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|
|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?