Bowl projections: USC enters College Football Playoff ahead of Clemson, Michigan as New Year’s Six shuffles

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Nobody saw that coming, except maybe South Carolina. The Gamecocks obliterated Tennessee 63-38, and in doing so, snuffed out any chance the Volunteers had of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. That may not have been the worst news for Tennessee, though, as Heisman Trophy contending quarterback Hendon Hooker left with a non-contact injury to his leg and did not return.

The Vols can still get into a New Year’s Six game; it depends how far they fall in this week’s CFP Rankings. Tennessee will likely remain ahead of Penn State and secure the last at-large spot in the Cotton Bowl, as long as it beats Vanderbilt this week.

One thing the CFP Selection Committee will not consider is how the injury to Hooker will impact Tennessee going forward. It is not the committee’s job to predict the future. Their job is to rank the teams based on what they have accomplished. The impact of Hooker’s absence will become more apparent as the Vols play without him, though that will be no more than one game before Selection Sunday.

Tennessee dropping out of the playoff projection means someone has to move up. That team is USC, projected to finish 12-1 and win the Pac-12.

The Ohio State-Michigan loser and Clemson, which is projected to win the ACC, are also under consideration for the spot. However, USC’s strength of schedule and the quality of its wins should give the Trojans an edge for No. 4.

Clemson’s CFP case was damaged by North Carolina’s home loss to Georgia Tech. That gives the Tar Heels two losses and could see them fall several spots in the week’s CFP Rankings. If Clemson wins the ACC, its best win will come over UNC in the conference championship game, assuming the Heels do not lose to NC State first. Clemson’s best win so far is over Florida State.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 9 National Championship
Inglewood, Calif.
Title game Semifinal winners
Dec. 31 Peach Bowl
Atlanta
Semifinal (1) Georgia vs. (4) USC
Dec. 31 Fiesta Bowl
Glendale, Ariz.
Semifinal (2) Ohio State vs. (3) TCU

Tennessee’s loss also creates a reordering of the SEC teams in New Year’s Six games. However, because the Vols are dropping to the bottom of that list of four, it does not change the bowl projections for LSU or Alabama. The Tigers are still expected to meet Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl, while Alabama remains in the Orange Bowl as the highest-ranked team remaining from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame

With USC moving up, Oregon is now projected to go to the Rose Bowl to face Michigan.

There was another upset Saturday that impacted the New Year’s Six. UCF fell 17-14 at home to Navy, throwing away the ability to host the AAC Championship Game. Now, the winner of the Tulane at Cincinnati game will host the Knights. Cincinnati is now projected to win the league and the Group of Five berth in the Cotton Bowl.

If UCF wins the AAC title with three losses, it could bring Coastal… Visit Source www.cbssports.com.

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