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Full 2014 bowl projections, Week 4: Alabama back to the College Football Playoff

We tried doing this without you, Tide. It didn't work out. A look at the full bowl and Playoff picture after college football's Week 3 is below.

Three weeks is still hardly enough evidence to determine the college football postseason picture, but we're getting decent ideas at this point. Week 3 negated some of Week 1's potential overreactions, slightly solidified a couple names in the four-team College Football Playoff tier and showed that a few power-conference races are going to be tight all year long. To the picks (last week's, for reference):

College Football Playoff

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

We're pretty much back where we started after Georgia took the SEC's Playoff spot for the last two weeks. Florida State, Oregon and Oklahoma are all relatively easy calls at this point -- the Ducks and Sooners crushed decent competition, while FSU was off -- but if you're certain right now about either Alabama, Auburn, LSU or Texas A&M (not to mention Missouri and Ole Miss) being the first team from the SEC, you display a high degree of confidence indeed.

For now, let's go with the Tide, which have the track record, talent and schedule (Auburn and A&M at home, and Florida and Tennessee out of the SEC East) to finish with one or fewer losses. This is all assuming multiple SEC teams don't make it in (Spencer Hall has the Aggies as the primary team to watch there), but we'll start worrying about that later on.

New Year's bowls

Bowl Date Location Ties
Cotton Baylor Texas A&M 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 East Carolina Auburn 12/31/2014 Atlanta, GA At-large

A more-or-less return to the Week 1 projections here, with South Carolina overcoming its loss to Texas A&M and the messy Pac-12 South clearing way for likewise messy UCLA.

ECU remains the top underdog after taking down Virginia Tech (the New Year's bowls must reserve one slot for a team from a non-power conference), and an upset of North Carolina next week could put the Pirates on course for a straight-up New Year's invite, rather than one of the token variety.

Those Hokies are still here, because the ACC's going to get a spot in the Orange Bowl, and ... have you seen the rest of the ACC? Who's your non-FSU pick to finish with about 10 wins? Louisville just lost to Virginia, 1-1 Clemson still has the Noles and Gamecocks on the way, and Pitt looked awful Saturday against perhaps the worst FBS program. Duke might be the next best choice, and we really wouldn't mind seeing Steve Spurrier against his beloved Blue Devils, so let's keep them in mind going forward.

The rest of the bowls

As always, bowl destinations don't correlate exactly to final conference standings. Bowls and conferences determine bids based as much on potential TV ratings and attendance as they do on actual team quality.

Bowl Date Location Ties
GoDaddy Northern Illinois South Alabama 1/4/2015 Mobile, AL MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2
Birmingham Memphis ULM* 1/3/2015 Birmingham, AL American vs. SEC 9
Alamo Kansas State Stanford 1/2/2015 San Antonio, TX Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2
Armed Forces Houston Rice* 1/2/2015 Fort Worth, TX American vs. Army/Big 12 7/Big Ten
Cactus Texas Arizona State 1/2/2015 Tempe, AZ Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7 (MWC conditional)
TaxSlayer Iowa Florida 1/2/2015 Jacksonville, FL ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8
Capital One Penn State LSU 1/1/2015 Orlando, FL Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 2
Outback Ohio State Tennessee 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 Clemson Mississippi State 12/30/2014 Nashville, TN ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8
San Francisco Nebraska Arizona 12/30/2014 San Francisco, CA Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4
Liberty West Virginia Ole Miss 12/29/2014 Memphis, TN Big 12 5 vs. SEC 3-8
Russell Athletic Notre Dame Oklahoma State 12/29/2014 Orlando, FL ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3
Texas TCU Missouri 12/29/2014 Houston, TX Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8
Holiday Wisconsin USC 12/27/2014 San Diego, CA Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3
Independence Miami Louisiana Tech 12/27/2014 Shreveport, LA ACC vs. SEC 10 (C-USA conditional)
Military UCF Georgia Tech 12/27/2014 Annapolis, MD American vs. ACC
Pinstripe Pitt Michigan 12/27/2014 New York, NY ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7
Sun North Carolina Washington 12/27/2014 El Paso, TX ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5
Bitcoin Akron* Middle Tennessee 12/26/2014 St. Petersburg, FL American vs. C-USA (ACC conditional)
Detroit Duke Minnesota 12/26/2014 Detroit, MI ACC vs. Big Ten
Heart of Dallas Oregon State* UTEP 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 Fresno State 12/24/2014 Honolulu, HI C-USA vs. MWC 2-7
Boca Florida Atlantic Ball State 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 Colorado State 12/20/2014 New Orleans, LA Sun Belt 1 vs. MWC 2-7
Potato Bowling Green Utah State 12/20/2014 Boise, ID MAC 2 vs. MWC 2-7

* Filling another conference's unused slot.

Gone are Maryland, knocked out by West Virginia with nine losable games on the way, and North Texas. Replacing them are Penn State, which is no longer postseason-banned, and Louisiana Tech, which has buried Sun Belt favorite UL-Lafayette and Conference USA West favorite UNT in back-to-back weeks. Otherwise, few surprises really change the dynamics within the conferences.

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PSU's entry might seem high, but ... somebody from the Big Ten has to fill those Big Ten bowl spots. PSU is 3-0 with plenty of wins to go and you'd imagine bowls will expect tons of Nittany Lion fans to travel wherever their team ends up.

Georgia's fall is the greatest, from the Playoff to the Belk, where Louisville coaches Bobby Petrino and Todd Grantham provide plenty of local story lines (Petrino briefly coached the Dawgs' nearby NFL team, and Grantham just left UGA for a raise). That's life in the SEC, where even a 10-2 Georgia could easily land behind five other teams from its own conference with similar records. I don't know who's going to beat those SEC West powers, other than each other.

Your turn

What do you think?