College Football Playoff expert picks: Georgia, Michigan clinch Nos. 1-2; does Ohio State have case for No. 3?

The final College Football Playoff rankings will be released on Sunday, setting the stage for the CFP itself as well as the New Year’s Six bowls. While at least one new team will be vying for its first title in the playoff era, the decisions made Sunday by the CFP Selection Committee will determine which teams have the most plausible path to the national championship.

With USC losing in the Pac-12 Championship Game, four teams should be seeded. SEC champion Georgia and Big Ten champion Michigan punched their tickets to the dance before their league title games even started; thanks to their victories, they locked up the first two places. There may be an argument to be made for putting the Wolverines ahead of the Bulldogs, but the latter are the reigning national champions with the Dawgs showing more consistent dominant performances throughout the season.

TCU and Ohio State, the only remaining one-loss Power Five teams, will likely occupy the bottom two spots unless the committee decides to defy logic and reason. Our experts unanimously believe that it will be those four in some order.

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The Horned Frogs’ 31-28 overtime loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game could create a little chaos by putting the No. 3 seed in the game. TCU and Ohio State each beat two teams in the CFP rankings. However, the Frogs lost in overtime to 10th-ranked Kansas State, a team they defeated earlier this season, while the Buckeyes were easily defeated by the second-ranked Wolverines at home to end the regular season — and did not play for their league crown.

Those hoping that TCU’s loss coupled with Utah’s upset of USC on Friday will open the door for Alabama will likely be disappointed. The two-loss Crimson Tide are 2-2 against CFP-ranked teams, with their only wins coming rather unimpressively against a pair of 8-4 teams (Texas, Mississippi State). There just doesn’t seem to be a legitimate reason for TCU to get behind Bama because of Saturday’s loss.

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Continue reading for college football playoff projections from CBS sports bowl expert Jerry Palm, along with analysis of how our college football experts would vote if they were on the board.

Projection of the college football playoffs

Here’s how Palm projected the top four in the CFP. Palm went 29-for-32 predicting CFP teams at their exact spots through seven playoff years.

January 9

National Championship
Inglewood, California

Game for the title Semi-final winners

December 31

Peach bowl
Atlanta

Semi-final

(1) Georgia vs. (4) Ohio State

December 31

Fiesta Bowl
Glendale, Arizona

Semi-final

(2) Michigan vs. (3) TCU

College Football Playoff Expert Picks

Here’s how our college football staff would vote if they were on the CFP Selection Committee.

The case for Ohio State at No. 3

Ohio State, like TCU, has just one loss … and that was to the No. 2 team in the nation, Michigan. Admittedly, it was a tough loss. But wins over No. 8 Penn State, No. 21 Notre Dame and the “eye test” should resonate quite a bit. Buckeye’s back end was depleted against the Wolverines, and the receiving corps was without Jaxon Smith-Njigba for most of the year. These are not excuses for defeat, but they should be taken into account.

TCU’s best win is over Kansas State in their first meeting. Next best is over number 20 Texas. The biggest difference between TCU and Ohio State is TCU’s inconsistency, which caused the Frogs to pull away in the second half just to win. They did it, which is a huge compliment to coach Sonny Dykes and that roster. But the Buckeyes haven’t had to live that knife-edge life for most of the season, which is enough to convince me they deserve the No. 3 spot. — Barrett Sallee



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