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Updated College Football Playoff and bowl projections, now with actual insights

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For the first time ever, this weekly look at college football's postseason picture gets to look at evidence of what the selection committee's thinking. That helps to figure out the big games, at least.

Since August, projecting this season's bowl games has meant following the sport's usual chestnuts (teams will end up being ranked by their number of losses, with big wins and losses maybe moving the needle a little bit), with no idea whether those would be outdated in this new era.

But now that one gets to combine last Tuesday's initial College Football Playoff committee rankings with Saturday's results, we might actually start getting somewhere here. Based on the first round of rankings, it's strength of schedule above all else -- with teams still more or less tiered by losses, of course. And we'll have a little bit better look this Tuesday, when we get the first-ever update to the Playoff rankings.

College Football Playoff

Rose No. 2 Alabama No. 3 Oregon 1/1/2015 Pasadena, CA
Sugar No. 1 Florida State No. 4 TCU 1/1/2015 New Orleans, LA

Weekly praises upon FSU for remaining unbeaten, no matter how, in order to make the No. 1 choice a simple one. That trip to Miami looks more and more challenging, but the Noles remain a fine bet. The No. 1 seed would also grant FSU the geographic advantage, so to speak, of not having to travel to California.

Confidence in Alabama as the SEC champion grows this week, with Ole Miss falling behind the Tide in the standings and both Auburn and Mississippi State looking quite beatable again.

TCU enters after winning its only especially tough road game left. Get past Kansas State next Saturday, and then it's a matter of avoiding a Thanksgiving debacle at Texas. No conference championship game. An 11-1 Big 12 champion is a Playoff lock.

Oregon moves up a little after finally putting on a full show of force, meaning the offseason's favorite Playoff foursome is almost entirely back together after Bama, Oklahoma, and Oregon all suffered early losses. Michigan State could finish with nearly the same resume as Oregon, but that loss in Eugene would likely knock out the Spartans, since the committee has stated head-to-head results will help sort similar teams.

The rest of the New Year's Six

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

SEC teams will litter the top 10. The initial rankings show that. But the committee's unlikely to send two teams from one division in the first year of the Playoff, unless the SEC West runner-up finishes 11-1. That means the SEC gets at least a couple spots in the next tier.

The Orange gets the ACC's second-ranked team and probably the No. 5 team, thanks to its SEC connection.

Everything else is committee-determined matchups from the top non-Playoff teams in the rankings, other than the one spot reserved for the highest mid-major champion.

Going with Colorado State again this week, this time over Boise State and Marshall. CSU has a major schedule edge over Marshall, which the committee values above all else, and the Broncos have a trickier schedule than CSU the rest of the way.

Everything else

As always, bowl pecking orders are not based on conference standings. Those numbers in the right column just note which bowls pick in which order.

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

* Team filling another conference's unused slot.

Leaving us this week: Florida Atlantic, Fresno State, and North Carolina, the latter hopefully for the last time, because everyone is tired of it jumping in and out.

Joining us: Florida, NC State, and the mighty UAB Blazers.

Yes, South Carolina's still here after losing four of five. Funny story: in January, I put up WAY-TOO-EARLY bowl projections that had the Gamecocks in the Belk. Everyone got mad and wanted them in a better game. Now I'm probably believing too much in Carolina just by having it in a bowl at all. Life takes turns.

Your turn!