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 of 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 case of the Big Ten, even though early lines are placing Ohio State as the favorite, I am making these projections based on assuming that higher-ranked Wisconsin will win. The country’s only undefeated team has earned the benefit of the doubt at this point, and the Badgers will be slotted into the Playoff until they lose.

College Football Playoff Projections

Rose Bowl Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 5:00 PM
Oklahoma vs Auburn
Sugar Bowl Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 8:45 PM
Clemson vs Wisconsin

Again, I’m basically assuming chalk for the final weekend of the season. These are projections as things stand now. If Ohio State beats Wisconsin, it’s a toss-up whether the Buckeyes or Alabama will get in. If TCU upsets Oklahoma, there are compelling arguments in favor of Alabama, Ohio State, TCU, and Oklahoma — and, honestly, USC could be the avoiding-controversy choice. (Okay, so that last part wasn’t totally serious, though it would be an easy way out for the committee.)

As things stand, though, Clemson will get the top seed. I’m assuming Auburn jumps Wisconsin for the third seed, both to avoid a rematch of an early-season game and because Auburn has better wins, even with the two losses. Clemson gets geographical advantage, so that game gets the Sugar Bowl, while Oklahoma and Auburn will play out west in the Rose Bowl.

New Year’s Six Bowl Projections

Fiesta Bowl Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 4:00 PM
USC vs Penn State
Orange Bowl Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 8:00 PM
Miami (Fl) vs Alabama
Peach Bowl Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 12:30 PM Georgia vs Ohio State
Cotton Bowl Fri, Dec 29, 2017, 8:30 PM
Washington vs UCF

If chalk holds this week, five of these eight teams will have lost their final game of the season. However, all of those teams will stay in the New Year’s Six. Their resumes are all currently better than everyone right behind them, There’s no one to jump in and take one of the spots, with the possible exception of Washington jumping Notre Dame. I still think the Irish will stay ahead, as the Huskies only have one decent win.

(Tuesday night update: The committee clearly did not think that Notre Dame deserved to stay ahead of Washington. Since chalk holding this week assumes losses by TCU and Stanford, I am putting Washington in as the last at-large team.)

Miami gets into the Orange Bowl as a replacement for ACC champion Clemson. The Hurricanes will be placed against the highest-rated team from the SEC or Big Ten, which will be Alabama.

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.

The next-best available teams are Georgia and Ohio State, so the committee will face them off in the Peach Bowl, which creates better geographic options for all three of Ohio State, Georgia, and Washington.

UCF is getting the Group of 5 bid right now, and they will be slotted against the highest-ranked remaining team, which means Washington. There is a chance that the committee will want UCF fans to have the least travel, so they might make Washington vs UCF as the Peach Bowl, and Georgia vs Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl.

There is also a slight chance that Stanford remains ahead of Washington (especially if the loss to USC is close) due to head-to-head. If so, just flip where I have Washington and Stanford.

Other Bowl Projections

We are already past the threshold of 78 teams for bowl games. Additionally, three teams have chances to become bowl-eligible this coming week. Florida State will very likely earn a bowl bid, and New Mexico State is favored over South Alabama.

Eighty-one bowl teams means that three will be staying home. They will all likely come from Conference USA and the MAC, and right now I have Buffalo (MAC), Middle Tennessee (Conference USA), and UTSA (Conference USA) stuck sitting home this bowl season.

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

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.