Bowl Projections: Clemson Must Be Careful in a Down ACC

It may have taken an ugly two-point conversion call from Mack Brown to keep Clemson undefeated on Saturday, but the defending champions remain among the FBS’s 18 unbeaten teams entering Week 6. Yet despite standing at 5–0, the Tigers’ win brought to boil a fair philosophical argument. How much does the preseason Top 25 anchor the week-to-week polls? Clemson’s offense sputtered for much of Saturday, and its offensive effort against Texas A&M in Week 2 was a marked notch below Trevor Lawrence and Co.’s 2018 output. Oklahoma, LSU and Ohio State are rolling through Week 5, as is No. 3 Georgia. Is Clemson’s current No. 2 spot due solely to past performance? 

We’ll keep the Tigers in our College Football Playoff for now, but the quandary illustrates the state of college football in 2019. A one-loss conference champ is no guarantee for the Playoff, and Clemson’s tightrope remains as thin as ever. There are no shortage of teams to take the Tigers’ place if an ACC team can pull off the upset. 

So who will slide into the Playoff, and who will settle for a spot outside the top four? Sports Illustrated’s latest slate of bowl projections are below.

Dec. 20

Bahamas Bowl, Nassau (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Conference USA vs. MAC
Marshall vs. Kent State

Frisco Bowl (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
American vs. Sun Belt
Memphis vs. Louisiana Lafayette

Dec. 21

Celebration Bowl, Atlanta (12 p.m. ET, ABC)
MEAC vs. SWAC
North Carolina A&T vs. Alcorn State

New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Conference USA vs. MWC
UAB vs. Utah State

Cure Bowl, Orlando (2:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
American vs. Sun Belt
Tulane vs. Arkansas State

Boca Raton Bowl (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
MAC vs. American
Eastern Michigan vs. Temple

Camellia Bowl, Montgomery (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Central Michigan vs. Louisiana Monroe

Las Vegas Bowl (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Pac-12 vs. SEC or Big Ten or MWC
Cal vs. BYU 

New Orleans Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
C-USA vs. Sun Belt
Southern Miss vs. Coastal Carolina

Dec. 23

Gasparilla Bowl, Tampa (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Conference USA vs. ACC or American
Florida Atlantic vs. Cincinnati

Dec. 24

Hawai'i Bowl, Honolulu (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
MWC or BYU vs. American
Hawaii vs. UCF

Dec. 26

Independence Bowl, Shreveport (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)
SEC vs. ACC or Notre Dame
Arkansas vs. Pitt

Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Big Ten vs. ACC or Notre Dame
Maryland vs. Florida State

Dec. 27

Military Bowl, Annapolis (12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
American vs. ACC or Notre Dame
Navy vs. Virginia Tech

Pinstripe Bowl, Bronx (3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Big Ten vs. ACC or Notre Dame
Minnesota vs. Syracuse

Texas Bowl, Houston (6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Big 12 vs. SEC
TCU vs. Missouri

Holiday Bowl, San Diego (8 p.m. ET, FS1)
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Michigan vs. Utah

Cheez-It Bowl, Phoenix (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Big 12 vs. Pac-12
USC vs. Iowa State

Dec. 28

Camping World Bowl, Orlando (12 p.m. ET, ABC)
Big 12 vs. ACC or Notre Dame
Batylor vs. Virginia

Dec. 30

First Responder Bowl, Dallas (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Big 12 vs. Conference USA
West Virginia vs. Louisiana Tech

Music City Bowl, Nashville (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)
SEC vs. ACC or Big Ten or Notre Dame
Mississippi State vs. Boston College

Redbox Bowl, Santa Clara (4 p.m. ET, FOX)
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Nebraska vs. Arizona State

Dec. 31

Belk Bowl, Charlotte (12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
SEC vs. ACC
Kentucky vs. North Carolina

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, El Paso (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Pac-12 vs. ACC or Notre Dame
Colorado vs. Duke

Liberty Bowl, Memphis (3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Big 12 vs. SEC
Kansas State vs. South Carolina

Arizona Bowl, Tucson (4:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
MWC vs. Sun Belt
Air Force vs. Appalachian State

Alamo Bowl, San Antonio (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Big 12 vs. Pac-12
Oklahoma State vs. Washington

Jan. 1

Citrus Bowl, Orlando (1 p.m. ET, ABC)
Big Ten vs. SEC
Penn State vs. Auburn

Outback Bowl, Tampa (1 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Big Ten vs. SEC
Iowa vs. Florida

Jan. 2

Birmingham Bowl (3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
SEC vs. American
Ole Miss vs. SMU

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, Jacksonville (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
SEC vs. ACC or Big Ten or Notre Dame
Texas A&M vs. Michigan State

Jan. 3

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
MAC vs. MWC
Western Michigan vs. Wyoming

Jan 4

Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth (11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
MWC vs. Big Ten
Army vs. Indiana

Jan. 6

Mobile Alabama Bowl (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Toledo vs. Troy

New Year's Six Bowls

Cotton Bowl Classic, Arlington (Dec. 28, noon, ESPN)
At-large vs. At-large
Texas vs. Boise State

Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens (Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame
Wake Forest vs. Notre Dame

Rose Bowl Game, Pasadena (Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN)
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Wisconsin vs. Oregon

Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN)
SEC vs. Big 12
Oklahoma vs. Georgia

Fiesta Bowl, Glendale (Dec. 28, 4 or 8 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Clemson vs. LSU

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta (Dec. 28, 4 or 8 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Alabama vs. Ohio State

College Football Playoff National Championship, New Orleans (Jan. 13, 8 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinal winner vs. CFP semifinal winner

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