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This will be the last bowl projections before the College Football Playoff committee starts its weekly rankings every Tuesday. Those rankings will help clarify some of the mystery of how teams are valued in the eyes of the 13-member panel that will determine the four participants in the national semifinals.
After a week when none of the top five lost, there are no changes to the projected playoff field. Alabama still slots in as the No. 1 with the expectation the Crimson Tide will get past Georgia in the SEC title game, giving the conference two teams in the field. The Bulldogs may look dominant right now, however they've also lost all six games to Alabama since Nick Saban became the coach. It would be no surprise if they lost a seventh in a row.
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That leaves two positions. Ohio State still rates as the favorite in the Big Ten with Michigan State coming to Columbus later this month. Oklahoma looks to be clicking again on offense with Caleb Williams at quarterback, While there are still games at Baylor and Oklahoma State ahead, the Sooners can get through unscathed even if they continue to live dangerously.
Which brings us to the dilemma of Cincinnati. The unbeaten Bearcats are still on the outside looking in after another disappointing performance. Struggling against one-win Tulane one week after a close win against Navy isn't going to motivate the committee to overlook their lack of schedule strength, even with a win against Notre Dame. They're going to need some help to get into the field.
There were again changes to the New Year's Six spots as surprises came in Week 9. Pittsburgh and Michigan fall out. Moving in are North Carolina State and Michigan State.
Reminder: Notre Dame is part of the ACC bowl pool. Some conferences may not fulfill their bowl allotment. Asterisks denote a replacement pick.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football bowl projections: Cincinnati on outside looking in