The 6th year of the College Football Playoff has a 50% chance of producing a first-time champion. Alabama is absent, LSU makes its first appearance, and Oklahoma gets another shot at doing more than having a one-and-done cameo role. Meanwhile, Ohio State will be aiming for its first national title since the first year of the playoff format in 2014.
The season preview at CollegeFootballPoll.com, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings, once again predicted 2 of the 4 teams in the field (LSU and Clemson) while it missed on Oregon and Michigan. Our season preview has now predicted 11 of the 24 teams selected (just under 50%) in the history of the playoff.
The seeds this year are No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma.
The semifinals take place on Saturday, December 28 with LSU and Oklahoma meeting in Atlanta in the Peach Bowl at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the 8 p.m. Fiesta Bowl matchup of Ohio State and Clemson. The winners face-off on Monday, January 13th in New Orleans.
The computer established LSU as a comfortable 12.42-point favorite over Oklahoma, and defending champion and two-time winner Clemson as a 4.76-point computer underdog to Ohio State. However, the football betting odds favor LSU and Clemson.
Oklahoma has never won a playoff game in three previous attempts. Each of the two meetings with LSU came in bowl games with the Sooners taking the 1950 Sugar Bowl 35-0 and LSU returning the favor 54 years later (2004) with a 21-14 victory.
Clemson has never lost to the Buckeyes. They've met only three times and every encounter has been in a bowl game - 2016 Fiesta, 2014 Orange, and the infamous 1978 Gator Bowl which cost Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes his job for throwing a punch at Clemson player Charlie Bauman on the sideline after he intercepted an Art Schlichter pass.
If a championship game were played today between LSU and Ohio State, the Buckeyes would be favored by 5.47 points.
In all, 39 bowl games will take place in the postseason. The national championship clash gives us a 40th game to watch, but is not a bowl game.
The computer expects 14 of the 39 games scheduled to be blowouts with predicted margins of 10.19 points (North Carolina over Temple, Military Bowl) to 21.52 (Appalachian State over UAB, New Orleans Bowl).
The computer also has 14 games with margins under 5 points, including 8 games at 2 points or less. The tightest are Arkansas State's 0.08-point edge over FIU in the Camellia Bowl, closely followed by Tennessee's 0.09-point advantage over Indiana in the Gator Bowl.
SEC teams have taken 9 of the last 13 national championships with Alabama claiming 5 of those. ACC schools have taken 3 of the last 5, courtesy of Clemson (2) and Florida State. Ohio State captured one for the Big Ten in 2014.
Get all of the computer's Bowl Picks.
The 2019 preseason rankings correctly projected the champions in 6 of the 10 conferences - the ACC, Big 12, MWC, PAC-12, SEC and Sun Belt. It also tabbed Notre Dame as the top Independent and correctly pegged 13 division winners, including both sides of the ACC, American, Mountain West, PAC-12, and SEC.
The computer nailed the exact final regular season record of 27 teams, and came within 1 win or loss on 37 others.
The Cure Bowl took the honors of the worst bowl matchup in each of the last two years by hosting No. 83 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 82 Tulane in the 2018 game after welcoming No. 85 Georgia State and No. 79 Western Kentucky in 2017.
This year, the Orlando-based game draws No. 71 Liberty and No. 56 Georgia Southern. Liberty is making its first-ever bowl appearance in just its second season as a FBS program.
Kent State is the lowest-ranked program of all the bowl teams as the No. 86 Golden Flashes take on No. 67 Utah State in the Frisco Bowl to tie for the worst combined-ranking of 153. The Camellia Bowl matches that game with No. 83 FIU and No. 70 Arkansas State.
Third-place falls to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for the second straight year with this year's pairing of No. 80 Nevada and No. 72 Ohio.
Two schools are literally playing home games - Hawaii and FAU. The Rainbow Warriors are hosting BYU while the Owls are entertaining SMU.
This will be the third time in the last four years that Hawaii has stayed in Hawaii for a bowl game.
A few other schools are a short bus ride away from their game day location. Cal will only log about 43 miles to get from Berkeley to Santa Clara to tackle Illinois in the Redbox Bowl, while Louisiana Tech will shuttle 72 miles from its Ruston campus to Shreveport for its Independence Bowl date with Miami (FL).
Texas will travel just 79 miles to the Alamodome to face Utah in the Alamo Bowl, Texas A&M will travel 100 miles to Houston to take on Oklahoma State in the Texas Bowl, and UCF will trek 107 miles from east Orlando to Tampa for its Gasparilla Bowl game with Marshall.
