What did we learn about the bowl picture in Week 14? We learned Mississippi State won't be going to the Playoff, and that Alabama is therefore the SEC's only hope, no matter how unlikely two SEC teams in one four-team group looked. We learned the three big favorites remained on course. We learned that TCU is interested in making its case for that fourth spot with force, and that its two competitors both looked beatable and banged-up.
In the season's final full-ish FBS weekend, we'll learn which conference champs join early birds Georgia Southern and Memphis, along with excitement like whether Oklahoma State or Temple can become bowl eligible. We've got 14 games to go, and while all of them matter in our hearts (even you, SMU-UConn), about a dozen of them also have potential postseason ramifications. That's a pretty dense weekend.
So with what we picked up this weekend and an eye toward the next six days, here's the second-to-last guess at how the postseason scene looks.
College Football Playoff
|Rose||No. 2 Oregon||No. 3 Florida State||1/1/2015||Pasadena, CA|
|Sugar||No. 1 Alabama||No. 4 TCU||1/1/2015||New Orleans, LA|
The first three are easy. Win and in.
The fourth spot comes down to Baylor, Ohio State, and TCU. Again.
I've gone back and forth through all three, but the Frogs have the edge. They already ranked two spots ahead of Baylor despite that head-to-head thing, and surely added distance in Week 14 by blowing out a decent Texas on the road as Baylor squeaked past a bad Texas Tech. Any gains Baylor might've made due to TCU struggling with Kansas are gone.
Speaking of struggling, Ohio State has now looked bad for at least a half in something like five games. And while OSU's Virginia Tech loss is one to a .500 team, it's still a home loss by two scores to a .500 team, not a one-score loss on the road against a top-10 team, as TCU's was. Is anything short of an Ohio State beatdown of Wisconsin next week enough to make up for that? (And Baylor's loss at West Virginia isn't much better than OSU's.)
It's close. It's hard to say. There's no fair way to rule anybody out, not even head-to-head. But TCU is the easiest choice at the moment.
(The committee might just dump OSU due to Buckeye QB J.T. Barrett's season-ending injury. That would mean punishing a team based solely on a guess about how Barrett's backup would play in the Playoff, which would be presumptuous, insulting to the rest of the team, and dismissive of the team's body of work. I hope committee chair Jeff Long makes clear that his group will evaluate Ohio State by nothing but what Ohio State's done on the field.)
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, plus the top-ranked non-power champion. The committee pairs at-large bowls by geography and matchups.
|Cotton||Baylor||Ole Miss||1/1/2015||Arlington, TX||At-large|
|Fiesta||Boise State||Arizona||12/31/2014||Glendale, AZ||At-large|
|Orange||Georgia Tech||Michigan State||12/31/2014||Miami, FL||ACC vs. Big Ten non-champ/Notre Dame/SEC non-champ|
|Peach||Ohio State||Mississippi State||12/31/2014||Atlanta, GA||At-large|
Georgia's out. UCLA's out. TCU's moving up.
Baylor and Ohio State get consolations. The Orange's automatic bids are basically set, depending on which MSU ranks better. Boise State is a win over Fresno State from a spot. Arizona will likely rank in the top 10 this Tuesday and lose to No. 2 Oregon.
That would leave one spot, perhaps either Georgia, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, or Wisconsin. Decent cases, but Ole Miss' two wins over top-10 teams (plus another over Boise State) and close losses to likely ranked Auburn and LSU (plus a non-close loss to Arkansas ... but everybody's had a weird game) hold up. You disagree with this. We're still friends.
Bowl pecking orders are not based on conference standings. Those numbers in the right column note which bowls pick in which order.
|GoDaddy||Northern Illinois||South Alabama||1/4/2015||Mobile, AL||MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2|
|Birmingham||Memphis||Arkansas||1/3/2015||Birmingham, AL||American vs. SEC 9|
|Alamo||Oklahoma||UCLA||1/2/2015||San Antonio, TX||Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2|
|Armed Forces||Houston||Iowa||1/2/2015||Fort Worth, TX||American vs. Army/Big 12 7/Big Ten|
|Cactus||Texas State**||Stanford||1/2/2015||Tempe, AZ||Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7 (MWC backup)|
|TaxSlayer||Boston College||South Carolina||1/2/2015||Jacksonville, FL||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Citrus||Louisville***||Missouri||1/1/2015||Orlando, FL||Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 2|
|Outback||Wisconsin||Auburn||1/1/2015||Tampa, FL||Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Belk||NC State||Tennessee||12/30/2014||Charlotte, NC||ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Music City||Maryland||Georgia||12/30/2014||Nashville, TN||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Foster Farms||Nebraska||USC||12/30/2014||Santa Clara, 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||Clemson||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 State||12/27/2014||San Diego, CA||Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3|
|Independence||North Carolina||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||Miami||12/26/2014||St. Petersburg, FL||American vs. ACC|
|Quick Lane||Pitt||Illinois||12/26/2014||Detroit, MI||ACC (MAC backup) vs. Big Ten (MAC backup)|
|Heart of Dallas||Rutgers**||Louisiana Tech||12/26/2014||Dallas, TX||Big Ten/Big 12 7 vs. C-USA|
|Bahamas||Marshall||Western Michigan||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||Western Kentucky||Central 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||Bowling Green||Arkansas 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||Toledo||Nevada||12/20/2014||Boise, ID||MAC 2 vs. MWC 2-7|
* Already accepted bid.
** Filling another conference's unused slot.
*** The ACC takes the Big Ten's Citrus spot if the Big Ten's in the Orange. There are so many rules.
It looks like multiple bowl eligible teams will be left out, which likely means no way for 7-5 Appalachian State or 9-3 Georgia Southern to get that silly no-bowls-for-first-year-FBS-teams thing waived.