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