First off, let us offer congratulations to the following teams that clinched bowl eligibility since last week's projections: Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Stanford, Washington, Houston, Middle Tennessee, San Diego State, Western Kentucky, Ohio and Texas State. There might not be spots for all of them when the music stops, but at least they gave themselves a chance.
The biggest shift from last weekend comes from Ole Miss’ defeat at the hands of Arkansas. A few of the ramifications:
· As mentioned above, Arkansas is now bowl eligible. What a ridiculous pair of games for the Hogs.
· Ole Miss is eliminated from SEC West contention.
· Michigan State is almost certainly guaranteed a spot in the New Years Six with a win versus Penn State this weekend.
Should Mississippi State prevail in the Egg Bowl and Auburn fall in Tuscaloosa, the 11-1 Bulldogs’ best win would either be over four-loss Ole Miss or four-loss Auburn. It’s possible the high tide (pun intended) of the SEC would carry them into the playoff with that résumé, but TCU, Baylor and Ohio State would all likely have a better top win along with a conference title, although the Bulldogs would still carry the best loss of the group (at Alabama) with the Frogs a close second (at Baylor).
As with previous editions, we’re going to assume favorites win every game. Will this happen? Absolutely not, but it’s a better system than trying to pick individual results.
Bullet points with a few more explanations after the list. A * and italics denote the team is filling in for a conference that didn’t meet all of its obligations. A # and bold name designate an accepted bid:
New Years Six Games
Rose (January 1 in Pasadena, CA) [Semifinal]: #2 Oregon vs. #3 Florida State
Sugar (January 1 in New Orleans, LA) [Semifinal]: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Baylor
Cotton (January 1 in Arlington, TX): Ohio State vs. TCU
Fiesta (December 31 in Glendale, AZ): UCLA vs. Boise State (Group of 5 representative)
Orange (December 31 in Miami, FL): Clemson (ACC fill-in for FSU) vs. Mississippi State
Peach (December 31 in Atlanta, GA): Michigan State vs. Georgia
GoDaddy (January 4 in Mobile, AL): Northern Illinois (MAC) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)
Birmingham (January 3 in Birmingham, AL): Memphis (American) vs. South Carolina (SEC)
Alamo (January 2 in San Antonio, TX): Kansas State (Big 12) vs. Arizona (Pac-12)
Armed Forces (January 2 in Fort Worth, TX): Houston (American) vs. California* (alternate for Big 12)
Cactus (January 2 in Tempe, AZ): Western Kentucky* (alternate for Big 12) vs. Stanford (Pac-12)
TaxSlayer [Gator] (January 2 in Jacksonville, FL): Louisville (ACC) vs. Missouri (SEC)
Citrus (January 1 in Orlando, FL): Wisconsin (Big Ten) vs. Ole Miss (SEC)
Outback (January 1 in Tampa, FL): Minnesota (Big Ten) vs. LSU (SEC)
Belk (December 30 in Charlotte, NC): Notre Dame (ACC) vs. Auburn (SEC)
Music City (December 30 in Nashville, TN): Maryland (ACC or Big Ten) vs. Tennessee (SEC)
Foster Farms (December 30 in Santa Clara, CA): Iowa (Big Ten) vs. Southern Cal (Pac-12)
Liberty (December 29 in Memphis, TN): West Virginia (Big 12) vs. Arkansas (SEC)
Russell Athletic (December 29 in Orlando, FL): Georgia Tech (ACC) vs. Oklahoma (Big 12)
Texas (December 29 in Houston, TX): Texas (Big 12) vs. Texas A&M (SEC)
Holiday (December 27 in San Diego, CA): Nebraska (Big Ten) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12)
Independence (December 27 in Shreveport, LA): Miami (FL) (ACC) vs. Florida (SEC/C-USA)
Military (December 27 in Annapolis, MD): UCF (American) vs. North Carolina (Navy)
Pinstripe (December 27 in New York, NY): Boston College (ACC) vs. Penn State (Big Ten)
Sun (December 27 in El Paso, TX): Duke (ACC) vs. Utah (Pac-12)
BitCoin (December 26 in St. Petersburg, FL): East Carolina (American) vs. NC State (ACC/C-USA)
Quick Lane (December 26 in Detroit, MI): Virginia (ACC/MAC) vs. Northwestern(Big Ten)
Heart of Dallas (December 26 in Dallas, TX): Rutgers (Big Ten) vs. Rice (C-USA)
Bahamas (December 24 in Nassau, BS): Marshall (C-USA) vs. Central Michigan (MAC)
Hawaii (December 24 in Honolulu, HI): Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MWC)
Boca (December 23 in Boca Raton, FL): Middle Tennessee (C-USA) vs. Western Michigan (MAC)
Poinsettia (December 23 in San Diego, CA): San Diego State (MWC) vs. Navy (Navy)
Miami Beach (December 22 in Miami, FL): Cincinnati (American) vs. BYU# (BYU)
Camellia (December 20 in Montgomery, AL): Toledo (MAC) vs. South Alabama (Sun Belt)
Las Vegas (December 20 in Las Vegas, NV): Colorado State (MWC) vs. Washington (Pac-12)
New Mexico (December 20 in Albuquerque, NM): UTEP (C-USA) vs. Fresno State (MWC)
New Orleans (December 20 in New Orleans, LA): Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt) vs. Air Force (MWC)
Potato (December 20 in Boise, ID): Bowling Green (MAC) vs. Nevada (MWC)
· Staying with Baylor in the four spot despite the static nature of the rankings Tuesday night. Again, this is so close, but Ohio State’s loss might end up not qualifying for a bowl (Virginia Tech needs to beat Virginia to get to six wins after losing a 6-3 double overtime debacle to Wake Forest) and as mentioned above Mississippi State’s résumé could be lacking a notable win come December. The Bears will likely get a championship weekend game against a top 12 Kansas State team and they’ll have the best win of any of the other competitors (vs. TCU) for the final spot. Razor thin here, but still rolling with Art Briles’ group despite the woeful non-conference schedule.
