One more weekend to go, and we can agree that:
1) Alabama, Oregon and Florida State are all in with wins.
And that’s it! There was a ton of movement with the J.T. Barrett injury, Mississippi State’s loss and TCU jumping up to third in the latest rankings, so let’s go below where I will attempt to explain how Ohio State or Wisconsin could end up in the Outback Bowl. 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 TCU
Cotton (January 1 in Arlington, TX): Baylor (at-large) vs. Ohio State (at-large)
Fiesta (December 31 in Glendale, AZ): Arizona (at-large) vs. Boise State (Group of 5 rep)
Orange (December 31 in Miami, FL): Georgia Tech (ACC) vs. Michigan State (highest ranked SEC/Big Ten non-champion)
Peach (December 31 in Atlanta, GA): Mississippi State (at-large) vs. Wisconsin (at-large/Big Ten champ)
· Flipping TCU in for Baylor since the Frogs shot all the way up to the third spot. The Bears hired a public relations firm Monday to help make their case, which seems like a prescient move from the folks in Waco considering the gap between the two Big 12 foes. The Bears' head-to-head win over TCU is great, yes, but it was by three at home, an essential tie if you use the Vegas bonus of being a home team. Factor in Baylor’s atrocious non-conference schedule (one that won’t be changing any time in the near future, for whatever that’s worth), the Big XII’s refusal to take sides and the fact TCU pounded the 8-4 Golden Gophers and it’s enough to keep TCU a nose ahead no matter what happens with Baylor versus Kansas State. And remember, the committee said they’d only look at head-to-head when everything else had been exhausted. This is close, but making the switch.
· I do think Florida State slides ahead of TCU to the third spot if they beat Georgia Tech, and that’s reflected above.
· Wisconsin is a slight betting favorite to beat Ohio State following J.T. Barrett’s season-ending injury, so for the purposes of this exercise we assume the Badgers are Big Ten champs. If the Buckeyes are blown out, I think it's possible they slide all the way past Ole Miss and lose their spot in the New Years Six set. Remember how important injuries have been to the committee - heck, Oregon's loss has practically been voided due to the offensive line issues that have since healed - and imagine how they would value an Ohio State team without its biggest weapon at quarterback. Ohio State will almost definitely fall behind Sparty with a loss despite the head-to-head win. Bottom line: If Wisconsin wins by a slim margin, the Big Ten gets three teams in. If Wisconsin wins by a large margin or Ohio State wins, Ole Miss takes the last New Years Six spot.
· Arizona is in over UCLA and Georgia Tech takes their spot back from Clemson. Sorry for doubting you, Jackets. Sorry for believing in you, Bruins. Georgia is also out in the cold following their loss to Tech, tumbling into the SEC quagmire.
· Michigan State is a lock to the Orange as the highest ranked team from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame. Keep Arizona in the Fiesta, Baylor in Texas and switch Ohio State and Wisconsin as you feel fit. Should Alabama lose to Missouri, they will likely end up in Miami versus an ACC team.
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): Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12)
Armed Forces (January 2 in Fort Worth, TX): Houston (American) vs. Florida* (no Big 12 rep)
Cactus (January 2 in Tempe, AZ): Utah State (MWC fills in for Big 12) vs. Stanford (Pac-12)
TaxSlayer [Gator] (January 2 in Jacksonville, FL): Minnesota (ACC/Big Ten) vs. Auburn (SEC)
Citrus (January 1 in Orlando, FL): Clemson (ACC/Big Ten - explanation below) vs. Ole Miss (SEC)
Outback (January 1 in Tampa, FL): Maryland (Big Ten) vs. Missouri (SEC)
Belk (December 30 in Charlotte, NC): Notre Dame (ACC) vs. Georgia (SEC)
Music City (December 30 in Nashville, TN): Duke (ACC/Big Ten) vs. LSU (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. Tennessee (SEC)
Russell Athletic (December 29 in Orlando, FL): Louisville (ACC) vs. Kansas State (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. UCLA (Pac-12)
Independence (December 27 in Shreveport, LA): Miami (FL) (ACC) vs. Arkansas (SEC)
Military (December 27 in Annapolis, MD): Cincinnati (American) vs. Pitt (ACC)
Pinstripe (December 27 in New York, NY): Boston College (ACC) vs. Penn State (Big Ten)
Sun (December 27 in El Paso, TX): NC State (ACC) vs. Utah (Pac-12)
BitCoin (December 26 in St. Petersburg, FL): Central Florida (American) vs. North Carolina (ACC)
Quick Lane (December 26 in Detroit, MI): Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Illinois (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. Toledo (MAC)
Hawaii (December 24 in Honolulu, HI): Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MWC)
Boca (December 23 in Boca Raton, FL): Western Kentucky (C-USA) vs. Central Michigan (MAC)
Poinsettia (December 23 in San Diego, CA): San Diego State (MWC) vs. Navy# (Navy)
Miami Beach (December 22 in Miami, FL): East Carolina (American) vs. BYU# (BYU)
Camellia (December 20 in Montgomery, AL): Western Michigan (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. Middle Tennessee* (no MWC rep)
Potato (December 20 in Boise, ID): Bowling Green (MAC) vs. Nevada (MWC)
· Getting to bowl eligibility are Pitt, Virginia Tech and Illinois, and gone 'til next postseason are projected qualifiers Virginia, Northwestern, California and Akron. Oklahoma State and Temple can still qualify with wins this weekend.
· As Stewart Mandel reported over the weekend, the conferences are considering all the games in a certain pool as equals. So while you wouldn’t traditionally consider the Texas or Belk on the same level as the Outback, that is the new reality the commissioners are planning on implementing.
· If a Big Ten team plays in the Orange Bowl then a Big Ten team cannot play in the Citrus and their spot would cede to the ACC. This is all a complete mess, yes, I know. What does that mean? Well, if Ohio State does get blown out or Wisconsin loses, they'll be tumbling all the way to the Outback Bowl and moving Big Ten teams down a rung.
· Geographic fits that change the order a bit: Tennessee to Liberty, Texas and Texas A&M to Texas, Houston to Armed Forces, Rice to Heart of Dallas, San Diego State to Poinsettia, Central Florida to BitCoin, South Alabama to Camellia.
· Notre Dame’s destination will likely be decided by a random draw.
· Right now I’m left without a place for Texas State, Ohio or hypothetically qualifying Temple. Oklahoma State upsetting Oklahoma would clinch a berth for the Cowboys and take away a bid from someone else. UAB isn’t projected to play because they are shutting down their football program, but they may vote to participate in a bowl game.
· It’s tough to figure out where some of the teams will be landing with the new power given to conferences to have more direct control over where their teams go. And if you think this is fun, wait for the next few years when teams won’t be able to play in repeat bowls due to contractual obligations.