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New bowl projections, with *2* Power 5 conferences missing the Playoff ... again

Here are picks for all 40 bowl games, including the College Football Playoff.

Oklahoma v Texas Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Each year of the College Football Playoff so far, one huge storyline has been: which Power 5 conference will be left out? Well, for the second year in a row, it’s highly possible the answer is two of them. And I think you already know which two are in the most trouble.

Each week, I update a board of projected winners for every FBS game, tally up records, and guess what the Playoff committee and bowl committees would do with the results. Things get closer and closer to eventual accuracy as Selection Sunday nears, but more importantly, it’s some weekly fun!

Below, projections for all 40 2018 bowl games. A lot of these will change dramatically over the next two months, so if you don’t like where your team is listed, I bet a few wins on the field will change things!

First, the College Football Playoff

  • Championship (Santa Clara, CA): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Clemson
  • Cotton (Arlington, TX): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
  • Orange (Miami): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

First, who’s out?

The Pac-12 clearly lacked elite teams even before Washington beat winless UCLA by only a touchdown and Stanford getting rocked by Utah. A Washington loss at Oregon next week — great scheduling by the Pac-12 — would juuust about eliminate the conference. (I’m aware Colorado’s unbeaten.) Making matters even worse: UW’s loss is to Auburn, which might be the SEC’s, like, sixth best team. So why not just take a second SEC team, if it comes down to it?

And I had the Big 12 missing the Playoff even before Oklahoma lost to Texas. West Virginia’s unbeaten, but could the ‘Eers beat the Sooners in back-to-back games, thanks to the Big 12’s weird title game setup? Could Texas beat OU again, perhaps without a plus-3 turnover differential this time around? Can Oklahoma’s horrible defense win out? I’m betting against all that.

I say all that to say the top four teams remain the same as last week. OSU hasn’t looked incredible, but making it through that schedule with one loss could merit No. 2 regardless. Clemson and Notre Dame can breeze in, provided they stay healthy and focused.

Next: the rest of the New Year’s Six

  • Sugar (New Orleans): Oklahoma vs. Georgia
  • Rose (Pasadena, CA): Penn State vs. Washington
  • Peach (Atlanta): Miami vs. Michigan
  • Fiesta (Glendale, AZ): UCF vs. West Virginia

In this year’s rotation, most of these will be based on conference auto-bids, and then we’ll likely see whether the MWC or AAC champ takes the non-power spot. Due to geography, that’ll likely determine whether the G5 team goes to the Fiesta or Peach.

The Sugar, Rose and Peach stay the same as last week (for now), while the new Fiesta is DRUGS. UCF has to be considered the clear favorite to be the highest-ranked non-power champ, though it’s far from a done deal (duh). And I like WVU’s chances of finishing 10-2.

And now, everything else

  • Citrus (Orlando): Wisconsin vs. Florida
  • Outback (Tampa): Michigan State vs. Kentucky
  • Gator (Jacksonville): Minnesota vs. LSU
  • Holiday (San Diego): Iowa vs. Utah
  • Liberty (Memphis): Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M
  • Military (Annapolis, MD): Cincinnati vs. Georgia Tech
  • Sun (El Paso): Boston College vs. Colorado
  • Belk (Charlotte): Duke vs. Auburn
  • Alamo (San Antonio): Texas vs. Oregon
  • Arizona (Tucson): Wyoming vs. Coastal Carolina
  • Camping World (Orlando): NC State vs. TCU
  • Music City (Nashville): Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State
  • Texas (Houston): Texas Tech vs. Missouri
  • Pinstripe (New York City): Syracuse vs. Indiana
  • Independence (Shreveport, LA): Army* vs. Cal*
  • Cheez-It (Phoenix): Iowa State vs. Arizona State
  • Quick Lane (Detroit): BYU* vs. WMU*
  • SERVPRO (Dallas): Washington State* vs. North Texas
  • Redbox (Santa Clara, CA): Fresno State* vs. USC
  • Hawaii: Southern Miss vs. Hawaii
  • Dollar General (Mobile): Ohio vs. Arkansas State
  • Armed Forces (Fort Worth): Houston vs. Baylor
  • Birmingham: Memphis vs. South Carolina
  • Potato (Boise): NIU vs. Boise State
  • Bahamas: MTSU vs. Buffalo
  • Gasparilla (Tampa): USF vs. Virginia
  • Frisco (TX): Tulane vs. Toledo
  • Boca Raton: Navy vs. FAU
  • New Orleans: Louisiana Tech vs. Troy
  • Camellia (Montgomery, AL): EMU vs. Appalachian State
  • Las Vegas: Utah State vs. Stanford
  • Cure (Orlando): Temple vs. Georgia Southern
  • New Mexico (Albuquerque): UAB vs. San Diego State

* = Taking another conference’s unfilled bid.

As always, remember bowl bids are not strictly based on merit. A few conferences have rules that prevent bowls from taking teams with clearly lesser records over more deserving teams, but bowls mostly care about butts in seats. If you beat a bigger program that’s closer to a bowl both of you want, you’re not guaranteed to get it.

The teams I couldn’t quite find spots for this week: FIU, Marshall, and UNLV. Apologies to all.