Full 2017 bowl projections, from the College Football Playoff on down

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After going through the 2017 college football schedule and picking a winner and loser for every game, then tallying up the results, here are SB Nation’s first full bowl projections for the season. Explanations for most key parts are below.

2017 preseason bowl projections

Bowl Team Team Tie-ins
Bowl Team Team Tie-ins
Championship (Atlanta) No. 1 Ohio State No. 3 Alabama Semifinal winners
Sugar (New Orleans) No. 1 Ohio State No. 4 USC Playoff semifinal
Rose (Pasadena, CA) No. 2 Florida State No. 3 Alabama Playoff semifinal
Peach (Atlanta) USF Oklahoma State CFP at-larges
Orange (Miami) Clemson Penn State ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND
Fiesta (Glendale, AZ) Washington Wisconsin CFP at-larges
Cotton (Arlington, TX) Oklahoma LSU CFP at-larges
Citrus (Orlando) Virginia Tech Georgia Big Ten 2-4/ACC vs. SEC 2
Outback (Tampa) Michigan Auburn Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8
Liberty (Memphis) West Virginia Kentucky Big 12 5 vs. SEC 3-8
TaxSlayer (Jacksonville) Notre Dame Florida ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8
Arizona (Tucson) Utah State Ohio MWC vs. Sun Belt
Music City (Nashville) Northwestern Texas A&M ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8
Sun (El Paso, TX) NC State Utah ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5
Belk (Charlotte) Miami Tennessee ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8
Alamo (San Antonio) Texas Stanford Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2
Camping World (Orlando) Louisville Kansas State ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3
Military (Annapolis, MD) Georgia Tech Navy ACC vs. AAC
Texas (Houston) TCU Mississippi State Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8
Pinstripe (New York City) Syracuse Nebraska ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7
Independence (Shreveport, LA) Wake Forest South Carolina ACC vs. SEC
Cactus (Tempe, AZ) Baylor Marshall Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7
Heart of Dallas BYU UTSA Big 12 vs. C-USA
Quick Lane (Detroit, MI) Pitt Indiana ACC vs. Big Ten
Holiday (San Diego) Minnesota UCLA Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3
Foster Farms (Santa Clara, CA) Iowa Oregon Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4
Hawaii (Honolulu) Tulsa San Diego State AAC vs. MWC
Dollar General (Mobile, AL) Toledo Troy MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2
Armed Forces (Fort Worth, TX) Army Cincinnati Army vs. Big Ten
Birmingham Memphis Missouri AAC vs. SEC 9
Potato (Boise, ID) Bowling Green Wyoming MAC 2 vs. MWC
Bahamas (Nassau) FAU NIU C-USA vs. MAC
St. Petersburg UCF MTSU AAC vs. C-USA
Frisco (TX) SMU WMU AAC vs. At-large
Boca Raton Houston WKU AAC vs. C-USA
Camellia (Montgomery, AL) Miami (OH) Arkansas State MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3
New Mexico (Albuquerque) Southern Miss Boise State C-USA vs. MWC
Las Vegas Colorado State Washington State MWC 1 vs. Pac-12 6
Cure (Orlando) Temple ODU AAC vs. Sun Belt
New Orleans Appalachian State Louisiana Tech Sun Belt 1 vs. C-USA

I think Ohio State is the best pick to win the national title.

Experience, stars, legendary OC Kevin Wilson shoring up the 2016 team’s biggest weakness, and a whole offseason of 31-0 frustration being taken out in the weight room? A path that includes Penn State at home, Oklahoma at home, about a month of gimme games after OU, and no Wisconsin in the regular season?

Bama’s obviously a top-two pick at worst, but I think people are a little too scared by OSU’s failure against Clemson eight months ago.

I have FSU beating Bama in Week 1, then losing the rematch.

  • The committee tries to avoid rematches in the New Year’s Six games, but proved in 2014 (when it sent Florida State, instead of the more traditional Ohio State, to the Rose semifinal) that it seeds the top four based on perceived quality, not on potential semifinal matchups. So a rematch could happen.
  • FSU has the experience advantage in Week 1, but Bama’s superior depth could overtake it by the 14th game of the season.

The choice for No. 4 came down to USC or Oklahoma.

OU has a likely loss at Ohio State, while USC could be favored in every game. Their strength of schedule will likely end up comparable, however. Bob Stoops’ replacement by Lincoln Riley doesn’t worry me, but with things this close, it’s one more reason to consider USC.

(This is all beside the point. We all know the new Big 12 title game is going to wreck the Big 12, because that’s how Big 12 life goes.)

Only one New Year’s Six bowl is based on conference ties this year.

This is the best Playoff rotation, partly because the Rose and Sugar are the best games, but also because the committee has a little more freedom with the other big games.

  • The Orange’s ACC bid is likely to go to Clemson, Louisville, Miami, or Virginia Tech. I believe a little more in the 2017 Tigers than most people do. On the other side, PSU again looks Playoff-quality, but again with one loss too many.
  • One other NY6 bid we know about: the automatic mid-major champ spot. USF is the public favorite, and it’s hard to pick anybody else. The Bulls’ schedule is light, and while the committee has showed it won’t reward big win totals over non-bowl teams, it’s still hard to ignore 11-1, if no other Group of 5 champ has a better record and/or noteworthy Power 5 wins.
  • The other five NY6 bids will be the committee’s five highest-ranked at-larges. The committee tends to matchmake one massive game (OU-LSU, not far from either campus) and then work from there.

From there on out, this is just playing through guesses of what each bowl/conference/school would arrange.

Almost none of these slots are based on conference standings. A few of the mid-major leagues award automatic bids to their conference champs (the MWC champ gets dibs on Vegas, and the C-USA champ gets its pick from among league ties, for example), and some leagues like the ACC have rules that prevent teams from jumping too far out of the standings order, but otherwise, this is more about money than merit.

Most of the power leagues and a few of the mid-majors figure out bids as collectives, rather than letting the bowls draft teams to invite. The Pac-12 is the biggest exception.

I tried to avoid rematches, keep teams somewhat local-ish, and avoid repeat trips, while keeping in mind that bowls usually prefer the bigger, more popular team over the team with a slightly better record. A lot of fiddling happened. Moving one team to a better fit means moving another, and so on.

The trickiest parts, as always, were the Big Ten’s geography, which makes it hard to find fresh California or Florida destinations for teams that’ve been to one or the other often, and the Pac-12’s draft order, which is too rigid and makes it look like a good team is being punished when it ends up in the Sun or Vegas.

Now let’s get ready to update this every week until the real thing.

Angry emails ("IT’S TOO EARLY IN THE SEASON FOR THIS CRAP") will show up, but that’s fine. Bowl season is fun, and looking forward to it is fun.