Bowl projections: Will the top four teams in the first CFP rankings all make the playoff?

How many teams from the top four of Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings will end up in the playoff at the end of the season?

Save for the inaugural playoff in 2014, at least two teams from the top four of the first rankings have been a part of the playoff. And three or more teams from the first top four have been in the final top four on three occasions.

At the moment, we’re projecting a repeat of 2020 when all four of the teams in the top four of the first rankings were there at the end. Why? We think the committee made a statement about Michigan’s non-conference schedule by having the Wolverines at No. 5. Michigan played Hawaii, Colorado State and UConn to start the season and UConn may be the best of that bunch.

With No. 1 Tennessee currently four spots ahead of the Wolverines, they could have the upper hand over Michigan if both teams finish the season at 11-1 and fail to make their conference title games. That's a decent possibility; Tennessee is an underdog to Georgia on the road on Saturday and Michigan will be an underdog at Ohio State.

Tennessee is heading to the College Football Playoff in our latest round of bowl projections after debuting at No. 1 on Tuesday night. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
Tennessee is heading to the College Football Playoff in our latest round of bowl projections after debuting at No. 1 on Tuesday night. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

If both teams lose those games and win their other three games this season, Tennessee would seem to be the committee’s pick if the two teams’ losses were similar.

But there’s still a long way to go. No. 6 Alabama could jump into the playoff mix at 12-1 with an SEC title, like it did a season ago, and knock both Tennessee and Michigan from contention. Clemson could suffer a surprise loss or two. So could Ohio State.

Outside of the playoff, we have a few different matchups in the New Year’s Six games. North Carolina is in the Orange Bowl in place of Wake Forest after the Demon Deacons’ turnover-filled loss to Louisville. And Kansas State is in the New Year’s Six in place of Oklahoma State after blowing out the Cowboys at home.

We had the Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl but swapping them out for K-State would create a rematch between the Wildcats and Tulane. So we’re sending Kansas State to New Orleans at the moment while Big 12 favorite TCU stays closer to home and goes to the Cotton Bowl.

New Year's Six bowl games

Orange Bowl (Dec. 30)

North Carolina vs. Penn State

Sugar Bowl (Dec. 31)

Kansas State vs. Alabama

Peach Bowl (Dec. 31) [CFP semifinal]

Georgia vs. Clemson

Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 31) [CFP semifinal]

Ohio State vs. Tennessee

Cotton Bowl (Jan. 2)

TCU vs. Tulane

Rose Bowl (Jan. 2)

Michigan vs. USC

Other bowl games

Bahamas Bowl (Dec. 16)

UTEP vs. Ball State

Cure Bowl (Dec. 16)

Liberty vs. Appalachian State

Fenway Bowl (Dec. 17)

Syracuse vs. Cincinnati

New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 17)

Air Force vs. North Texas

LA Bowl (Dec. 17)

Boise State vs. Washington

LendingTree Bowl (Dec. 17)

Toledo vs. South Alabama

Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 17)

Utah vs. LSU

Frisco Bowl (Dec. 17)

Middle Tennessee State vs. SMU

Myrtle Beach Bowl (Dec. 19)

UTSA vs. Coastal Carolina

Potato Bowl (Dec. 20)

San Diego State vs. Miami (Ohio)

Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 20)

Florida Atlantic vs. Memphis

New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 21)

Western Kentucky vs. Southern Miss

Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 22)

East Carolina vs. Texas Tech

Gasparilla Bowl (Dec. 23)

Wyoming vs. Georgia Southern

Independence Bowl (Dec. 23)

BYU vs. Army

Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24)

San Jose State vs. UAB

Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26)

Wisconsin vs. Buffalo

First Responder Bowl (Dec. 27)

Houston vs. Washington State

Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 27)

South Carolina vs. Louisiana

Camellia Bowl (Dec. 27)

Ohio vs. Troy

Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Dec. 27)

Iowa vs. Baylor

Military Bowl (Dec. 28)

Miami vs. UCF

Liberty Bowl (Dec. 28)

Kansas vs. Missouri

Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28)

Wake Forest vs. UCLA

Texas Bowl (Dec. 28)

Texas vs. Arkansas

Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 29)

Notre Dame vs. Minnesota

Cheez-It Bowl (Dec. 29)

Louisville vs. Oklahoma

Alamo Bowl (Dec. 29)

Oklahoma State vs. Oregon

Duke’s Mayo Bowl (Dec. 30)

NC State vs. Maryland

Sun Bowl (Dec. 30)

Oregon State vs. Pitt

Gator Bowl (Dec. 30)

Duke vs. Mississippi State

Arizona Bowl (Dec. 30)

UNLV vs. Eastern Michigan

Music City Bowl (Dec. 31)

Purdue vs. Florida

ReliaQuest Bowl (Jan. 2)

Florida State vs. Kentucky

Citrus Bowl (Jan. 2)

Illinois vs. Ole Miss