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Updated bowl projections, where the real fun stuff is just outside the Playoff race

New picks will be out Sunday morning. For now, we’re keeping track of Rivalry Week’s big changes here.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Central Florida Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Week 12 wasn’t expected to be a shakeup Saturday, and boy, it wasn’t! For the eleventeenth week in a row, very little altered the Playoff race. But everything else, though?

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 month, 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

  • Cotton (Arlington, Texas): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan
  • Orange (Miami): No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
  • Championship (Santa Clara, California): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Clemson

This part’s easy for now and has been mostly the same for weeks. Ohio State beating Michigan would probably just change the name of the team that loses to Bama. Most other things wouldn’t matter. Georgia beating Bama would race hell from coast to coast. For now, the madness is not at this level.

Next: the rest of the New Year’s Six

  • Sugar (New Orleans): Oklahoma vs. Georgia
  • Rose (Pasadena, California): Ohio State vs. Washington State
  • Peach (Atlanta): Florida vs. UCF
  • Fiesta (Glendale, Arizona): LSU vs. Penn State

OHHHH, here’s the silly stuff. (Update: Tuesday’s rankings reveal made Florida and Penn State look a bit sturdier than I’d expected here.)

I think almost all of these teams are locked in or close to it, pending upsets. But who would you have for the last at-large spot? Here are the best records we could be looking at simultaneously while deciding which team should face LSU (since, if Florida’s 9-3, you gotta have the Gators play UCF):

  • 9-3 Kentucky (nope, since nobody wants an all-SEC NY6 game we can avoid)
  • 9-3 NC State
  • 9-3 Penn State
  • 9-3 Syracuse
  • 9-4 Texas
  • 12-1 Utah State
  • 8-3 West Virginia

There’s a case for Texas, which would have the highest-ranked win and have gone 1-1 against the Big 12 champ in this scenario. But a four-loss at-large (and not a contracted auto-bid) is a real bridge to cross.

Penn State only had one really bad loss, and it was to the Big Ten leader. PSU’s won several beatdowns, including one over Pitt that could end up being over a ranked win. I don’t know. Sure. Don’t look at me!

And now, everything else

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

* = Taking another conference’s unfilled bid.

Things cleared up a bit this week. Last week, I had a handful of eligible teams with no bowl, but this time, only Miami (Ohio) is left out. Next week will clear things up further, with Baylor-Texas Tech, Tennessee-Vanderbilt, and Purdue-Indiana set up as ELIGIBILITY DECIDERS.

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.