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Freshly updated bowl projections, now with more Notre Dame Playoff debate!

Here are picks for all 40 bowl games, including the College Football Playoff.

Stanford v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

September’s wrapped, and college football’s now halfway to the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season. So these weekly bowl projections are still flying somewhat blind, but I think we know which teams are around the top of the board, right?

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 as Selection Sunday nears, but more importantly, it’s some weekly fun!

Below, projections for all 40 2018 bowl games. A lot of these will change dramatically over the next two months, so if you don’t like where your team is listed, I bet a few wins on the field will change things!

First, the College Football Playoff

  • Cotton (Arlington, TX): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
  • Orange (Miami): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

We were close to some big changes in Week 5. Kind of.

Last week in this space, I picked Penn State and Ohio State to make the Playoff, via the Nittany Lions beating the Buckeyes, which nearly happened. But: back to normal on the Big Ten front.

Elsewhere, Clemson almost lost to Syracuse amid maybe the most awkward QB situation possible, but two things there:

  1. The committee likely would’ve given Clemson some sort of mulligan for losing with a guy who’d been a third-string QB days prior (the committee cited Clemson’s QB injury as a mitigating factor in a loss to Cuse last year).
  2. Now that Clemson’s won, will anything change? If Trevor Lawrence misses a game, it’ll be Wake Forest, a team Clemson is capable of handling without him. The bye week’s after that. If he’s cleared to return, then the hardest game regular season game is ... a trip to Boston College? NC State? South Carolina?

Clemson’s fine.

So let’s talk about the exciting one! Notre Dame! Join a conference, nerds!

They haven’t. They don’t ever have to. Bama made the Playoff without a division title last year. If the Irish are unbeaten, they’re in. If they have one loss, they’re candidates. Well, they just won quite possibly their hardest remaining game by 21 points. (They’re gonna lose to Pitt, but we’ll cross that bridge — Pittsburgh term — later.)

Next: the rest of the New Year’s Six

  • Sugar (New Orleans): Oklahoma vs. Georgia
  • Rose (Pasadena, CA): Penn State vs. Washington
  • Peach (Atlanta): Miami vs. Michigan
  • Fiesta (Glendale, AZ): Boise State vs. Auburn


In this year’s rotation, most of these will be based on conference auto-bids, and then we’ll likely see whether the MWC or AAC champ takes the non-power spot. Due to geography, that’ll likely determine whether the G5 team goes to the Fiesta or Peach.

Sub in UCF for Boise State in your mind, if that would bring you good feelings. I have the Broncos in here for a simple reason: their remaining schedule looks easier.

Far from sold on Auburn, of course. I have a bunch of teams floating right around 9-3, but remember Auburn’s win over Washington. It’s still worth a lot of Committee Bucks, and the committee’s the entity that sets up NY6 games.

And now, everything else

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

* = Taking another conference’s unfilled bid.

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.

Also as always, I apologize for the Pac-12’s strict bowl order. Getting deserving Pac-12 teams into games they might like is one of the hardest things to work with, along with finding matchups we haven’t seen recently in the many Big Ten-SEC games (though that one’s going fine so far this year).

Teams I couldn’t find room for this week: EMU, FIU, MTSU, and Wyoming.