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New College Football Playoff and bowl projections: Michigan State, Oregon back

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The weekly look at how the college football postseason picture is shaping up, with the year's first appearances by teams with losses.

With only four unbeaten teams left (Florida State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Marshall), we're now into the really fun part of the college football season. Since the Mississippi schools will play each other, we're now officially guaranteed to have at least one team with a loss in the College Football Playoff. And with so much football still to go, having zero undefeated teams is a good bit more likely than having even three.

Now it's even more about trying to match what teams have done so far with what they could still accomplish, then trying to guess what the selection committee will think of those things. That's two levels of guessing! What fun!

College Football Playoff

Semifinal Date Location
Rose No. 2 Ole Miss No. 3 Michigan State 1/1/2015 Pasadena, CA
Sugar No. 1 Florida State No. 4 Oregon 1/1/2015 New Orleans, LA

Listen. We have no idea how the committee will rank teams. Next week, we'll get a little clarity, with preliminary rankings coming out. But for now, it's all fumbling around in the dark.

Florida State at No. 1 is an even safer bet than it already was, so that's a start. The Noles now need to get past road games at Louisville and Miami, then the ACC Coastal champion. Reasonable. And let's say Ole Miss wins the SEC -- its toughest remaining opponents, Auburn and Mississippi State, are at home, though trips to LSU and Arkansas will be tough. Lose only one of those, and the Rebels likely win the SEC West.

If two spots are obvious, we'll then learn a whole lot about how seriously the committee takes strength of schedule and conference championships. Oregon and Michigan State might each have a conference championship and a respectable game against a tough early-season opponent (each other!), both of which committee members have said they'll prioritize.

And even if a Big 12 or SEC West team might be able to claim a tougher overall strength of schedule, pointing at a conference title is a lot easier to do than telling the general public that a two-loss team is better than a one-loss team. So let's say for now that conference champs have the big leg up. For now.

And let's say MSU is ahead of Oregon here only because it looks to have one or so fewer potential losses on its schedule.

The other New Year's bowls

Bowl Date Location Ties
Cotton TCU Notre Dame 1/1/2015 Arlington, TX At-large
Fiesta Mississippi State Ohio State 12/31/2014 Glendale, AZ At-large
Orange Duke Alabama 12/31/2014 Miami, FL ACC 1 vs. Big Ten/Notre Dame/SEC
Peach East Carolina Georgia 12/31/2014 Atlanta, GA At-large

The problem right now: there are too many good teams in the Big 12 and SEC West. If you have better guesses as to which four-plus teams from those groups are making the six New Year's bowls, I'm all ears. You could sub in any of the Big 12's top six for TCU, and you could cycle Auburn in with Alabama, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss however you like. But here's the best guess right now, based on schedules (and Big 12 math) going forward.

The Orange is the easy one to fill out. The ACC's second-best team is locked in there, and with Clemson struggling minus quarterback Deshaun Watson, we'll switch to the reigning Coastal champion, a 6-1 Duke whose hardest scheduled game left is ... a road trip to Pitt, maybe? The SEC's top non-Playoff team is a near-lock for the other spot, and Bama's within range of an 11-1 regular season. (And if West Virginia goes 9-3 or so after losing to Bama, then OH GOD THE STRENGTH-OF-SCHEDULE YELLING that would ensue.)

Ohio State joins this group after yet another demolition of a weak team, as a 10-2 Buckeyes squad (whose game against Michigan State is nowhere near a guaranteed loss ... if I had to change one Playoff spot right now, I'd move OSU in for MSU) would be hard to overlook.

ECU remains the dedicated mid-major choice, though Marshall's weekly steamrolling of nobody in particular could start to threaten.

Everything else

As always, bowl slotting is not tied directly to conference standings.

Bowl Date Location Ties
GoDaddy Toledo South Alabama 1/4/2015 Mobile, AL MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2
Birmingham Memphis Oregon State* 1/3/2015 Birmingham, AL American vs. SEC 9
Alamo Oklahoma Arizona 1/2/2015 San Antonio, TX Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2
Armed Forces Houston Rutgers 1/2/2015 Fort Worth, TX American vs. Army/Big 12 7/Big Ten
Cactus Oklahoma State Stanford 1/2/2015 Tempe, AZ Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7 (MWC conditional)
TaxSlayer Maryland South Carolina 1/2/2015 Jacksonville, FL ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8
Citrus Wisconsin Auburn 1/1/2015 Orlando, FL Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 2
Outback Minnesota Missouri 1/1/2015 Tampa, FL Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8
Belk Clemson Washington* 12/30/2014 Charlotte, NC ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8
Music City Virginia Tech Tennessee 12/30/2014 Nashville, TN ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8
San Francisco Iowa UCLA 12/30/2014 San Francisco, CA Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4
Liberty West Virginia LSU 12/29/2014 Memphis, TN Big 12 5 vs. SEC 3-8
Russell Athletic Louisville Baylor 12/29/2014 Orlando, FL ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3
Texas Kansas State Texas A&M 12/29/2014 Houston, TX Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8
Holiday Nebraska Arizona State 12/27/2014 San Diego, CA Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3
Independence UL Monroe* Louisiana Tech 12/27/2014 Shreveport, LA ACC vs. SEC 10 (C-USA conditional)
Military Temple Virginia 12/27/2014 Annapolis, MD American vs. ACC
Pinstripe Georgia Tech Penn State 12/27/2014 New York, NY ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7
Sun Miami Utah 12/27/2014 El Paso, TX ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5
Bitcoin UCF Middle Tennessee 12/26/2014 St. Petersburg, FL American vs. C-USA (ACC conditional)
Quick Lane Boston College Indiana 12/26/2014 Detroit, MI ACC vs. Big Ten
Heart of Dallas Northwestern UTEP 12/26/2014 Dallas, TX Big Ten/Big 12 7 vs. C-USA
Bahamas Marshall Northern Illinois 12/24/2014 Nassau, BS C-USA vs. MAC 4/5
Hawaii Western Kentucky Fresno State 12/24/2014 Honolulu, HI C-USA vs. MWC 2-7
Boca Florida Atlantic Ohio 12/23/2014 Boca Raton, FL C-USA vs. MAC 4/5
Poinsettia San Diego State Navy 12/23/2014 San Diego, CA MWC 2-7 vs. Navy
Miami Beach Cincinnati BYU 12/22/2014 Miami, FL American vs. BYU
Camelia Akron UL Lafayette 12/20/2014 Montgomery, AL MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3 (ACC conditional)
Las Vegas Colorado State USC 12/20/2014 Las Vegas, NV MWC 1 vs. Pac-12 6
New Mexico Rice Utah State 12/20/2014 Albuquerque, NM C-USA vs. MWC 2-7
New Orleans Arkansas State Air Force 12/20/2014 New Orleans, LA Sun Belt 1 vs. MWC 2-7
Potato Bowlng Green Boise State 12/20/2014 Boise, ID MAC 2 vs. MWC 2-7

Leaving us this week are Florida and Texas, which rearranges some things and makes room for Oregon State and ULM, previously projected as bowl-eligible teams with no bowls available.