· Marshall’s struggles at UAB (they trailed in the fourth) open the door for Boise to take the Group of Five spot, slipping ahead of the Herd by one position. We’ll put the Broncos out west in the Fiesta, where they’re undefeated in two trips.
· Managed to get Florida vs. Miami (FL) in the Independence and Texas vs. Texas A&M in the Texas. I feel like both bowls would enjoy those match-ups. I also think Penn State vs. Boston College at Yankee Stadium would be a sure sellout (although perhaps not a particularly pretty game).
· If UCLA falters against Stanford or doesn’t impress against Oregon, it's very possible the winner of Arizona State/Arizona slides into the Fiesta Bowl. The committee has loved UCLA all season (currently the top two-loss team), so the Territorial Cup champ is going to need some help. (If this was the old system and the Fiesta Bowl had complete control, I feel like the ASU/Zona winner would be a lock due to local ticket sales.)
· Swapping Clemson into the Orange Bowl for Georgia Tech, assuming the favorites win in South Carolina/Clemson, GT/Georgia and GT/FSU. That would put the Tigers at 9-3 and Georgia Tech at 9-4 on a two-game losing streak that would likely put Clemson (currently 21st) over Tech (16th) in the final committee rankings. If the committee treats championship game losses kindly, the Yellow Jackets could still be looking at a trip to the Orange. This is a coin flip that assumes Dabo Swinney will get a win versus Steve Spurrier, which is about as dicey and dangerous a proposition as you can find.
· Still not sure what to do with the middle of the SEC. Order Auburn, A&M, and LSU however you please. Arkansas is also an intriguing option, as they’ll have a very happy, very motivated fanbase willing to travel after a few seasons in the desert. I think Razorback and Mountaineer fans would have a blast together in Memphis.
· Also, the Conference USA selection process is “No set order after the champion picks where they want to do.” They have a bunch of great locations in new bowls to choose from, but there’s no real way to know what order they’ll use. I’m saying the Herd will choose to enjoy the inaugural Bahamas Bowl, but it could go a variety of different ways.
· Only two bowls have open slots due to a conference being unable to fill their obligations, both of them courtesy of the Big Twelve. California ends up in the Armed Forces against an American opponent (Houston here) and the spot across from Stanford in the Cactus goes to Western Kentucky in this iteration, although it could go to one of a few squads we couldn’t find a place for (UAB, Temple, Akron, Ohio, Texas State and potentially a few others if there is an upset or two).
Games with bowl implications this weekend:
Pittsburgh at Miami: The Panthers took care of Syracuse last weekend to creep within a game of the postseason, but they’ll have to win at the Canes for the first time since 1963 and for the first time anywhere since 1997.
Oregon at Oregon State: The Beavers will need a Civil War upset for win number six, which would also maybe have just a slight impact on the national title race. Oregon State led in the final minute last season at Autzen, losing 36-35 after a late Josh Huff touchdown reception.
Virginia at Virginia Tech: The Commonwealth Cup got a whole lot more interesting after the Cavaliers beat Miami to get to five wins and the Hokies fell at Wake Forest to fall to 5-6. Winner goes to a bowl (probably the Quick Lane). Loser goes home for the season.
Kentucky at Louisville: Big Blue will need to pull off a big upset at Papa John’s Stadium to get to bowl eligibility. Louisville has won three straight Governor’s Cups.
Michigan at Ohio State: All the Wolverines had to do was beat Maryland on Senior Day to clinch a trip to a bowl. A rivalry game on the road against a Buckeyes team looking to impress the committee … good luck.
Illinois at Northwestern: The battle to see who is officially Chicago’s Big Ten team carries the same stipulation as Virginia/Virginia Tech: winner is going to a bowl and the loser is done for the season. Very likely the winner of this game is also headed to Detroit for the Quick Lane.
Tennessee at Vanderbilt: Butch Jones can get the Vols back to a bowl with a win over the Commodores, 3-8 and winless in seven conference games.
BYU at California: After dropping last week’s game to rival Stanford, the Golden Bears need to take care of the Cougars to get to the postseason, an almost miraculous turnaround after last season’s results.
Akron at Kent State: The Zips can get their sixth win with a victory against the Golden Flashes, who are 1-9 on the season and winless in MAC play.
Hawaii at Fresno State: The Bulldogs need a win to clinch postseason eligibility, while this result could also affect the Mountain West’s West division.
UAB at Southern Miss: The Blazers were so close to getting win six last week against Marshall, but they have a good shot here against the 3-8 Golden Eagles.
Navy at South Alabama: The Midshipmen have two cracks at eligibility, with this game in Mobile and then the Army tilt in mid-December.
Cincinnati at Temple: The Owls have two cracks at win number six, with the easier opportunity likely coming next weekend at 3-8 Tulane.