College football bowl projections and analysis: Top matchups, playoff breakdowns and more

A season full of surprises didn't disappoint this weekend, with the trend of unexpected turns gaining even more momentum. Six teams in the Top 25 suffered losses and several others had close calls or other odd occurrences. All the chaos is reflected in our latest batch of bowl projections.

In addition to predicting the matchups for every single bowl game, Mark Schlabach and Kyle Bonagura provide analysis on their playoff picks, most intriguing bowl matchup, fast-rising teams that could make a New Year's Six push and teams that helped or hurt their cause the most.

All times Eastern

College Football Playoff

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T
Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
Jan. 10, 8 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Alabama vs. Georgia
Schlabach: Alabama vs. Georgia

CFP Semifinal at Capital One Orange Bowl
Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Florida)
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Alabama vs. Penn State
Schlabach: Alabama vs. Oregon

CFP Semifinal at Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
Dec. 31, 3:30 or 7:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Georgia vs. Oregon
Schlabach: Georgia vs. Iowa

Playoff breakdown

Bonagura: Alabama and Georgia did exactly what College Football Playoff-caliber teams are supposed to do when they play against overmatched teams. Winning handily wasn't a given for the other top contenders. Oregon (vs. Arizona), Oklahoma (West Virginia) and Iowa (Colorado State) all struggled -- at least in stretches -- while Penn State had an easier time with FCS foe Villanova. Oregon still has the most impressive win (Ohio State) among those four, so the Ducks hang on to my No. 3 spot for another week. Penn State over Iowa and Oklahoma is splitting hairs, but the Nittany Lions have been slightly more consistent. Cincinnati has a huge chance to make its case this week against Notre Dame.

Schlabach: Georgia and Alabama remain my top two teams, and I think they're clearly head and shoulders above the other contenders right now. We'll learn a lot more about the Crimson Tide's defense when they play Ole Miss' high-scoring offense at home on Saturday. Tide coach Nick Saban has never lost a game to one of his former assistants, and Lane Kiffin would like nothing more than to be the first one to do it. The Bulldogs face a suddenly sneaky game against Arkansas, and former assistant coach Sam Pittman, at home on Saturday. It will be Georgia's biggest challenge to date, and the Razorbacks are brimming with confidence. I stayed with Iowa as my No. 3 team, even though the Hawkeyes weren't that impressive in a 24-14 win against Colorado State. I went with Penn State as my No. 4 team, although I could have easily gone with Oregon. The Ducks didn't look great against an Arizona team that has dropped 16 straight games, the longest active losing streak in the FBS, before scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter to pull away with a 41-19 win. Like a lot of teams outside of the top two, Oregon has some flaws.

New Year's Six

Dec. 30

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
7 p.m. on ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Florida vs. Notre Dame
Schlabach: Wake Forest vs. Notre Dame

Team that helped its cause the most

Bonagura: If Alabama and Georgia weren't easy choices for the playoff, Arkansas would deserve strong consideration. That's not to say the Razorbacks aren't a top-four worthy team at this stage -- they are -- it's just that there is no scenario in which one conference will get three playoff teams with a four-team field. The Razorbacks handed Texas A&M its first loss (20-10 on Saturday) and their 40-21 win against Texas earlier in the year looks even better now that the Longhorns have been dominant in their other three games.

Schalabach: This Notre Dame team isn't as talented as the ones that reached the College Football Playoff in two of the previous three seasons, but the Fighting Irish are figuring out ways to keep winning. The offensive line is the biggest concern, and it was once again in Saturday's 41-13 win over Wisconsin at Soldier Field. The Badgers had six sacks and limited the Irish to three rushing yards (the Irish lost 33 on sacks). The Irish don't look like a team good enough to make a New Year's Six bowl game, but they might make one anyway. Besides next week's home game against No. 8 Cincinnati, the remaining schedule isn't as imposing as it once seemed. Road trips to Virginia Tech and Stanford might be tricky, but USC, North Carolina and Virginia all are struggling.