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
- Championship (Atlanta): Alabama vs. Oklahoma
- Sugar (New Orleans): No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Alabama
- Rose (Pasadena, Calif.): No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
Here are the things we know:
- The SEC Championship is a play-in.
- The ACC Championship is a play-in.
- Oklahoma is win-and-in.
- 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:
- Alabama was the committee’s favorite team until eight days before Selection Sunday and probably won’t fall beyond No. 5* due to one road loss. A loss by a team ahead of the Tide should thus equal No. 4, right? (Then again, Bama has a light overall schedule, not even a division title, and just lost.)
- Ohio State will enter the final weekend ranked around No. 7. A win over a top-four team — added to wins over Penn State and Michigan State — should be enough to vault over that top-four team plus a losing UGA and an idle team, right? (Then again, OSU’s been blown out twice.)
- (Why not Wisconsin itself, whose resume is similar to Bama’s? Because the committee has really liked Bama all year and has voiced minor complaints about UW. That’s it.)
- (Why not undefeated UCF? The committee hates non-powers. That’s it.)
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
- Peach (Atlanta): Georgia vs. UCF
- Orange (Miami): Miami vs. Wisconsin
- Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.): USC vs. Ohio State
- Cotton (Arlington, Texas): TCU vs. Penn State
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.
- Citrus (Orlando): Notre Dame vs. LSU
- Outback (Tampa): Michigan State vs. South Carolina
- Liberty (Memphis): Kansas State vs. Missouri
- TaxSlayer (Jacksonville): Louisville vs. Texas A&M
- Arizona (Tucson): San Diego State vs. New Mexico State
- Music City (Nashville): Iowa vs. Kentucky
- Sun (El Paso): NC State vs. Arizona State
- Belk (Charlotte): Wake Forest vs. Mississippi State
- Alamo (San Antonio): Oklahoma State vs. Washington
- Camping World (Orlando): Virginia Tech vs. Iowa State
- Military (Annapolis, Md.): Virginia vs. Navy
- Texas (Houston): Texas vs. Utah*
- Pinstripe (New York City): Boston College vs. Michigan
- Independence (Shreveport, La.): Florida State vs. Southern Miss*
- Cactus (Tempe): West Virginia vs. Oregon
- Heart of Dallas: Texas Tech vs. UCLA*
- Quick Lane (Detroit): Duke vs. CMU*
- Holiday (San Diego): Northwestern vs. Stanford
- Foster Farms (Santa Clara, CA): Purdue vs. Washington State
- Hawaii: WKU* vs. Colorado State
- Dollar General (Mobile, Ala.): Toledo vs. Appalachian State
- Armed Forces (Fort Worth): Army vs. UTSA
- Birmingham: Memphis vs. MTSU*
- Potato (Boise): Akron vs. Wyoming
- Bahamas: UAB vs. Ohio
- Gasparilla (St. Pete, Fla.): SMU vs. FIU
- Frisco (Texas): Houston vs. Marshall*
- Boca Raton: USF vs. FAU
- Camellia (Montgomery, Ala.): NIU vs. Arkansas State
- New Mexico (Albuquerque): North Texas vs. Fresno State
- Las Vegas: Boise State vs. Arizona
- Cure (Orlando): Temple vs. Georgia State
- New Orleans: Troy vs. Louisiana Tech
* = 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.