There is still plenty to sort out as college football lurches toward conference championship games this weekend — with bowl invitations to be finalized shortly thereafter.

But as I was perusing the latest projections recently, a couple of them caught my eye.

Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, a well-respected authority on these projections, has switched his projection from Gophers vs. Florida in the Outback Bowl to Minnesota going to the Citrus Bowl and facing …

Alabama. Gulp. Welcome to the big time (if it happens).

And ESPN’s duo of Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach, who both previously had the Gophers playing Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, are now split.

Both still have the Gophers in the Outback, and Schlabach still has them going against Tennessee. But Bonagura has changed Minnesota’s opponent to Alabama.

No offense to Tennessee, which won its final five games after a 2-5 start to finish 7-5 heading into bowl season, but Alabama would be a couple steps up in class.

All the Crimson Tide has done, after all, is win five of the last 10 national championships and played in each of the last four College Football Playoff Championship games (going 2-2).

Alabama was in the CFP hunt again this season until a loss to Auburn on Saturday, the same day the Gophers were upended by Wisconsin and bounced from CFP talk.

Both the Gophers and Alabama are 10-2, so in that sense a meeting between the two in a bowl game is a good fit. (But please spare me the “the Gophers beat Alabama the last time they played in a bowl game” talk. That was 2004, and it was a 6-6 Mike Shula-coached Alabama team).

Various other projections have the Gophers going against Auburn in the Outback Bowl — including this one from

It’s starting to look more and more like New Year’s Day will be another potential building block game for the Gophers against a college football power.

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