2014's way-too-early college bowl (and Playoff!) projections: FSU, Alabama top seeds

Tom Pennington

Gone are the days of only having a mere 35 college football bowl games. Starting in 2014, we'll have 39, counting two Playoff semifinals and the new National Championship. So let's take a very, very early look at how this thing could shape up.

Let's predict a bunch of football stuff. We aren't yet through Signing Day, spring football, arrest season, fall camp, or even the end of coach-firin', but we have an okay idea of how things could end up in the first year of the College Football Playoff.

Things are different below. There is a Playoff now. There are more BCSish bowls. But we don't call them BCS bowls anymore. New bowls have sprouted in Alabama, Florida, and the Bahamas. Conferences have adjusted their tie-ins.

The Bahamas! What a sport!

And most conferences have added some flexibility to their rankings and taken some charge of which teams go where. That should mean more games closer to home for fans and fewer matchups made just for the sake of seeing two famous teams in the same remote stadium. It also means some of you cannot be upset with me if your team is projected in a bowl that's a conference's fifth bowl instead of its fourth bowl, because those two bowls are now ranked the same. I'll miss those talks.

We'll revise this closer to the start of the season, but here it is for now (as always, placements aren't necessarily tied to conference standings). Let's talk about it in the comments:

Rose Pasadena, CA Playoff semifinal No. 2 Alabama No. 3 Oregon
Sugar New Orleans, LA Playoff semifinal No. 1 Florida State No. 4 Ohio State
Cotton Arlington, TX At-large Oklahoma UL Lafayette
Fiesta Glendale, AZ At-large UCLA Baylor
Orange Miami, FL ACC 1 vs. Big Ten/Notre Dame/SEC Clemson Auburn
Peach Atlanta, GA At-large Georgia Michigan State
Alamo San Antonio, TX Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2 Texas USC
Armed Forces Fort Worth, TX American vs. Army/Big 12 7/Big Ten Houston Northwestern
Bahamas Nassau, BS American vs. MAC 4/5 UCF NIU
Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg, FL American vs. C-USA (ACC conditional) Memphis MTSU
Belk Charlotte, NC ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8 North Carolina South Carolina
Boca Raton Boca Raton, FL C-USA vs. MAC 4/5 Marshall Akron
Buffalo Wild Wings Glendale, AZ Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7 (MWC conditional) TCU Oregon State
Camelia Montgomery, AL MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3 (ACC conditional) Ohio Texas State
Capital One Orlando, FL Big Ten 2-4/ACC vs. SEC 2 Michigan LSU
Compass Birmingham, AL American vs. SEC 9 Tulane Vanderbilt
Detroit Detroit, MI ACC vs. Big Ten Syracuse Tulsa*
Potato Boise, ID MAC 2 vs. MWC 2-7 Toledo Boise State
Gator Jacksonville, FL ACC3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8 Minnesota Florida
GoDaddy Mobile, AL MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2 Bowling Green Arkansas State
Hawaii Honolulu, HI C-USA vs. MWC 2-7 Rice Air Force
Heart of Dallas Dallas, TX Big Ten/Big 12 7 vs. C-USA Notre Dame* BYU*
Holiday San Diego, CA Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3 Iowa Washington
Independence Shreveport, LA ACC vs. SEC 10 (C-USA conditional) Washington State* ULM*
Fight Hunger San Francisco, CA Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4 Nebraska Arizona
Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV MWC 1 vs. Pac-12 6 Utah State Stanford
Liberty Memphis, TN Big 12 5 vs. SEC 3-8 Oklahoma State Ole Miss
Miami Beach Miami, FL American vs. C-USA East Carolina Western Kentucky
Military Annapolis, MD American vs. ACC Cincinnati Georgia Tech
Music City Nashville, TN ACC3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8 Virginia Tech Missouri
New Mexico Albuquerque, NM C-USA vs. MWC 2-7 North Texas Nevada
New Orleans New Orleans,LA Sun Belt 1 vs. C-USA/MWC 2-7 South Alabama UTSA
Outback Tampa, FL Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8 Wisconsin Mississippi State
Pinstripe New York, NY ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7 Duke Indiana
Poinsettia San Diego, CA MWC 2-7 vs. Navy Fresno State Navy
Russell Athletic Orlando, FL ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3 Miami Kansas State
Sun El Paso, TX ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5 Louisville Arizona State
Texas Houston, TX Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8 Texas Tech Texas A&M

* Filling in for another conference.

To review the Playoff and New Year's rules and how they've factored here:

  • The Rose and Sugar are this year's Playoff semifinals, no matter what. Where the top two seeds host is based on geography, which will often only work in favor of the No. 1 team. If Alabama, Florida State, or Ohio State held the No. 1 seed, it would host at the Sugar. If Oregon earned it, it would host at the Rose. So here, we'd end up with Alabama being rewarded for ranking No. 2 by hosting a West Coast team on the West Coast. Campus sites would've been better for Playoff games, we'll continue to repeat.
  • The Playoff selection committee will also rank the teams who'll be included in the rest of the New Year's bowls. The Big 12 champion would be automatically included in that group, due to losing out on its spot in the Sugar and not being selected for a Playoff bowl. And the highest-ranking midmajor champion will also have an automatic spot.
  • The Orange has conference ties, but this year's other three non-Playoff New Year's bowls do not. The Orange will take the top non-Playoff ACC team and the top team from among the Big Ten, the SEC, and Notre Dame (with certain long-term stipulations).
  • So let's say the non-Orange bowls pretty much go by geography, after the Orange has taken its two. Oklahoma and Georgia would be must-haves for the Cotton and Peach, respectively. The Fiesta would be great neutral ground for UCLA and Baylor. UL-Lafayette is closer to Arlington than to Atlanta, and Michigan State's closer to Atlanta. So things work out alright.

Why yes, I have the Sun Belt's Ragin' Cajuns, who return almost every major contributor from a nine-win team, including their head coach and quarterback, as the top midmajor. It came down to Bowling Green, Fresno State, Houston, Marshall, UCF, UL-Lafayette, and Utah State, but give me the Cajuns' experience and navigable schedule -- upsetting either Ole Miss or Boise State and going unbeaten in the Sun Belt is a reasonable goal.

As for the four Playoff teams, I don't like how obvious they all feel. At least one surprise team is surely missing. But Florida State, Alabama, and Oregon feel like three very strong favorites. The Noles and Tide lose a lot but still have a lot, and between the two of them there might be only four or five tough road games. And the Ducks are loaded, with division rivals Stanford and Washington in what could be transition years.

For that fourth spot, either Michigan State, Ohio State, or Wisconsin (please look up Wisconsin's conference schedule, for a giggle) should emerge from the Big Ten in shape to contend. I swapped all three in and out of that fourth Playoff spot. But we'll go with the Buckeyes for now, as they're only now becoming fully Urban Meyer in terms of talent. Auburn, Georgia, and UCLA would probably be next up at this point.

What do you think? Let's hear your four Playoff teams, plus your next two or three teams after those. Who's my Playoff miss?

More from SB Nation college football:

The country’s toughest division: way-too-early projections

Counting down the 100 best CFB games of 2013: The full list

The Florida State process: How Jimbo Fisher built a new champion

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