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BOWL PROJECTIONS: Oklahoma, Utah need to win conference titles … and then beg for Peach Bowl bid

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Sooners QB and Heisman Trophy candidate Jalen Hurts (50 total TDs) could help vault Oklahoma over Utah in the final College Football Playoff rankings, with an impressive victory over Baylor in Saturday's Big 12 title game.

BATSBY Sports shall attempt to cut through the noise and predict the matchups for the 19 most important games on the bowl calendar.

Reminder: The Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl will serve as this year’s semifinal destinations for the College Football Playoff, which released its fourth rankings last week.

NEW YEAR’S SIX PROJECTIONS

PEACH: LSU (1) vs. Utah (4)**
FIESTA: Ohio State (2) vs. Clemson (3)**
ROSE: Penn State vs. Oregon
ORANGE: Florida vs. Virginia
SUGAR: Georgia vs. Oklahoma
COTTON: Notre Dame vs. Memphis

BOWL REVELATIONS

TAKE #1

A little clarification for the top:

We’re fully expecting Ohio State to remain at No. 1 in Tuesday’s updated (or penultimate) release of the College Football Playoff rankings, on the strength of the Buckeyes’ road rout of Michigan over the weekend (56-27).

However, factoring in Alabama’s crazy loss to Auburn, the 13-member Playoff committee now has the flexibility to insert LSU back into the top spot … presuming the Tigers capture the SEC championship on Saturday.

The rationale here: LSU (four top-10 victories over Alabama, Florida, Auburn, Texas) possessed the strongest regular-season resume … and will encounter the toughest challenger (No. 4 Georgia) of any school playing on Conference Championship Weekend.

Plus, there would be no more worries about an LSU-Alabama rematch in one national semifinal, which might have been deemed unfair to the Tigers — since they had already upended the Crimson Tide on Nov. 9, with QB Tua Tagovailoa still in the ‘Bama lineup.

In other words, style points likely won’t be a determining factor for LSU come Saturday/Sunday, short of Ohio State repeating its 59-0 shellacking of Wisconsin from the 2014 Big Ten championship game.

For the Tigers … it’s a simple case of add another heavyweight victory, and you’re back in the catbird seat.

TAKE #2

Oklahoma might have been the biggest benefactor of Alabama’s late meltdown against Auburn, knowing the fourth and final Playoff spot will likely go to the Big 12 or Pac-12 champion — assuming the current CFP alignment holds serve.

If that’s the case, then Utah (No. 5 in the latest Associated Press poll) and Oklahoma (No. 6 in AP) must adhere to the following two-step process this weekend:

a) Beat Oregon and Baylor, respectively, as clinchers for the conference title.

b) Go on a full-press media spree after the victory, imploring the masses to vault either the Ducks or Sooners to the No. 4 slot for Sunday’s final rankings.

Of course, none of this shall mean anything if Georgia takes down LSU in Saturday’s SEC championship.

Under this scenario, the Tigers would remain in the top 4, factoring in their signature victories and overall strength of schedule.

For what it’s worth, here’s the current Tale of the Tape with Oklahoma and Utah:

Higher College Football Playoff Ranking: Utah
Strength Of Schedule: Oklahoma
ESPN Football Power Index: Oklahoma
Quality Losses: Utah (USC) over Oklahoma (Kansas State)
Point Differential: Utah (24.4) over Oklahoma (19.6)
Scoring Offense: Oklahoma
Scoring Defense: Utah
Turnover Margin: Utah

OTHER PROMINENT BOWLS

CITRUS: Wisconsin vs. Alabama
OUTBACK: Minnesota vs. Auburn
GATOR: Iowa vs. Tennessee
CAMPING WORLD: Oklahoma State vs. Louisville
SUN: Washington State vs. Wake Forest
TEXAS: Texas A&M vs. Texas
ALAMO: Baylor vs. Arizona State
HOLIDAY: Michigan vs. USC
PINSTRIPE: Virginia Tech vs. Indiana
LIBERTY: Mississippi State vs. Iowa State
MUSIC CITY: Florida State vs. Kentucky
BELK: Cincinnati vs. Miami
REDBOX: Illinois vs. Washington

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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