It's only a 120-mile ride for USC to arrive at the venue in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl clash with Iowa, and it's a 124-mile jaunt for Temple to its Military Bowl destination in Annapolis where the Owls will face North Carolina.
The number of first-time bowl matchups increases for the third straight year. The 2019 bowl season has 15, which is 2 more than the 13 last year and 4 more than the 11 in 2017.
The Boca Raton Bowl offer a first-time matchup for the fourth straight year as FAU hosts SMU.
For the first time in four years, the Gasparilla Bowl is NOT a first-time matchup as UCF hosts Marshall.
Not a single game on this year's schedule is a repeat matchup of a 2019 regular season game.
These games are all first-time meetings:
Bahamas - Charlotte vs. Buffalo
New Mexico - San Diego State vs. Central Michigan
Cure - Liberty vs. Georgia Southern
Boca Raton - SMU at FAU
New Orleans- Appalachian State vs. UAB
Military - North Carolina vs. Temple
Pinstripe - Michigan State vs. Wake Forest
Cheez-It - Air Force vs. Washington State
Camping World - Notre Dame vs. Iowa State
Cotton - Memphis vs. Penn State
SERVPRO First Resonder - Western Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
Liberty - Kansas State vs. Navy
Arizona - Wyoming vs. Georgia State
Outback - Auburn vs. Minnesota
Famous Idaho - Nevada vs. Ohio
Virginia Tech and Kentucky have met 19 times, but not since Frank Beamer's first season as head coach in 1987 when Kentucky prevailed 14-7 under head coach Jerry Claiborne. Claiborne was the head coach at Virginia Tech from 1961-1970 (61-39-2) and Kentucky from 1982-1989 (41-46-3). In between, he was the head coach at Maryland.
Only one game - the Louisville-Mississippi State Gator Bowl - is a rematch of a 2017 bowl game. It's also the last time the Cardinals played in a bowl game.
Both playoff semifinal games are matchups which have ONLY occurred in bowl games.
Michigan and Alabama have split four meetings, the first three of which were in bowl games. Alabama won the 2012 regular season meeting.
Indiana and Tennessee have had just one previous meeting and that came in the 1988 Peach Bowl which the Vols won 27-22.
Here is when each 2019 bowl participant last faced its opponent (season of their last meeting in parenthesis):
Frisco - Utah State vs. Kent State (1974) - Utah State won last meeting and series is tied 1-1.
Camellia - Arkansas State vs. FIU (2012) - Arkansas State won last meeting and leads series 6-2.
Las Vegas - Boise State vs. Washington (2015) - Boise State won last meeting and series is tied 2-2.
Gasparilla - UCF vs. Marshall (2012) - UCF has won 8 straight and leads series 8-3.
Hawaii - BYU at Hawaii - BYU and won last meeting and leads series 23-8.
Independence - Miami (FL) vs. Louisiana Tech (2004) - Miami won last meeting and leads series 4-0.
Quick Lane - Eastern Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (2007) - Pittsburgh won last meeting and leads series 2-0.
Texas - Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M (2011) - Oklahoma State won last meeting. Texas A&M leads series 17-10.
Holiday - Iowa vs. USC (2003) - USC won last meeting (Orange Bowl) and leads series 7-2.
Peach - LSU vs. Oklahoma (2004) - LSU won last meeting (both were Sugar Bowls) and series is tied 1-1.
Fiesta - Clemson vs. Ohio State (2016) - Clemson won last meeting and leads series 3-0 (all meetings have been bowl games).
Orange - Virginia vs. Florida (1959) - Florida won the only meeting 55-10.
Redbox - Illinois vs. California (2005) - Cal won last meeting. Illinois leads series 7-3.
Music City - Louisville vs. Mississippi State (2017) - Mississippi State won last meeting (2017 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl) and leads series 5-0.
Belk - Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky (1987) - Kentucky won last meeting 14-7 and leads series 11-6-2.
Sun - Arizona State vs. Florida State (1984) - Florida State won last meeting 52-44 and leads series 3-1.
Alamo - Texas vs. Utah (1982) - Texas won the only previous meeting.
Citrus - Michigan vs. Alabama (2012) - Alabama won last meeting and series is tied 2-2.
Rose - Wisconsin vs. Oregon (2012) - Oregon won last meeting (2012 Rose Bowl). Wisconsin leads series 3-2.
Sugar - Georgia vs. Baylor (1989) - Georgia won last meeting and lead series 4-0.
