College Football Playoff picture: Michigan, Washington, Alabama, Florida State; plus New Year's Six picks

college football playoff picture: michigan, washington, alabama, florida state; plus new year's six picks

College Football Playoff picture: Michigan, Washington, Alabama, Florida State; plus New Year’s Six picks

The College Football Playoff pairings will be unveiled Sunday, and the final four-team playoff saw major shakeups on conference championship weekend.

ESPN’s “College Football Playoff Selection Show” should feature little drama, however.

Michigan should jump up to the No. 1 spot after a 26-0 victory against Iowa in the Big Ten championship game. The Wolverines are making their third straight CFP appearance under Jim Harbaugh, who was suspended twice during the 2023 regular season.

Washington will be the No. 2 seed after knocking off Oregon 34-31 in the Pac-12 championship game. The Huskies feature Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Penix Jr., and second-year coach Kalen DeBoer continues to impress. The Huskies now have the nation’s longest win streak at 20 games.

Now the twist.

No. 8 Alabama beat No. 1 Georgia 27-24 in the SEC championship game. The Crimson Tide knocked the defending national champions out of the CFP. Now, the next part will be a dramatic shift from the committee.

They will not honor the Longhorns’ 34-24 victory against Alabama on Sept. 9. Texas had a 49-21 victory against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship, but it will not be enough. The Longhorns are SEC-bound after this season, and they won their first conference championship since 2009. Why will they not make it?

Florida State edged Louisville 13-6 in the ACC championship. The Seminoles finished a 13-0 unbeaten season, even without quarterback Jordan Travis.

This is the most-unique problem yet for the committee. Do you leave out the most dominant program of the CFP era from the most-dominant conference, a conference champion that beat them on the field or the third unbeaten team? This could go any one of three ways, and it will not be easy.

The College Football Playoff semifinals will be on Jan. 1, 2024. Those semifinals will be played at the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, Calif., and the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Those locations were the sites of the first four-team playoff in 2014.

The College Football Playoff championship game is on Jan. 8 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

With that, here are SN’s final CFP predictions for 2023:

Final College football rankings 2023

Four in the College Football Playoff 

1. Michigan (13-0) 

Michigan had just 16 rushing yards at halftime in a defensive struggle against the Hawkeyes. Semaj Morgan’s 87-yard punt return set up a Blake Corum touchdown, but the offense struggled against Iowa. Michigan pulled way with 10 third-quarter points, and that was enough to clinch a third consecutive Big Ten championship. It’s been a season of adversity off the field, but now the pressure is on after CFP semifinal losses each of the last two seasons. If there was ever a time for Harbaugh to break through and win a national championship with the Wolverines, the time is now.

2. Washington (13-0) 

The Huskies broke the Pac-12 playoff drought that extended back to the school’s last appearance in 2016. Michael Penix Jr. passed for 319 yards and a TD against Oregon, and Dillon Johnson added 152 rushing yards and a pair of TDs. The Huskies out-gained the Ducks 481-363. Washington extended its winning streak to 20 games – and second-year coach Kalen DeBoer has led a remarkable run that will continue in the Big Ten next season. But first, Washington will play in the CFP semifinals.

3. Alabama (12-1) 

The Crimson Tide made a compelling case with a victory against Georgia in the SEC championship game. Jalen Milroe (13 of 23, 192 yards, 2 TDs) helped the Crimson Tide build a 10-point halftime lead, and the defense limited the Bulldogs to 2.5 yards per carry. It was a remarkable reminder of the power of Nick Saban in the SEC. It would not be a surprise if the Crimson Tide win their seventh national title since Saban took over.

MORE: Saban says Alabama among ‘four best’

4. Florida State (13-0) 

The Seminoles hold on to their spot in the top four despite an ugly offensive performance against the Cardinals. Granted, that was with third-string quarterback Brock Glenn (8 of 21, 55 yards). Lawrance Toafili’s 73-yard run set up a 2-yard touchdown run. Tate Rodamaker should return for the bowl game, and Florida State still has a defense capable of keeping games close in the CFP. Even without Jordan Travis, the committee will not be able to justify leaving out an unbeaten Power 5 champion.

Two out 

5. Texas (12-1)

Quinn Ewers hit 35 of 46 passes for a career-high 452 yards, four TDs and an interception against Oklahoma State. The Longhorns scored touchdowns on their first four possessions – including a double-reverse pass for a TD to Ja’Tavion Sanders – and left no room for the Cowboys to get back in the game.

6. Georgia (12-1)

Kirby Smart made a case for the Bulldogs after the 27-24 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, but the reality is the Bulldogs’ bid for a third straight national championship is likely over. Georgia averaged just 2.5 yards per carry in the loss to Alabama, and Carson Beck (21 of 29, 243 yards) could not lead a second-half comeback from a 17-7 deficit. It’s true the battle with Alabama felt like their previous battles in the College Football Playoff championship, but there is no viable path for Georgia. A fall from No. 1 to No. 6 — and a likely Cotton Bowl matchup — will be the Bulldogs’ fate.

MORE: Final bowl projections for 2023-24 postseason

CFP Rankings: 7-25

7. Ohio State (11-1)

8. Oregon (11-2)

9. Missouri (10-2)

10. Penn State (10-2)

11. Ole Miss (11-2)

12. Oklahoma (10-2)

13. LSU (9-3)

14. Arizona (9-3)

15. Louisville (10-3)

16. Notre Dame (9-3)

17. Iowa (10-3)

18. Liberty (13-0)

19. Oklahoma State (9-4)

20. SMU (11-2)

21. Oregon State (8-4)

22. NC State (9-3)

23. Tennessee (8-4)

24. Tulane (11-2)

25. Troy (11-2)

New Year’s 6 predictions 

DATE BOWL PROJECTED MATCHUP
Dec. 29 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic Texas (12-1) vs. Ohio State (11-1) 
Dec. 30 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Penn State (10-2) vs. Liberty (13-0) 
Dec. 30 Capital One Orange Bowl Georgia (12-1) vs. Louisville (10-3) 
Jan. 1 Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Oregon (11-2) vs. Missouri (10-2) 

College Football Playoff predictions 

DATE BOWL PROJECTED MATCHUP
Jan. 1 Rose Bowl Game (National semifinal) Michigan (13-0) vs. Florida State (13-0)
Jan. 1 Allstate Sugar Bowl (National semifinal) Alabama (12-1) vs. Washington (13-0)
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