After a long and exciting 2022 regular season, the conference championship week is finally here. The results from the key championship games could seriously affect the postseason, from the New Year’s Six bowls to the College Football Playoff, just like last week did.
Teams such as the Michigan Wolverines had important wins, while others such as LSU and Clemson lost and damaged their chances for bigger things in December. All of that culminated in crucial changes in the latest CFP rankings.
The Wolverines are now No. 2 following their win over the Ohio State Buckeyes, who dropped out of the top four. In total, seven teams in the top 10 moved up at least one position.
Now, fans should have a general of what will happen in the bowl season after the weekend. However, one upset could change history in 2022. With that being said, here are our predictions for the New Year’s Six bowls after the latest College Football Playoff rankings ahead of the conference championship games.
Peach Bowl/CFP Semifinal: Georgia Bulldogs vs. USC Trojans
The No. 4 USC Trojans are coming off an important 38-27 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The team will now play for the Pac-12 title versus the No. 11 Utah Utes. It is worth noting that the Utes handed the Trojans their only loss of the season, a 43-42 thriller earlier in October. But for a school with a Heisman frontrunner like Caleb Williams as its quarterback, USC has a good shot at getting revenge.
On the other side, No. 1 Georgia is in a good position of winning back-to-back national championships after taking college football supremacy last season. They have a perfect 12-0 record and have dominated ranked teams such as Oregon and Tennessee. Facing LSU, who suffered an upset loss to unranked Texas A&M last week, Georgia should take home the SEC trophy.
Fiesta Bowl/CFP Semifinal: Michigan Wolverines vs. TCU Horned Frogs
As it was mentioned above, No. 2 Michigan had a great win over Ohio State. Because it was in such a dominating fashion, it was enough to make the Wolverines climb the CFP rankings. Playing against an 8-4 Purdue team, Michigan should have no problem winning the Big Ten.
The surprising No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs will have a tough challenge this weekend. They will face the No. 10 Kansas State Wildcats for the Big 12 championship, meaning TCU’s historic season must remain perfect for a shot at the CFP. Since the Horned Frogs won versus the Wildcats earlier this year, they could do it once again.
Orange Bowl: Clemson Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers
The No. 9 Clemson Tigers are coming off a disappointing loss to the then-unranked South Carolina Gamecocks. While it certainly removed them from the college football playoff picture, they are still battling for the New Year’s Six bowls. A win against No. 23 North Carolina would likely make Clemson the highest-ranked ACC team, giving it a bid to the Orange Bowl.
The No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers finished their season going 2-2, a rough end to a promising season where they once were No. 1 in the CFP rankings. As the second-highest SEC team not in the playoffs, Tennessee should still earn a bid to a big bowl. The problem is that the Volunteers will be without quarterback Hendon Hooker, which will make things difficult versus a Clemson squad.
Sugar Bowl: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Kansas State Wildcats
Following LSU’s upset loss to Texas A&M, No. 6 Alabama is now the highest-ranked SEC school that is not in the CFP. With a two-loss season, the Crimson Tide still has prestige from the CFP Committee, which should result in a big bowl selection to award Nick Saban and Bryce Young.
The No. 10 Kansas State Wildcats will have a tough time versus TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game. Should they lose to the Horned Frogs again, they would remain the highest-ranked Big 12 team after TCU. This should give the Wildcats a bid to the Sugar Bowl.
Cotton Bowl: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. UCF Knights
The No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions are one of the highest-ranked teams that are not playing for a conference title. With Michigan likely in the CFP and Ohio State going for a bigger bowl, that leaves Penn State as the next-highest school remaining in the New Year’s Six call list. Since the Cotton Bowl awards at-large bids, the Nittany Lions should benefit from it.
Perhaps one of the toughest and most exciting games this weekend is the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. The battle between the No. 18 Tulane Green Wave and No. 22 UCF Knights should be an interesting one. The winner should be the highest-ranked Group of Five team, which gives it a bid to the Cotton Bowl. Since UCF handed Tulane’s only loss in conference play, it could happen again with the help of Gus Malzahn’s experience with big games.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Washington Huskies
With the blowout loss to the Wolverines last week, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes have a small chance of still making the CFP. But if things go as predicted above, that leaves the Buckeyes as the first team out of the semifinals. The Rose Bowl would be a big consolation prize for C.J. Stroud and the rest of the Ohio State team.
The Pac-12 bid to the Rose Bowl should be between the No. 12 Washington Huskies and No. 11 Utah Utes. With Utah playing CFP-hopeful USC in the conference championship game, it is likely the Trojans take the trophy. Since the Huskies have a better Pac-12 record and the Utes would add a fourth loss to their résumé, Washington would potentially get a New Year’s Six spot.