The following are College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl game projections as we enter week 5 of the 2023 college football season.
College Football Playoffs
Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Florida State
The Bulldogs haven’t been challenged, but anyone who watched the video from halftime of the South Carolina game probably isn’t worried about their ability to summon their full powers when needed. Plus, quarterback Carson Beck seems to look more comfortable with each passing week. He led touchdown drives on six of eight possessions against UAB on Saturday.
The 2022 Seminoles would have lost the Clemson game, but this version looks capable of finding ways to win that its predecessors could not. With Duke and Miami still on the schedule, the path to the ACC title game isn’t a cakewalk, though.
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Penn State vs. No. 3 Texas
Penn State QB Drew Allar throwing laser beams in the rain against Iowa’s always-stout defense had to warm the hearts of everyone in Happy Valley. Shutting out the Hawkeyes doesn’t necessarily prove defensive dominance, but it probably means the Nittany Lions can slow Ohio State and Michigan’s offenses.
The Longhorns handled their business against Baylor. Now they face a 4-0 Kansas team that beat them the last time the teams met in Austin. This probably eliminates the possibility of getting caught looking ahead to Oklahoma.
New Year’s Six bowl games
Orange Bowl: North Carolina vs. Michigan
The Tar Heels needed most of the first half to get rolling against Pittsburgh, but they put the game away in the third quarter. The Miami game on Oct. 14 looms large, but first North Carolina must face Syracuse in Chapel Hill on Oct. 7.
The Wolverines fell behind Rutgers early and then smashed the Scarlet Knights. Whether they land here or in a semifinal obviously depends on what happens against Ohio State, but the Nov. 11 visit to Penn State might be just as important.
Fiesta Bowl: USC vs. Fresno State
USC’s defensive performance Saturday against Arizona State felt like a warning sign for the Trojans. With Notre Dame, Utah, Washington and Oregon still on the schedule, a similar performance or two would doom USC’s playoff hopes.
Why was USC’s showing against the Sun Devils so troubling? Because Fresno State shut out Arizona State just last week. If the Bulldogs keep this up, they’ll be the highest ranked champion in the Group of 5.
Peach Bowl: Ohio State vs. Alabama
Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said the Buckeyes proved their toughness at Notre Dame, and the game-winning drive engineered by QB Kyle McCord was quite impressive. But the win also showed some vulnerabilities that a Penn State or a Michigan might be more equipped than Notre Dame to exploit.
Against Ole Miss, Alabama looked like an early-Nick Saban era bunch. Even though they only averaged 2.9 yards a carry, they kept running the ball. This allowed for an efficient-enough pass game and a comfortable win. With Jalen Milroe entrenched as QB1, coordinator Tommy Rees can continue to build the offense around Milroe and find a groove calling plays for Milroe.
Cotton Bowl: Oregon vs. Notre Dame
The Ducks pounded Colorado, but the question is whether they’ll be able to survive a loaded Pac-12 with one or zero losses. If someone can, Oregon seems the best constructed for the task.
Notre Dame took a gut punch against Ohio State on Saturday, but the Fighting Irish shouldn’t feel like they’re eliminated from the CFP race. With Duke, USC and Clemson still on the schedule, Notre Dame can build a good enough resume depending on chaos elsewhere. But the Irish will have to pick themselves up off the mat quickly, because this week’s trip to Durham will be far more challenging than originally anticipated.