How the College Football Playoff will work this season
Now, "this season" is an important factor. The Playoff is set up to work three slightly different ways, with the six major New Year's bowls rotating semifinal status amongst themselves by the year. But we only need to know about one of those setups for 2014: the one with the Rose and Sugar hosting semifinals.
With that out of the way, here are the only things you need.
- A 13-person selection committee will create a weekly Top 25, beginning October 28. Its members include famous college sports personalities, but little obvious analytic expertise and minimal mid-major representation. People are going to be so mad.
- The committee's criteria is impossible to nail down, at least until we get a few seasons into the process. Years of talk about strength of schedule and conference championships being important factors are meaningless at this point. We're all winging it.
- That said, the top four teams in the committee's final December rankings make the Playoff. The No. 1 seed will get its closest available semifinal spot. If that's Florida State, the Noles go to the Sugar. If that's Oregon, the Ducks host at the Rose. If that's UTEP, we have bigger problems than figuring out whether El Paso is closer to Pasadena or New Orleans.
- The No. 2 seed hosts the other semifinal, but doesn't get any geography advantages. If this system had been in place year, Auburn would've been rewarded for finishing No. 2 by hosting Alabama ... 2,000 miles from Jordan-Hare Stadium. Yes, that's stupid.
- The committee also matches up the other four major New Year's bowls. Those have their own stipulations. We'll get into those in the projections below.
There's a lot more you could choose to know*, if you really wanted to. But you're now field-ready.
* For example, Team Speed Kills has a good look at how the three different Playoffs would've given us three different New Year's bowl lineups last year, if the Playoff had existed. And Bill Connelly broke down how the committee would've picked its four teams from 1998 to 2012.
39 bowl game projections
Yep, there are new bowl games, because 35 was just not enough.
The College Football Playoff
|Sugar||No. 1 Florida State (13-0)||No. 4 Oklahoma (11-1)||1/1/2015||New Orleans, LA|
|Rose||No. 2 Alabama (12-1)||No. 3 Oregon (12-1)||1/1/2015||Pasadena, CA|
FSU gets New Orleans, since it's No. 1 after surviving a tougher 2014 schedule. Alabama's reward for No. 2 is a trip to California, meaning the No. 3 Ducks have a travel advantage.
The fourth spot could come down to Oklahoma or a dozen other teams, but the Sooners have a better chance of winning a tough conference than anyone else left on the board, and we've been led to believe the committee thinks that's important.
This is about as tidy as the first Playoff foursome could possibly be. In reality, somebody with two losses could make it in, the SEC or Pac-12 could get two teams in, a mid-major with a decent schedule could force hard choices by going unbeaten, or even a Big Ten team could make it! Prepare for squalor.
Oh, and for the title game, let's just do FSU-Bama for now. Don't overthink this.
The rest of the New Year's Six
|Cotton||Baylor||East Carolina||1/1/2015||Arlington, TX||At-large|
|Fiesta||UCLA||Michigan State||12/31/2014||Glendale, AZ||At-large|
|Orange||Virginia Tech||South Carolina||12/31/2014||Miami, FL||ACC 1 vs. Big Ten/Notre Dame/SEC|
|Peach||Georgia||Ohio State||12/31/2014||Atlanta, GA||At-large|
The Orange is the easy one here. It gets the highest-ranked ACC team not taken by the Playoff, which could be Clemson, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, or ... yeah, the ACC is as jumbled as ever. The Hokies look like the best bet for 10 wins.
The Orange's other team is the top-ranked member of that Big Ten/Notre Dame/SEC cluster, which will often be the No. 5 team in the country. We have no idea whether the committee will punish division champions for losing conference title games, as the polls tend to, but let's say SEC East champ South Carolina settles at No. 5 or so.
