Bowl projections in the College Football Playoff era have become more of an art than a science. There is no more selection order or priority for the top bowls. Instead, the committee tries to select the best matchups for fans and viewers for the New Year’s Six bowls.

As we get to the lower bowls, most conferences no longer have bowls select teams. Instead, the conferences pool groups of bowls together and select which teams go to those bowls. These teams can be chosen for any reason — the conference can decide based on geography, local fan interest, expected TV viewership, or even the likelihood of its team winning the game. Predicting who goes where in the bowl pool era is near-impossible. As we get closer, though, we’ll be able to make predictions based off rumors about selections.

Lastly, the ESPN-owned bowls can all trade teams with each other. This can be for any reason. The bowls can want a certain matchup because of local interest, or ESPN can want a certain matchup to showcase certain teams or players. There really is no way to predict these until they actually happen.

How This Works

Generally, there are two types of bowl projections. The first is to predict every game for the rest of the season, and base the bowl teams off that. The second is to place the teams based on where they stand. Each method has its drawbacks, though. The first involves a lot of uncertainty, while the second involves assuming things that will no longer be true at the end of the year.

I am basing the bowl positions on where teams are now, but I am making certain projections. The only games I’m predicting are those that I am forced to — namely, games that involve teams getting to the six-win threshold and conference championship games.

In general, I am only assuming that the favorite will win each game. In the cases of the Big Ten and the ACC, even though early lines are placing Ohio State and Clemson as the favorites, I am making these projections based on whether Wisconsin and Miami win. Undefeated teams have earned the benefit of the doubt at this point, and they will be slotted into the Playoff until they lose.

College Football Playoff Projections

Rose Bowl Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 5:00 PM Miami (Fl) vs Wisconsin
Sugar Bowl Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 8:45 PM Alabama vs. Oklahoma

Since I am projecting games here, I think an undefeated Wisconsin team will jump Oklahoma in the final rankings. Alabama will stay at the top seed, and therefore will be given the better geographical placement in the Sugar Bowl.

New Year’s Six Bowl Projections

Fiesta Bowl Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 4:00 PM USC vs Penn St.
Orange Bowl Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 8:00 PM Clemson vs Auburn
Peach Bowl Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 12:30 PM UCF vs Georgia
Cotton Bowl Fri, Dec 29, 2017, 8:30 PM Ohio State vs Notre Dame

There are a lot of ways these projections can go, but the teams are pretty set. The Orange Bowl gets the ACC champion (or, this year, an ACC replacement team) against the highest-ranked Big Ten or SEC team, which right now is Auburn.

I think the committee will give us another Ohio State vs Notre Dame game, which is always a ratings and fan bonanza. We got this same matchup in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago, so the committee will move it to the Cotton Bowl this time. It also helps that neither traditional power has played in the Cotton Bowl Classic since 1994.

Assuming USC wins the Pac-12, the committee has a tremendous opportunity to set up a rematch of the best (or maybe second-best, after the National Championship Game) bowl game from last year. The committee will take advantage of that and give us a blockbuster Fiesta Bowl.

UCF is getting the Group of 5 bid right now, and they will be slotted against the highest-ranked remaining team.

Other Bowl Projections

Unlike the past two years, we should actually reach the full complement of bowl teams this year. There are 39 FBS bowl games (not including the National Championship Game), which means that we need 78 bowl-eligible teams. There are currently 70 teams at six wins, and we are guaranteed at least 74, as this week features four games between 5-6 teams.

It will be close, but I think that four more teams (Temple, Florida State, Louisiana Tech, and Louisiana-Lafayette) will make it to six wins by the end of the season. I also think that New Mexico State has a solid chance of making it but even if the Aggies do, they will be behind those other four and might be left home from a bowl game anyway.

New Orleans Bowl Sat, Dec 16, 2017, 1:00 PM Western Kentucky vs Troy
Cure Bowl Sat, Dec 16, 2017, 2:30 PM Arkansas State vs UTSA
Las Vegas Bowl Sat, Dec 16, 2017, 3:30 PM Boise State vs Arizona State
New Mexico Bowl Sat, Dec 16, 2017, 4:30 PM North Texas vs Wyoming
Camellia Bowl Sat, Dec 16, 2017, 8:00 PM Georgia State vs Ohio
Boca Raton Bowl Tue, Dec 19, 2017, 7:00 PM Temple vs FIU
Frisco Bowl Wed, Dec 20, 2017, 8:00 PM SMU vs Akron
Gasparilla Bowl Thu, Dec 21, 2017, 8:00 PM Houston vs UAB
Bahamas Bowl Fri, Dec 22, 2017, 12:30 PM FAU vs Northern Illinois
Idaho Potato Bowl Fri, Dec 22, 2017, 4:00 PM Western Michigan vs Colorado State
Birmingham Bowl Sat, Dec 23, 2017, 12:00 PM Memphis vs Utah
Armed Forces Bowl Sat, Dec 23, 2017, 3:30 PM Army vs MTSU
Dollar General Bowl Sat, Dec 23, 2017, 7:00 PM Appalachian State vs Toledo
Hawaii Bowl Sun, Dec 24, 2017, 8:30 PM South Florida vs San Diego State
Heart of Dallas Bowl Tue, Dec 26, 2017, 1:30 PM Kansas State vs Southern Miss
Quick Lane Bowl Tue, Dec 26, 2017, 5:15 PM Central Michigan vs Louisiana Tech
Cactus Bowl Tue, Dec 26, 2017, 9:00 PM West Virginia vs Oregon
Independence Bowl Wed, Dec 27, 2017, 1:30 PM Virginia vs Marshall
Pinstripe Bowl Wed, Dec 27, 2017, 5:15 PM Florida State vs Purdue
Foster Farms Bowl Wed, Dec 27, 2017, 8:30 PM Fresno State vs Stanford
Texas Bowl Wed, Dec 27, 2017, 9:00 PM Texas vs LSU
Military Bowl Thu, Dec 28, 2017, 1:30 PM Navy vs Boston College
Camping World Bowl Thu, Dec 28, 2017, 5:15 PM Virginia Tech vs Oklahoma State
Alamo Bowl Thu, Dec 28, 2017, 9:00 PM TCU vs Washington State
Holiday Bowl Thu, Dec 28, 2017, 9:00 PM Northwestern vs Washington
Belk Bowl Fri, Dec 29, 2017, 1:00 PM Wake Forest vs Missouri
Sun Bowl Fri, Dec 29, 2017, 3:00 PM Louisville vs Arizona
Music City Bowl Fri, Dec 29, 2017, 4:30 PM Iowa vs Texas A&M
Arizona Bowl Fri, Dec 29, 2017, 5:30 PM UNLV vs Louisiana-Lafayette
Citrus Bowl Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 1:00 PM Michigan State vs Mississippi State
Tax Slayer Bowl Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 12:00 PM N.C. State vs Kentucky
Liberty Bowl Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 12:30 PM Iowa State vs California
Outback Bowl Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 12:00 PM Michigan vs South Carolina

About Yesh Ginsburg

Yesh has been a fan and student of college football since before he can remember. He spent years mastering the intricacies of the BCS and now keeps an eye on the national picture as teams jockey for College Football Playoff positioning.