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
|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.
|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.
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.
What do you think?