After that, the list of teams going to the three other bowls must include the best team from the non-power conferences. That could be one of several teams from the American or Mountain West, or perhaps Bowling Green, Marshall, or UL Lafayette. Give me ECU, which might boast mid-majordom's best offense and is just itching to take down either UNC, South Carolina, or Virginia Tech. Marshall could go unbeaten, but would need to blow opponents off the earth to top a 10-2 ECU, if strength of schedule actually matters.
With the list of teams in hand, geography takes over. Or so we've been told.
(Strict geography would dictate sending ECU to Atlanta and Ohio State to Arlington, but the matchups we've arranged make much more sense, wouldn't you agree?)
So, so many more bowls
|GoDaddy||Bowling Green||South Alabama||1/4/2015||Mobile, AL||MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2|
|Birmingham||UCF||Troy||1/3/2015||Birmingham, AL||American vs. SEC 9|
|Alamo||Texas||USC||1/2/2015||San Antonio, TX||Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2|
|Armed Forces||Houston||Notre Dame*||1/2/2015||Fort Worth, TX||American vs. Army/Big 12 7/Big Ten|
|Cactus||TCU||Arizona State||1/2/2015||Glendale, AZ||Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7 (MWC conditional)|
|TaxSlayer||Northwestern||Florida||1/2/2015||Jacksonville, FL||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7* vs. SEC 3-8|
|Capital One||Michigan||LSU||1/1/2015||Orlando, FL||Big Ten 2-4/ACC* vs. SEC 2|
|Outback||Wisconsin||Auburn||1/1/2015||Tampa, FL||Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Belk||North Carolina||Mississippi State||12/30/2014||Charlotte, NC||ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Music City||Louisville||Missouri||12/30/2014||Nashville, TN||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7* vs. SEC 3-8|
|San Francisco||Nebraska||Stanford||12/30/2014||San Francisco, CA||Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4|
|Liberty||Oklahoma State||Ole Miss||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 Tech||Texas A&M||12/29/2014||Houston, TX||Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Holiday||Iowa||Washington||12/27/2014||San Diego, CA||Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3|
|Independence||Georgia Tech||Rice*||12/27/2014||Shreveport, LA||ACC vs. SEC 10 (C-USA conditional)|
|Military||Oregon State*||Miami||12/27/2014||Annapolis, MD||American vs. ACC|
|Pinstripe||Pitt||Maryland||12/27/2014||New York, NY||ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7|
|Sun||Duke||Arizona||12/27/2014||El Paso, TX||ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5|
|Bitcoin||Akron*||Western Kentucky*||12/26/2014||St. Petersburg, FL||American vs. C-USA (ACC conditional)|
|Detroit||Syracuse||Central Michigan*||12/26/2014||Detroit, MI||ACC vs. Big Ten|
|Heart of Dallas||Minnesota||North Texas||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||Middle Tennessee||Fresno State||12/24/2014||Honolulu, HI||C-USA vs. MWC 2-7|
|Boca||Florida Atlantic||Buffalo||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||Ohio||Arkansas State||12/20/2014||Montgomery, AL||MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3 (ACC conditional)|
|Las Vegas||Boise State||Utah||12/20/2014||Las Vegas, NV||MWC 1 vs. Pac-12 6|
|New Mexico||UTSA||Nevada||12/20/2014||Albuquerque, NM||C-USA vs. MWC 2-7|
|New Orleans||UL Lafayette||Utah State||12/20/2014||New Orleans, LA||Sun Belt 1 vs. MWC 2-7|
|Potato||Northern Illinois||Washington State||12/20/2014||Boise, ID||MAC 2 vs. MWC 2-7|
* Taking another conference's unfilled bid.
Picked one winner for each game of the season, and there you have it.
Please note conference bowl orders aren't going to correlate exactly to conference standings, because bowl selectors pick based on matchup and money, not based on which team had the best record. That means neither you nor I can get mad about how high Texas is.
Also note most conferences (AAC, ACC, Big Ten, C-USA, MAC, SEC) now cluster some of their bids, meaning teams get friendlier geographic draws and there's less bickering about bowl pecking order.