selection Sunday, a lot of rules go out the window. It is what it is!

For updated matchups, go to the bowl calendar over here, which is being filled in throughout Selection Sunday.

And now, everything else

  • Citrus (Orlando): Penn State vs. Kentucky
  • Outback (Tampa): Iowa vs. Mississippi State
  • Gator (Jacksonville): Miami vs. Texas A&M
  • Holiday (San Diego): Northwestern vs. Oregon
  • Liberty (Memphis): Oklahoma State vs. Vanderbilt
  • Military (Annapolis, MD): Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
  • Sun (El Paso): Pitt vs. Utah
  • Belk (Charlotte): Virginia vs. South Carolina
  • Alamo (San Antonio): West Virginia vs. Washington State
  • Arizona (Tucson): San Diego State vs. Arkansas State
  • Camping World (Orlando): NC State vs. Iowa State
  • Music City (Nashville): Michigan State vs. Missouri
  • Texas (Houston): TCU vs. Auburn
  • Pinstripe (New York City): Syracuse vs. Purdue
  • Independence (Shreveport, LA): Boston College vs. BYU*
  • Cheez-It (Phoenix): Baylor vs. Cal
  • Quick Lane (Detroit): Georgia Tech vs. Wisconsin
  • First Responders (Dallas): Duke* vs. Marshall
  • Redbox (Santa Clara, CA): Minnesota vs. Stanford
  • Hawaii: Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii
  • Dollar General (Mobile): Buffalo vs. Troy
  • Armed Forces (Fort Worth): Army* vs. Nevada*
  • Birmingham: Memphis vs. UAB*
  • Potato (Boise): NIU vs. Utah State*
  • Bahamas: FIU vs. Toledo
  • Gasparilla (Tampa): USF vs. Wake Forest
  • Frisco (TX): Temple vs. Ohio
  • Boca Raton: Houston vs. MTSU
  • New Orleans: Southern Miss vs. Appalachian State
  • Camellia (Montgomery, AL): WMU vs. Georgia Southern
  • Las Vegas: Fresno State vs. Arizona State
  • Cure (Orlando): Tulane vs. UL Lafayette
  • New Mexico (Albuquerque): North Texas vs. Boise State

* = Taking another conference’s unfilled bid.

We officially have too many bowl-eligible teams. I can’t find spots for EMU, Miami (Ohio), ULM, or Wyoming, thanks in part to Virginia Tech now taking a spot. However, almost any lower-tier bowl with MAC or Mountain West ties could take those teams.

The one bid where I really surprised myself here: Wisconsin down in the Quick Lane. That’s a big draw of a team, but lots of other teams in its proximity had more exciting seasons. We’ll see.

As always, remember bowl bids are not strictly based on merit. A few conferences have rules that prevent bowls from taking teams with clearly lesser records over more deserving teams, but bowls mostly care about butts in seats. If you beat a bigger program that’s closer to a bowl both of you want, you’re not guaranteed to get it.