Update: The College Football Playoff is official. Go here for the up-to-the-minute bowl calendar:
Clemson will host a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl. Alabama will host a Playoff semifinal at the Cotton Bowl. Michigan State and Oklahoma will be the road teams.
Now we wait until 12:30 p.m. ET or so to find out the seeding, which determines exactly which teams are facing each other in the Playoff on New Year's Eve.
If Clemson remains No. 1 after squeaking past No. 10 North Carolina with the aid of a botched call by ACC refs, despite Alabama dominating No. 18 Florida for the majority of the SEC Championship and winning comfortably (Bama was outgaining Florida by 319 yards at one point, so, yeah), that still wouldn't tell us exactly which teams the Tigers and Tide would face next. That could happen, by the way, since the committee's said it's considered moving Bama to No. 1 for weeks and the Tide have more wins over winning teams than anybody else does.
Oklahoma entered the weekend at No. 3, then relaxed as No. 5 Michigan State beat No. 4 Iowa in all-time Big Ten fashion. That win, plus the general strength of MSU's schedule, could certainly inspire the committee to move the Spartans up to No. 3. However, the Spartans' lack of truly dominant performances could be a factor.
Think this is the best guess right now:
|College Football Playoff (bold = done deal)|
|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|
There's not much more drama in the next group, but bear with me. The Sugar Bowl is already set, Stanford's already in the Rose Bowl, and almost everyone else is close to being in place.
The main quarrel the committee will have to figure out is whether to drop previous No. 4 Iowa below No. 6 Ohio State for losing a close one to No. 5 Michigan State, a thing OSU also did. That will decide the Big Ten's Rose bid, as the bowl's indicating it'll take the highest-ranked non-Playoff team, no matter what.
I think the Buckeyes rank higher. OSU has six wins over .500-plus FBS teams; Iowa has four. OSU has the better scoring margin despite the tougher-ish schedule. The committee can't cite advanced stats in its discussions, but any computer rating you want to look up will tell you the Buckeyes were better this season.
That means Florida State, Houston, Iowa, and Notre Dame get sorted based largely on geography and partly on matchups. FSU's basically a lock for the Peach due to location, and let's say the committee splits up the two biggest brand names, FSU and ND, which played last year anyway.
|New Year's Six bowls (bold = done deal)|
|Fiesta||Notre Dame||Houston||January 1||Glendale, AZ||At-large|
|Rose||Ohio State||Stanford||January 1||Pasadena, CA||Big Ten 1 vs. Pac-12 1|
|Sugar||Oklahoma State||Ole Miss||January 1||New Orleans||Big 12 1 vs. SEC 1|
|Peach||Florida State||Iowa||December 31||Atlanta||At-large|
And now for the real fun, which the Playoff committee has nothing directly to do with. For most of these matchups, it's all about individual bowls jostling to make enough money to justify doing this again for a few more years.
There's a lot more guessing in this group, but things shouldn't be too far off.
|Bowl (bold = done deal, * = filling another conference's bid)||Conferences ties and selection order, not based on standings|
|Alamo||TCU||Oregon||January 2||San Antonio||Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2|
|Cactus||West Virginia||Arizona State||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||Georgia||January 2||Jacksonville, FL||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Citrus||Michigan||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||Memphis||Auburn||December 30||Birmingham, AL||American vs. SEC 9|
|Holiday||Wisconsin||USC||December 30||San Diego||Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3|
|Music City||Louisville||Texas A&M||December 30||Nashville||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Arizona||Marshall||Nevada||December 29||Tucson||C-USA vs. MWC|
|Armed Forces||Cal*||Air Force||December 29||Fort Worth, TX||Big Ten vs. MWC|
|Russell Athletic||North Carolina||Baylor||December 29||Orlando||ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3|
|Texas||Texas Tech||LSU||December 29||Houston||Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Military||NC State||Navy||December 28||Annapolis, MD||ACC vs. American|
|Quick Lane||Pitt||Minnesota||December 28||Detroit||ACC vs. Big Ten|
|Foster Farms||Nebraska||UCLA||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||Akron*||Utah State*||December 26||Shreveport, LA||ACC vs. SEC (C-USA backup)|
|Pinstripe||Duke||Indiana||December 26||New York City||ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7|
|St. Petersburg||UConn||San Jose State*||December 26||St. Petersburg, FL||American vs. C-USA|
|Sun||Miami||Utah||December 26||El Paso||ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5|
|Bahamas||Middle Tennessee||Western Michigan||December 24||Nassau, BS||C-USA vs. MAC|
|Hawaii||Cincinnati||Colorado State||December 24||Honolulu||American vs. MWC/BYU|
|GoDaddy||Bowling Green||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||Temple||Toledo||December 22||Boca Raton, FL||American vs. MAC|
|Potato||Ohio||Boise State||December 22||Boise, ID||MAC 2 vs. MWC|
|Miami Beach||USF||Western Kentucky||December 21||Miami||American vs. C-USA|
|Camelia||Northern Illinois||Appalachian State||December 19||Montgomery, AL||MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3|
|Cure||Tulsa||Georgia State||December 19||Orlando||American vs. Sun Belt|
|Las Vegas||BYU||Washington State||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|