New projections for all 40 bowl games, with the Playoff committee’s hardest decision ever

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After No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Miami, and No. 8 Notre Dame lost in a single weekend, we’re now one Friday and Saturday of games away from the College Football Playoff committee kick-starting Selection Sunday and launching bowl season. Conference title matchups are set, and this can go either really cleanly or about as messily as possible.

Each week, I update a board of picks and results for every game on the schedule, then see which postseason that’d give us. Below are this week’s updated projections for every bowl game, which might change slightly once new College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday. This is not an “if the season ended today” picture; these are predictions on how it’ll look at the end.

College Football Playoff

Here are the things we know:

  1. The SEC Championship is a play-in.
  2. The ACC Championship is a play-in.
  3. Oklahoma is win-and-in.
  4. Wisconsin is win-and-in.

That could end up really tidy. But let’s say Auburn, Clemson, and Oklahoma win as Ohio State beats Wisconsin. Then it’s down to two teams for No. 4:

If you see a slam-dunk argument for either, congrats to you. Either we let in a non-champ of the first-ever two-bid league despite its best win being over a No. 18-ish LSU, or we let in a team that gave up 55 points to Iowa in its second loss. The former sounds less embarrassing, at least.

That anger you’re feeling over me projecting the Tide after you just watched them melt down? I promise you, exactly as many people would’ve emailed me in anger if I’d gone with the team that got its ass kicked twice. It ain’t my pick anyway. Just guessing the committee.

Then again, if Oklahoma and Wisconsin win next week, there’s no debate. Fans of drama, you’re rooting for the Buckeyes and Horned Frogs.

Update, post-rankings reveal: With Auburn at No. 2, what if UGA wins by a field goal? An Auburn that lost close on the road to two Playoff teams and a top-20 LSU could still finish around No. 5, ahead of an 11-2 Ohio State with two blowout losses, one at home and one to an unranked team. Clemson and Oklahoma could also lose and have arguments for staying around No. 5 and ahead of OSU. Bama’s path is apparent.

The rest of the New Year's Six

The Orange gets the top non-CFP non-champs from the ACC and the Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame. The rest are based on rankings, with matchups therein based on the committee’s liking.

The race for the last spot here (other than the AAC champ getting the mid-major auto-bid) will likely come down to TCU or Washington. How far should TCU fall for losing to a Playoff team? The committee’s usually dropped teams a spot or two for losing a conference title game. But should Washington stay in place if a team it lost to (Stanford) becomes a four-loss team?

How about this scenario: TCU falls to No. 12, but undefeated UCF rises to No. 11 after beating a ranked team for the second time.

Everything else

* = Filling another conference’s unfilled bid.

The biggest thing to keep in mind: These are not based entirely on current or final standings. Each conference has its own bowl rules, but bowl games prefer matchups that will bring in fans and make money, not bowl games that reward teams that played well. Often, those two things are the same. Often, they’re not.

As always, I apologize for overrating and/or underrating your team.

What do you think?

Let’s also tune these up a little after the first Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday.

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