NCAA Football

Bowl Predictions 2015: Projections for Top Playoff Contenders

The college football regular season is almost at the halfway point, and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. 

Entering its second year, the College Football Playoff and the bowl games have shifted, as they will from year to year. 

The Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl will host the playoff games, while four other bowls will round out the New Year's Six.

As usual, the Rose Bowl will feature the Pac-12 and Big Ten, while the Sugar Bowl will pit the SEC against the Big 12. The Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl will be assigned at-large teams, including the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences.

 

Notable Teams

Baylor

Baylor has looked like the most dominant team in the nation this season, but the Bears' resume doesn't quite hold up right now. 

Through its first five games, Baylor has won by 28 points or more in every contest, but it is yet to face a ranked opponent. 

Do Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech boast the 3 best offenses in CFB? The numbers suggest it. The 3 lead the nation in points and yards per play.

— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 14, 2015

While the team's resume may not match up with some of the other teams right now, the Bears will get their chance. Baylor has a three-game stretch in November in which it will host Oklahoma and then travel to Oklahoma State and TCU.

If Baylor runs the table, the team should be considered a lock to make it into the playoffs. It has dominated its non-conference schedule and would finish with at least three quality victories, which should be enough to overcome the Big 12's lack of a championship game.

 

Michigan

Even with a loss to Utah, Michigan still controls its own destiny to advance to the College Football Playoff.

By running the table, Michigan would have wins over Michigan State, Ohio State and the Big Ten Championship game, which would give it an impressive resume worthy of a top-four position. 

But that's a lot to ask of Jim Harbaugh's squad, so at least one loss is likely on the horizon. 

Even with two losses, Michigan would be a safe bet to represent the Big Ten in one of the other New Year's Six bowl games. The Wolverines' dominant defense would be a compelling matchup against any number of possible opponents. 

 

Stanford

Is there a hotter team than Stanford right now?

After crushing UCLA on Thursday night, Stanford is through the most difficult stretch on its schedule. The Cardinal are the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 North and control their own destiny for a berth in the Pac-12 title game. 

Stanford (+87) and Utah (+48) have, by far, the biggest point differentials in the Pac-12. No other team is better than +13.

— David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN) October 16, 2015

It will be tough for Stanford to sneak into the College Football Playoff unless it runs the table, but a Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl berth is certainly within reach. 

The Cardinal don't play another currently-ranked team until they host California in their Pac-12 finale, and then against Notre Dame to close out their regular season. 

 

Clemson

Clemson's resume won't be overly impressive this year, as it may finish the year having only played two ranked opponents (Notre Dame and Florida State). But an undefeated record would likely be enough to sneak the Tigers into the playoffs. 

Fortunately for the Tigers, their only serious test remaining is Florida State, which visits Clemson on November 7. Clemson has defeated the Seminoles in five of the last six matchups in South Carolina. 

Given the lack of quality wins, however, Clemson's playoff hopes may rest on that showdown with Florida State. A loss to the Seminoles likely eliminates Clemson from playoff contention and potentially out of the New Year's Six bowls altogether. 

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