TicketSmarter Birmingham - Boston College vs. Cincinnati (1997) - Cincinnati won last meeting. Boston College leads series 4-3.
Gator Bowl - Indiana vs. Tennessee (1988) - Tennessee won the only previous meeting (1988 Peach Bowl).
Armed Forces - Southern Miss vs. Tulane (2010) - Southern Miss won last meeting and leads series 23-7.
Lending Tree- Miami (O) vs. Louisiana (1993) - Miami won last meeting and leads series 2-0.
Of the teams that made it this year, these had the longest wait to get back to a bowl game:
Kent State, 2012
This teams have the longest continuing current streak of bowl absence:
Ball State, 2013
Oregon State, 2013
East Carolina, 2014
San Jose State, 2015
These teams have the longest continuing current streaks of bowl appearances:
Virginia Tech, 27
These teams have the most consecutive bowl victories (last season of a bowl loss in parenthesis. CFP Championship games are NOT bowl games.):
Marshall, 7 (2004)
Louisiana Tech, 5 (2011)
Wisconsin, 5 (2013)
Alabama, 4 (2014) - National Championship games do not count as a bowl game.
Appalachian State, 4 (Never)
Army, 4 (1996) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
San Jose State, 4 (1987) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Syracuse, 4 (2004) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Troy, 4 (2009) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Baylor, 3 (2014)
Duke, 3 (2014) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
FAU, 3 (Never)
Kansas, 3 (2003) - Hasn't appeared in a bowl game since 2008
Minnesota, 3 (2013)
Northwestern, 3 (2015) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Oklahoma State, 3 (2015)
Tennessee, 3 (2010)
Wake Forest, 3 (2011)
These teams have the most consecutive bowl losses (last season of a bowl win in parenthesis):
Ball State, 7 (Never) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Northern Illinois, 6 (2011) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
UTEP, 6 (1967) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Central Michigan, 4 (2012)
Colorado State, 4 (2013) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Indiana, 4 (1991)
Memphis, 4 (2014)
Pittsburgh, 4 (2013)
Ball State, 0-7 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Kent State, 0-2
South Alabama, 0-2 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
UTSA, 0-1 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
(Minimum 20 appearances)
Utah, 18-5 (.783)
Mississippi, 24-13 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
USC, 35-19 (.648)
Oklahoma State, 18-10 (.643)
Florida State, 28-16-2 (.630)
Penn State, 29-17-2 (.625)
Syracuse, 15-9-1 (.620) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Mississippi State, 13-8 (.619)
Alabama, 39-24-3 (.614)
Georgia, 31-20-3 (.602)
Penn State, 29
Florida State, 28
Nebraska, 26 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Georgia Tech, 25 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Mississippi, 24 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Ohio State, 23
114 games this year pit FBS teams against FCS schools. That's two more than a season ago when FBS teams won 105 of 112 games.
FBS teams were 111-3 (.974) for the season. Since we began tracking this in 2003, the FBS schools are 1,435-127 (.919).
FCS victories over FBS teams in 2019:
August 29: Central Arkansas 35, Western Kentucky 28
September 7: Southern Illinois 45, Massachusetts 20
September 14: The Citadel 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT)
FCS victories over FBS teams in 2018
August 29: UC Davis 44, San Jose State 31
September 1: Villanova 19, Temple 17
September 1: Northern Arizona 30, UTEP 10
September 1: Nicholls State 26, Kansas 23 (OT)
September 2: North Carolina A&T 28, East Carolina 23
September 8: Maine 31, Western Kentucky 28
September 22: Illinois State 35, Colorado State 19
CLEMSON - Won 28 straight over-all (FBS longest). Won 29 straight regular season games (FBS longest) games. Won 21 straight conference games (FBS longest). Won 22 straight home games (FBS longest). Won 12 straight true road games (FBS longest).
Last: Won 62-17 over Virginia in ACC Championship game on December 7
Next: Ohio State in College Football Playoff at Fiesta Bowl on December 28.
RUTGERS - Lost 21 straight conference games (FBS longest).
Last: Lost 27-6 at Penn State on November 30.
Next: Season complete.
AKRON - Lost 17 straight overall (FBS longest). Lost 8 straight home games (FBS longest).
Last: Lost 52-3 at home to Ohio on November 26.
Next: Season complete.
SOUTH ALABAMA - Lost 15 straight road games (FBS longest).
Last: Won 34-30 at home over Arkansas State on November 30.
Next: Season complete.