Twenty-four hours ago, Ohio State was about as sure a bet for the College Football Playoff as you could find. Three tough games remained, but the Buckeyes figured to be favored in each after cruising through three months of nothing special.
Now, the defending champs are out of the College Football Playoff. And while we wouldn't want to read too much into a star player calling out coaches after a last-second loss, picking the relatively sturdy and, to date, equally impressive Michigan to win in Ann Arbor next week feels more comfortable again. That would knock OSU out of the New Year's Six bowls as well, meaning one of the most loaded rosters in the sport's history would wind up spending bowl season in ... I can't bear to say it yet.
Let's go through some guesses for each bowl game, starting with the Playoff itself. The top two remain really easy.
College Football Playoff
|National Championship||Alabama||Clemson||January 11||Glendale, AZ||Cotton winner vs. Orange winner|
|Cotton||No. 2 Alabama||No. 3 Michigan State||December 31||Arlington, TX||Playoff rankings top 4|
|Orange||No. 1 Clemson||No. 4 Oklahoma||December 31||Miami||Playoff rankings top 4|
Tigers back over Tide for No. 1, not that it matters geographically, because the committee kept Clemson at No. 1 this past Tuesday. And a win over Florida wouldn't really move the needle for Bama much more than a win over UNC would for Clemson.
Let's say MSU beats Iowa in the Big Ten Championship. If both take care of business the week prior, that's a Playoff play-in game. If you have any doubts about whether the Spartans are win-and-in, look at their schedule, which now includes a sure top-20 Oregon, Mountain West division-winning Air Force and plenty of Big Ten bowl teams.
Last week, I had Notre Dame in over Oklahoma, and if the Irish beat Stanford, I'm pretty confident that's what happens. But the banged-up Irish got even more banged up against the bruising Boston College as Stanford skated past Cal. With a win over ND, the Cardinal would then be rooting for last-minute chaos.
The next group
|New Year's Six bowls|
|Fiesta||Notre Dame||Iowa||January 1||Glendale, AZ||At-large|
|Rose||Michigan||Stanford||January 1||Pasadena, CA||Big Ten 1 vs. Pac-12 1|
|Sugar||Baylor||Ole Miss||January 1||New Orleans||Big 12 1 vs. SEC 1|
|Peach||Florida State||Navy||December 31||Atlanta||At-large|
Who's the SEC's second best team? That's been an impossible question for a couple weeks now. If Florida loses to Florida State and Alabama back-to-back, its spot in the Sugar Bowl is far from assured. Rising No. 22 Ole Miss could add a win over a ranked Mississippi State to its win over Alabama, which still ranks as the season's best.
Michigan over Iowa in the Rose, because if the Big Ten's in the Playoff, this bowl isn't necessarily tied to taking the top-ranked B1G team left. And while we love the Hawkeyes, bowls aren't in the business of passing up the chance to pair the head coaches of top-five brand names against their former teams.
The rest of these are pretty simple at the moment. FSU could be the last Power 5 team in, but its season resume is holding up decently.
|Bowl (* = filling another conference's bid)||Conferences ties, not based on standings|
|Alamo||Oklahoma State||UCLA||January 2||San Antonio||Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2|
|Cactus||West Virginia||USC||January 2||Tempe, AZ||Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7|
|Liberty||Kansas State||Arkansas||January 2||Memphis||Big 12 5 vs. SEC 3-8|
|TaxSlayer||Penn State||LSU||January 2||Jacksonville, FL||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Citrus||Ohio State||Florida||January 1||Orlando||Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 2|
|Outback||Northwestern||Tennessee||January 1||Tampa||Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Belk||Virginia Tech||Mississippi State||December 30||Charlotte||ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Birmingham||Houston||Auburn||December 30||Birmingham, AL||American vs. SEC 9|
|Holiday||Wisconsin||Utah||December 30||San Diego||Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3|
|Music City||Pitt||Georgia||December 30||Nashville||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Arizona||Western Kentucky||Nevada||December 29||Tucson||C-USA vs. MWC|
|Armed Forces||Arizona State*||Colorado State||December 29||Fort Worth, TX||Big Ten vs. MWC|
|Russell Athletic||North Carolina||TCU||December 29||Orlando||ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3|
|Texas||Texas Tech||Texas A&M||December 29||Houston||Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Military||Miami||Temple||December 28||Annapolis, MD||ACC vs. American|
|Quick Lane||Duke||Minnesota||December 28||Detroit||ACC vs. Big Ten|
|Foster Farms||Nebraska||Oregon||December 26||Santa Clara, CA||Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4|
|Heart of Dallas||Washington*||Southern Miss||December 26||Dallas||Big 12 7 vs. C-USA|
|Independence||Cincinnati*||Utah State*||December 26||Shreveport, LA||ACC vs. SEC (C-USA backup)|
|Pinstripe||Louisville||Indiana||December 26||New York City||ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7|
|St. Petersburg||UConn||Middle Tennessee||December 26||St. Petersburg, FL||American vs. C-USA|
|Sun||NC State||Washington State||December 26||El Paso||ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5|
|Bahamas||Old Dominion||Ohio||December 24||Nassau, BS||C-USA vs. MAC 4/5|
|Hawaii||Tulsa||BYU||December 24||Honolulu||American vs. MWC/BYU|
|GoDaddy||Toledo||Georgia Southern||December 23||Mobile, AL||MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2|
|Poinsettia||San Diego State||Arizona*||December 23||San Diego||MWC vs. Army|
|Boca Raton||Memphis||Western Michigan||December 22||Boca Raton, FL||American vs. MAC|
|Potato||Bowling Green||Boise State||December 22||Boise, ID||MAC 2 vs. MWC|
|Miami Beach||East Carolina||Marshall||December 21||Miami||American vs. C-USA|
|Camelia||Northern Illinois||Appalachian State||December 19||Montgomery, AL||MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3|
|Cure||USF||Akron*||December 19||Orlando||American vs. Sun Belt|
|Las Vegas||Air Force||Cal||December 19||Las Vegas||MWC 1/BYU vs. Pac-12 6|
|New Mexico||Central Michigan*||New Mexico||December 19||Albuquerque||C-USA vs. MWC|
|New Orleans||Arkansas State||Louisiana Tech||December 19||New Orleans||Sun Belt 1 vs. C-USA|
Joining us this week: Tulsa and UConn. Yayyy, American!
Leaving us this week: Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama. Awww, Sun Belt!
Reuniting this week: Urban Meyer and the Gators.
As for all the five-win-ish teams in, there's an eligibility rule that could come into play for Nebraska and maybe others.