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USATSI

The final College Football Playoff Rankings will be released Sunday, setting the stage for the CFP itself as well as the New Year's Six bowls. While at least two new teams will fight for their first title of the playoff era, the decisions by the CFP Selection Committee will determine which teams have the most manageable path to the national championship. 

After Oklahoma State suffered a loss in the Big 12 Championship Game, the four teams should be set. SEC champion Alabama and Big Ten champion Michigan punched their tickets to the dance. Cincinnati, the lone undefeated FBS team, and Georgia will likely be in, barring the committee deciding otherwise. Our experts agree it will be those four in some order. 

The Bulldogs' 41-24 loss to the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game throws the playoff field into flux and puts the No. 1 overall seed up for grabs. The Dawgs have beaten three top 25 teams, but none are listed higher than No. 20 in the last CFP Rankings. Suddenly, the consensus top resume becomes awfully pedestrian. 

That could open the door for Alabama to jump from borderline playoff team to No. 1 overall seed. The Tide have wins over Georgia and Ole Miss, and their lone loss was to No. 25 Texas A&M. Michigan will also have a case for the top spot. The Wolverines finally beat rival Ohio State and crushed Iowa to win their first Big Ten title since 2004. The Bearcats also have a case for the top spot after emphatically defeating Houston for the AAC title.

Since Cincinnati will likely be the last team in the door, the No. 1 seed allows the top team to avoid the physical punishment of playing Georgia, which is unlikely to drop all the way to No. 4. If the Wolverines jump up to No. 1, it could mean avoiding Alabama until a the CFP National Championship. While every team in the field will eventually have to beat the best, getting a team at the right time can make a significant difference. 

Keep on reading for College Football Playoff projections from CBS Sports bowls expert Jerry Palm along with a breakdown of how our college football experts would vote if they were members of the committee. 

College Football Playoff projection

Here's how Palm has projected the top four in the CFP. Palm has gone 25 for 28 predicting CFP teams in their correct slots through seven years of the playoff.

Date Game / Loc. Matchup Prediction

Jan. 10

National Championship
Indianapolis

Title game Semifinal winners

Dec. 31

Cotton Bowl
Arlington, Texas

Semifinal

(1) Alabama vs. (4) Cincinnati

Dec. 31

Orange Bowl
Miami Gardens, Fla.

Semifinal

(2) Michigan vs. (3) Georgia

College Football Playoff expert picks

Here's how our college football staff would vote if they were on the CFP Selection Committee.

The College Football Playoff selection show is on the horizon. Before the field of four is announced, the Cover 3 Podcast looks back at all that happened during Conference Championship Week, providing analysis and insight you can't get anywhere else.