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New College Football Playoff and bowl projections: The battle for No. 4

The top three remain on course, although the No. 1 seed could still involve a little drama. The last spot is the hard one. Picks for all 38 games below.

Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State will remain in that order in the Playoff rankings on Tuesday, unless someone misspells a team on his or her ballot or something. And if all three win out, that's your Playoff top three.

For the No. 4 spot, where I had Ohio State last week, I'm going back to Baylor. It's still really close, with TCU also in there, but the Buckeyes now have an immediate transitive loss to Wake Forest, maybe the country's worst power-conference team. OSU's Virginia Tech loss, which was becoming respectable, is now awful all over again. Beating an Indiana team that beat Missouri surely helps, but there's no way to know how much.

If Baylor beats Kansas State, it likely tops TCU thanks to head-to-head, unless the Frogs' win over Minnesota gets even more valuable next Saturday in Madison. And a win over a K-State team ranking No. 10 or 11 should also trump an Ohio State win over a Wisconsin team ranking No. 14 or so.

As for Mississippi State, I don't think two SEC teams get in, no matter what. If Bama loses to Auburn or Georgia, either Bulldogs team could go. If Bama loses to Mizzou, an 11-1 MSU could.

To the picks!

College Football Playoff

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

The Ducks actually have a chance to steal No. 1, even if Bama doesn't lose. If Utah leaves the top 25, Oregon likely still has more ranked wins than Bama does at this point, and that's something the committee seems to care about.

Alabama could pick up two more of those, against Auburn and Georgia/Missouri, but if Arizona and UCLA keep winning, the Ducks could finish with three wins against teams near the top 10 (two over UCLA and one over Michigan State), plus an Arizona loss about as good as Alabama's to Ole Miss (which just got crushed, 30-0, by Arkansas).

If Bama and Oregon win out, they both get geographically friendly bowls either way. That means the No. 1 seed's advantage likely would be not having to play Jameis Winston's zombie Noles in the semifinal. This totally unshakeable FSU team with a month to heal sounds scary, whether No. 4's a better team or not.

The rest of the New Year's Six

The Orange takes the top-ranked non-Playoff teams from the ACC and from the listed group. The other three take the top-ranked non-Playoff teams in general, including the top-ranked non-power champion. The committee pairs at-large bowls by geography and matchups.

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

Everyone in Week 12's New Year's group survived Week 13, with the only significant change being Baylor and Ohio State swapping levels. Only one Texas team here makes for a tidier Cotton Bowl.

The Broncos look likely to crowd Colorado State out of the designated mid-major spot, but this spot becomes a tougher call next week if Tuesday finally sees 11-0 Marshall enter the Playoff rankings. I don't know how you keep an 11-0 team unranked, but I didn't know how you keep a 10-0 team unranked, either.

Everything else

Bowl pecking orders are not based on conference standings. Those numbers in the right column 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 Memphis LSU 1/3/2015 Birmingham, AL American vs. SEC 9
Alamo Oklahoma 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 Arkansas State** Stanford 1/2/2015 Tempe, AZ Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7 (MWC backup)
TaxSlayer Miami 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 Maryland Ole Miss 1/1/2015 Tampa, FL Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8
Belk Clemson Tennessee 12/30/2014 Charlotte, NC ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8
Music City Nebraska Missouri 12/30/2014 Nashville, TN ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8
Foster Farms Iowa USC 12/30/2014 Santa Clara, CA Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4
Liberty West Virginia Arkansas 12/29/2014 Memphis, TN Big 12 5 vs. SEC 3-8
Russell Athletic Louisville Kansas State 12/29/2014 Orlando, FL ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3
Texas Texas Texas A&M 12/29/2014 Houston, TX Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8
Holiday Minnesota Arizona 12/27/2014 San Diego, CA Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3
Independence NC State Florida 12/27/2014 Shreveport, LA ACC vs. SEC (C-USA backup)
Military Cincinnati Virginia Tech 12/27/2014 Annapolis, MD American vs. ACC
Pinstripe Notre Dame Penn State 12/27/2014 New York, NY ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7
Sun Duke Utah 12/27/2014 El Paso, TX ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5
Bitcoin UCF North Carolina 12/26/2014 St. Petersburg, FL American vs. ACC
Quick Lane Boston College Central Michigan 12/26/2014 Detroit, MI ACC (MAC backup) vs. Big Ten (MAC backup)
Heart of Dallas Northwestern Louisiana Tech 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 Rice Fresno State 12/24/2014 Honolulu, HI C-USA vs. MWC 2-7
Boca UAB Western Michigan 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 Texas State 12/20/2014 Montgomery, AL MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3 (ACC backup)
Las Vegas Colorado State Washington 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

* Already accepted bid.

** Filling another conference's unused slot.

Joining us are Fresno State and Stanford. Leaving us are Cal and Ohio.

Appalachian State and Georgia Southern aren't here despite having six wins, due to the NCAA's FBS transition rules. They could make it in if there aren't enough bowl-eligible teams, but right now it looks like there will be too many. I can't find room for Middle Tennessee, Ohio, Temple, and Western Kentucky as it is.