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Predicting college football bowl game matchups


The first full week of another college football season is about the kick off, which means it’s time to compile the first edition of this year’s USA TODAY Sports bowl projections.

The forecast for the College Football Playoff has a familiar feel. Alabama and Georgia both return to the semifinals, while Michigan and Cincinnati fail to repeat after their breakthrough seasons.

The choice to replace the Wolverines was straightforward. Ohio State enters the season as the favorite to the win the Big Ten.

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The difficult decision comes at the fourth spot. There were several possibilities. Usual contenders Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma were considered with possible newcomers, led by Texas A&M, Utah or North Carolina State.

In the end, the choice was Oklahoma. While the Sooners had a coaching change and lost prominent players to the NFL and the transfer portal, they made several key additions, including QB Dillon Gabriel and some important defenders. The arrival of Brent Venables as Lincoln Riley’s replacement should help the defense get to level where OU regains the Big 12 title and has the best chance of making the field.

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For the rest of the New Year’s Six games, Michigan and Utah head for the Rose Bowl with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M playing the Sugar Bowl. Clemson and Wisconsin face off in the Orange Bowl, while Group of Five top champion Houston meets surprising Brigham Young in the Fiesta Bowl.

Note: An asterisk indicates a school that has replaced a conference pick.

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