I do not envy the selection committee. They got no help from the games this weekend, as TCU, Baylor and Ohio State all won, with the Buckeyes looking great without J.T. Barrett at quarterback. Projections and explanations below, with a bolded name and # signifying 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): Ole Miss (at-large) vs. Baylor (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 non-champ from Big Ten or SEC)
Peach (December 31 in Atlanta, GA): Ohio State (at-large) vs. Mississippi State (at-large)
· I’m sticking with TCU because the committee has been smitten with them all season and they put the appropriate level of beating on woeful Iowa State. Baylor did its job against Kansas State, but I have no idea if it’s enough to jump the Bears that far. It’s incredibly weird that the playoff might come down to playing the Minnesota Golden Gophers instead of the Buffalo Bulls, but here we are. (And remember, Jeff Long said the last thing they’d look at would be head-to-head.) I think Ohio State’s loss to Va Tech takes them out of the conversation, even with the impressive title game win and how hard ESPN is pushing them. Also, it’s usually wise to trust Nate Silver’s math, even if even he thinks it’s tight.
· However, here’s the other angle: The committee is going to give too much weight to this weekend because of recency bias. Combine how good Ohio State looked with how easy it would be to exclude the Big 12 and blame them for not having a conference title game and you can start to see how the Buckeyes are in at number four. I’m not going to pretend to know how this is going to work out, but don’t disregard the idea of a group of powerful humans taking the easy way out. That would be a huge benefit to Ohio State.
· Florida State is probably going to be third.
· Ole Miss takes the spot projected to go to Wisconsin.
· Staying with Alabama over Oregon as number one, but don’t be surprised if the Ducks jump. The important thing for both is that the Tide will be relatively close to home in New Orleans while Oregon stays out west in Pasadena.
· Michigan State is a lock for the Orange as the highest ranked non-champion from the Big Ten or SEC. Because of this, the Big Ten loses its spot in the Citrus Bowl. The biggest gift the committee could give the Big Ten would be to move Mississippi State ahead of Michigan State, but considering they were both idle and the Spartans were two spots ahead of the Bulldogs, that seems improbable.
· Arizona and Boise State seem like Fiesta Bowl locks due to geography.
· The Big 12 team that isn’t in the playoff (whether it’s TCU or Baylor) is a lock for the Cotton, meaning Ohio State would head to the Peach. Ole Miss and Mississippi State will be their opponents and could swap spots, but considering the Rebels started their season in Atlanta, we’ll project them to go to the Cotton and Mississippi State to the Peach. If Ohio State makes the playoff, we’ll have a pair of Texas vs. Mississippi games.
GoDaddy (January 4 in Mobile, AL): Northern Illinois (MAC) vs. Arkansas State# (Sun Belt)
Birmingham (January 3 in Birmingham, AL): Memphis (American) vs. Arkansas (SEC)
Alamo (January 2 in San Antonio, TX): Kansas State (Big 12) vs. UCLA (Pac-12)
Armed Forces (January 2 in Fort Worth, TX): Houston (American) vs. Western Kentucky* (C-USA alternate for Big 12)
Cactus (January 2 in Tempe, AZ): Oklahoma State (Big 12) vs. Washington (Pac-12)
TaxSlayer [Gator] (January 2 in Jacksonville, FL): Minnesota (ACC/Big Ten) vs. LSU (SEC)
Citrus (January 1 in Orlando, FL): Clemson (ACC over Big Ten) vs. Missouri (SEC)
Outback (January 1 in Tampa, FL): Wisconsin (Big Ten) vs. Auburn (SEC)
Belk (December 30 in Charlotte, NC): NC State (ACC) vs. South Carolina (SEC)
Music City (December 30 in Nashville, TN): Notre Dame (ACC or Big Ten) vs. Georgia (SEC)
Foster Farms (December 30 in Santa Clara, CA): Iowa (Big Ten) vs. Stanford (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. 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. USC (Pac-12)
Independence (December 27 in Shreveport, LA): Miami (FL) (ACC) vs. Florida (SEC/C-USA)
Military (December 27 in Annapolis, MD): Cincinnati (American) vs. Virginia Tech (Navy)
Pinstripe (December 27 in New York, NY): Duke (ACC) vs. Penn State (Big Ten)
Sun (December 27 in El Paso, TX): Boston College (ACC) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12)
BitCoin (December 26 in St. Petersburg, FL): Central Florida (American) vs. North Carolina (ACC/C-USA)
Quick Lane (December 26 in Detroit, MI): Pittsburgh (ACC/MAC) vs. Maryland (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. Utah State (MWC)
Boca (December 23 in Boca Raton, FL): Middle Tennessee (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 Utah (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)
· Oklahoma State is a surprising entrant to the conversation with their Bedlam upset in Norman, heading to the Cactus and bumping someone else out.
· Wisconsin’s loss was very bad news for the Big Ten, as it leaves the conference with more teams than bowl agreements. Illinois and Penn State are 6-6 but are coming off bowl droughts and have massive alumni bases. Maryland and Rutgers are 7-5 but are newcomers to the league. I’m projecting Illinois to be left out but the Quick Lane may elect to take the Illini due to their geographic advantage over the Terps, who could also end up in the Pinstripe.
· The only bowl with a spot open is the Armed Forces, and they have a secondary agreement with Conference USA. This means Western Kentucky (or whichever C-USA team is left out of their primary agreements) will rise above Texas State, Ohio, Temple and the leftover Big Ten team unless there is some wiggle room in the contract to allow a local team (Texas State) or Power Five team (Illinois?) to enter.
· Shuffling the Pac-12 because apparently the Foster Farms is all in on taking Stanford. The big loser here is Arizona State, who having recently played in the Holiday slips all the way down to the Sun. These things can happen when you end the season on a two-game losing streak.
· Boston College to the Pinstripe Bowl makes a lot of sense but there are reports the Blue Devils are a sure thing to head to Yankee Stadium.
· Pitt ends up going to Detroit for the second consecutive postseason. Sorry, Panthers, I just think the Military Bowl is going to go with relatively local Virginia Tech.