SportsPulse: Did your team make USA TODAY Sports’ college football post-spring top 25? Paul Myerberg breaks it all down.
USA TODAY Sports
Killing time until the return college football is as easy as counting to 10, and then continuing to count out the rest of the roughly 7,500,000 seconds until the first Saturday of the 2018 season. It’s that easy!
From there, it’s another countdown of about 100 days until the real action begins: College Football Playoff national semifinals – held in the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl – will be held on Dec. 29, with the title game coming on Jan. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
This week’s Top 10 list takes the long view to ask: Which teams will populate the biggest bowl games of the 2018 season? Listed chronologically, the group includes the two semifinals, the championship game, the four remaining New Year’s Six bowls, the Citrus Bowl, the Alamo Bowl and the Outback Bowl.
1. Alamo Bowl (Dec. 28)
Southern California vs. West Virginia
I’ve got Washington in a semifinal and Stanford then slotting into the Rose Bowl, meaning the third-place team from the Pac-12 would land in the Alamo Bowl. That’d be USC, which would take on the third-place team from the Big 12, West Virginia, after both Oklahoma and TCU make the New Year’s Six.
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2. Peach Bowl (Dec. 29)
Miami (Fla.) vs. Penn State
The first New Year’s Six game pits two at-large bids. This projection picks Miami as the second-place team from the ACC, meaning the Hurricanes put together a great regular season but fall to Clemson in the conference title game. Penn State would be the third Big Ten team in a high-profile bowl, following Wisconsin and Ohio State.
3. Cotton Bowl (Dec. 29)
Alabama vs. Wisconsin
It might not be the Orange Bowl, but Alabama has made AT&T Stadium its home away from home in non-conference play. I’ve got Wisconsin winning the Big Ten and landing here, but it could very well be Ohio State. Or Penn State. Or Michigan State. Or Michigan.
4. Orange Bowl (Dec. 29)
Clemson vs. Washington
Clemson would be the beneficiary of playing its semifinal with a relative home-field advantage as the top seed in the Playoff field. Washington would need to travel across the country to meet the Tigers, but at least the Huskies are back in the final four.
5. Outback Bowl (Jan. 1)
Michigan State vs. Mississippi State
On paper, Michigan is a very strong contender for one of the top bowl games given to the best team from the Big Ten not in a New Year’s Six or a national semifinal. But because the Wolverines just played in this past January’s Outback Bowl essentially eliminates them from contention; likewise with South Carolina from the SEC. So let’s settle instead for Michigan State’s defense against Mississippi State’s new offense.
6. Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1)
Auburn vs. Michigan
Here’s a good spot for Michigan, which last played in the Citrus following the 2015 regular season. Notre Dame may have the record needed to be in contention for this spot, but the Irish just topped LSU in the Citrus this past January. In this projection, Auburn is just on the outside of a New Year’s Six berth.
7. Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1)
Boise State vs. TCU
These two programs haven’t met in the postseason since the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, when the powers that be decided to pit the two unbeaten programs – both then in non-major conferences – against one another rather than opponents from the Power Five.
8. Rose Bowl (Jan. 1)
Ohio State vs. Stanford
Ohio State’s easily in play for the Orange or Cotton. Better yet, the Buckeyes may end up being the best team in all of college football should Dwayne Haskins get the job done at quarterback, to name one position that will carry a question mark heading into September. But a spot in the Rose Bowl seems almost like the worst-case scenario for Urban Meyer and OSU, which says something about the team’s potential.
9. Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1)
Georgia vs. Oklahoma
This wouldn’t be the preferred destination for either program – both the Bulldogs and Sooners have eyes on a return to the Playoff – but the idea of these two powers holding a rematch of last year’s Rose Bowl should be intoxicating for college football fans.
10. College Football Playoff championship game (Jan. 7)
Alabama vs. Clemson
A fourth postseason matchup in as many years might be overkill. But the Tigers and Crimson Tide top the USA TODAY Sports post-spring Top 25 rankings – so another meeting doesn’t seem too hard to imagine in a postseason format that conceivably recognizes the top teams in the country.
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