We're about to learn more than we ever have before about what the College Football Playoff committee thinks.
That might not sound like much, considering it's only been around for less than three years now. But 2016's Week 11, which featured three undefeated teams losing and four other top-20 teams falling to unranked teams, set up scenarios that'll finally tell us exactly how much the committee values certain things.
Below, new bowl projections for the 2016 postseason, updated after Tuesday's rankings.
Clemson lost, but remains the ACC favorite, since it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Louisville. Where the Cardinals rank right now only tells us so much about where the Cardinals will finish, because we do not yet know the true rankings value of a conference championship.
Winning a conference is one of the committee's stated bonuses, but we've never been able to see how much it matters. We didn't in 2014, when Ohio State made it over conference co-champs Baylor and TCU, because the committee stated at the time that OSU's entry was about its dominant 13th game, which the Big 12 pair lacked. We didn't in 2015 because that field was tidy.
So teams like Louisville and Ohio State, which have one loss each but unfriendly paths to conference titles, are now fascinating.
|College Football Playoff|
Dec. 31, Glendale, AZ
|Michigan||Clemson||Playoff rankings top 4|
Dec. 31, Atlanta
|Alabama||Louisville||Playoff rankings top 4|
Jan. 9, Tampa
|Alabama||Michigan||Fiesta winner vs. Peach winner|
Alabama's easy. Phew, an easy one!
Clemson remains a good guess, for now. If the Tigers beat Wake Forest, South Carolina, and the ACC Coastal champ, they're in.
The Big Ten likely gets a spot, but five teams have two or fewer losses. Which one? The tiebreakers are unkind to Ohio State, so Michigan still has the simplest path at the moment, despite losing to Iowa.
The Big 12 and Pac-12 have one one-loss team left each (West Virginia and Washington, respectively). I think each will lose again. That would, in theory, open the door for Louisville, if it finished with one-loss, to become the first-ever team without a conference title to make it in. The Cardinals also have to overcome a weak schedule (possibly only five opponents with .500 or better records, the committee's favored schedule metric), but if the committee favors a two-loss team over Louisville, then ... well, we'd learn a lot.
|New Year's Six bowls|
Jan. 2, Arlington, TX
|Boise State||Penn State||At-large|
Jan. 2, Pasadena, CA
|Ohio State||USC||Big Ten 1 vs. Pac-12 1|
Jan. 2, New Orleans
|Oklahoma||LSU||Big 12 1 vs. SEC 1|
Dec. 30, Miami
|Florida State||Wisconsin||ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND|
The Rose pairs the top-ranked Big Ten and Pac-12 teams that don't make the Playoff. As of right now, USC looks like the best team in the conference, but it needs some tiebreaker help to make the title game.
The Sugar does the same with the Big 12 and SEC. OU is 7-0 in conference. LSU has chances to beat fellow contenders Florida and Texas A&M. Auburn's also in this, but has to play Alabama, and so is Tennessee, which can't impress anybody the rest of the way.
FSU, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech would contend for the Orange, if the ACC has two in the Playoff. FSU played more highly ranked teams, so sure. Wisconsin looks likely to finish around No. 7 or so, which would assure it of a New Year's spot.
That leaves the Cotton, which this year, must take the highest-ranking mid-major champion. Boise State now ranks ahead of WMU and still has a potential game against a potentially ranked San Diego State to go, while WMU has minimal opportunity left to impress. That's all assuming Wyoming clears out of Boise's way in the MWC standings, though, because only conference champs are eligible for the autobid.
|Conference selection order, not based on standings|
Jan. 2, Tampa
|Nebraska||Auburn||Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 31, Orlando
|North Carolina||Tennessee||Big Ten 2-4/ACC vs. SEC 2|
Dec. 31, Jacksonville
|Virginia Tech||Florida||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 30, Nashville
|Iowa||Arkansas||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 30, Memphis
|TCU||Georgia||Big 12 5 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 30, El Paso, TX
|Pitt||Colorado||ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5|
Dec. 30, Tucson
|Miami (OH)*||Idaho||MWC vs. Sun Belt|
Dec. 29, San Antonio
|Oklahoma State||Washington||Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2|
Dec. 29, Charlotte
|Wake Forest||South Carolina||ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8|
|USF||Kentucky||American vs. SEC 9|
Dec. 28, Santa Clara, CA
|Indiana||Utah||Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4|
Dec. 28, New York City
|Georgia Tech||Maryland||ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7|
Dec. 28, Orlando
|Miami||West Virginia||ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3|
Dec. 28, Houston
|Texas||Texas A&M||Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 27, Tempe, AZ
|Kansas State||Arizona State||Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7|
|Heart of Dallas
|Northwestern||WKU||Big Ten vs. C-USA|
Dec. 27, San Diego
|Minnesota||Washington State||Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3|
Dec. 27, Annapolis, MD
|NC State**||Houston||ACC vs. American|
Dec. 26, Shreveport, LA
|MTSU*||Ole Miss||ACC vs. SEC|
|Mississippi State**||Temple||ACC vs. American|
Dec. 26, Detroit, MI
|NIU**||Army*||ACC vs. Big Ten|
Dec. 24, Honolulu
|Southern Miss||Hawaii||C-USA vs. MWC|
Dec. 23, Mobile, AL
|Western Michigan||Arkansas State||MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2|
Dec. 23, Fort Worth, TX
|Baylor||Navy||Big 12 vs. Navy|
Dec. 23, Nassau
|Tulsa||EMU||American vs. MAC|
Dec. 22, Boise, ID
|Ohio||Wyoming||MAC 2 vs. MWC|
Dec. 21, San Diego
|BYU||Air Force||BYU vs. MWC|
|Memphis||Old Dominion||American vs. C-USA|
|SMU||CMU||American vs. MAC|
|San Diego State||Stanford||MWC 1 vs. Pac-12 6|
Dec. 17, Montgomery, AL
|Toledo||Appalachian State||MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3|
Dec. 17, Orlando
|UCF||ULL||American vs. Sun Belt|
Dec. 17, Albuquerque
|UTSA||New Mexico||C-USA vs. MWC|
|Troy||LA Tech||Sun Belt 1 vs. C-USA|
* = taking another conference's unfilled spot
** here at 5-7, thanks to APR scores
What do you think?
As always, curse the Pac-12's bowl ties, which are restrictive and have no way of avoiding the appearance of punishing good teams.
The SEC is also tricky right now, since it feels like almost every fan base would hit bowl season with a decent amount of optimism and, thus, likelihood of buying tickets. I might have Florida too prominent, in that case, since I have UF losing its next two games.
Yep, I tried to sneak Texas A&M in there. Don't tell anyone. See if the powers that be just don't notice it's there and accidentally put it on the books.