Doing bowl projections, even with only one week remaining in the season, can lead to a few problems.
First of all, there is always an unfortunate need to prognosticate games. I’m not supposed to be here to guess who will win every game this coming week and assign bowl destinations accordingly. I’m here to tell you what the most likely bowl destinations are for all of the relevant teams. To that end, I always like to do my bowl projections “as teams stand now.” The season will change and teams will win or lose games unexpectedly. The best I can do is to tell where every team will end up if the status quo is kept.
Unfortunately, this leads to inaccuracies.
For example, right now Colorado is the No. 2-ranked team in the Pac 12. If I have Washington in the Playoff, then logic would dictate that Colorado gets the Rose Bowl slot. However, if Colorado loses to Washington, it becomes very likely that that USC, which beat Colorado earlier this year, would jump Colorado and end up in the Rose Bowl. Therefore, slotting Colorado into the Rose Bowl would be inaccurate (unless I am willing to predict that Colorado upsets Washington). So, even though I would like to make every prediction “as things stand now,” doing so would end up not being honest.
To counter this, I will tell you what assumptions I am forced to make and what the outcome will likely be if the games go the other way.
Another issue is the pool system some conferences now use.
Bowl committees no longer have a say in every bowl game. For example, the SEC can send any one of six teams to its six “pool” bowl games. That makes figuring out where teams will be sent much more difficult, especially as we really have no idea what will motivate conferences most. It could be anything from creating the better matchup for TV ratings, better proximity for fans, or even the matchup the selecting conference is most likely to win. Some matchups are easier to see coming than others, but sometimes it’s just impossible to tell.
Therefore, aside from making an official projection in the table, I will also point out which teams will be selected for each pool. That way, even if it is impossible to figure out exactly which individual bowl each team will go to, the other options will be much more limited.
College Football Playoff
|Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl||Atlanta, GA||12/31/2016 3 PM or 7 PM||Alabama vs Washington|
|PlayStation Fiesta Bowl||Glendale, AZ||12/31/2016 3 PM or 7 PM||Ohio State vs Clemson|
I’m assuming that Alabama, Washington, and Clemson all win this week. Whoever wins the Big Ten Championship doesn’t matter. Ohio State is clearly the best team in the conference and one of the two best in the country, and the Buckeyes will get the No. 2 ranking in the final rankings. If Clemson or Washington loses, then the Big Ten champion will most likely move in as the next Playoff team. (Michigan’s argument, that it had beaten both Penn State and Wisconsin, would be fascinating, but I can’t get into too long of a discussion here.)
New Year’s Six Bowls
|Goodyear Cotton Bowl||Arlington, TX||1/2/17 1 PM||Western Michigan vs Penn State|
|Capital One Orange Bowl||Miami, FL||12/30/16 8 PM||Louisville vs Michigan|
|Rose Bowl Game||Pasadena, CA||1/2/17 5 PM||Wisconsin vs USC|
|Allstate Sugar Bowl||New Orleans, LA||1/1/16 8:30 PM||Oklahoma vs Florida|
There is actually only one at-large bid this year, which will end up facing the best Group of 5 team in the Cotton Bowl. The Rose Bowl is the Big Ten against the Pac 12. Since I’m assuming that Washington beats Colorado and make the Playoff, the Buffalos will fall below USC for the Rose Bowl spot. If Penn State wins the Big Ten Championship Game, then the Nittany Lions will be in the Rose Bowl. And, if the Big Ten gets two teams in the Playoff, then Michigan will end up in the Rose Bowl, moving the Big Ten Championship Game loser to the Orange Bowl.
The committee has to choose between Louisville and Florida State for the Orange Bowl. Florida State probably has the better resume, but Louisville still has that 43-point head-to-head win, so I’ll side with Louisville getting the spot for now. If Virginia Tech wins the ACC Championship Game, then the Hokies will earn an auto-bid to the Orange Bowl and neither Florida State nor Louisville will play in a New Years’ Six Bowl. Clemson would play in the Cotton Bowl in that case.
The Sugar Bowl will take the Big 12 champion (unless it miraculously makes the Playoff) against the second-highest-ranked SEC team. I’m assuming that Oklahoma wins Bedlam, but if Oklahoma State wins that game then the Cowboys will be in the Sugar Bowl (again, assuming they don’t miraculously make the Playoff). Unless Florida gets blown out badly, I think the Gators will barely stay ahead of Auburn, LSU, and Tennessee. The Sugar Bowl berth really could go to any of those teams, though. If Florida wins the SEC Championship Game, then the Gators will automatically go to the Sugar Bowl, and Alabama will probably stay in the Playoff.
Right now, I’m assuming that a two-loss Navy won’t jump undefeated Western Michigan for the Cotton Bowl, but Navy played a singificantly harder schedule, so it’s possible the committee rewards the Midshipmen. Also, with the current other assumptions I’m going with here, Penn State will be the best remaining team and get a Cotton bowl berth. But if either Washington or Clemson is upset this week, that team will go to the Cotton Bowl.
All Other Bowl Games
|Bowl||City||Date & Time (EST)||Teams|
|Gildan New Mexico Bowl||Albuquerque, NM||12/17/16 2 PM||Middle Tennessee vs Air Force|
|Las Vegas Bowl||Las Vegas, NV||12/17/16 3:30 PM||San Diego State vs Louisiana-Lafayette*|
|Raycom Media Camellia Bowl||Montgomery, AL||12/17/16 5:30 PM||Toledo vs Troy|
|AutoNation Cure Bowl||Orlando, FL||12/17/16 5:30 PM||South Alabama vs Miami (Oh)*|
|R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl||New Orleans, LA||12/17/16 9 PM||Southern Mississippi vs Arkansas State|
|Miami Beach Bowl||Miami, FL||12/19/16 2:30 PM||Tulsa vs Central Michigan|
|Boca Raton Bowl||Boca Raton, FL||12/20/16 7 PM||Central Florida vs Old Dominion|
|San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl||San Diego, CA||12/21/16 9 PM||BYU vs New Mexico|
|Famous Idaho Potato Bowl||Boise, ID||12/22/16 7 PM||Eastern Michigan vs Colorado State|
|Popeyes Bahamas Bowl||Nassau, Bahamas||12/23/16 1 PM||Western Kentucky vs Houston|
|Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl||Fort Worth, TX||12/23/16 4:30 PM||Navy vs Mississippi State*|
|Dollar General Bowl||Mobile, AL||12/23/16 8 PM||Ohio vs Appalachian State|
|Hawai’i Bowl||Honolulu, HI||12/24/16 9 PM||Louisiana Tech vs Hawaii|
|St. Petersburg Bowl||St. Petersburg, FL||12/26/16 11 AM||South Florida vs North Texas|
|Quick Lane Bowl||Detroit, MI||12/26/16 2:30 PM||Boston College vs Indiana|
|Camping World Independence Bowl||Shreveport, LA||12/26/16 5 PM||N.C. State vs Vanderbilt|
|Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl||Dallas, TX||12/27/16 12 PM||UTSA vs Army*|
|Military Bowl||Annapolis, MD||12/27/16 3:30 PM||Temple vs Wake Forest|
|Holiday Bowl||San Diego, CA||12/27/16 7 PM||Iowa vs Washington State|
|Motel 6 Cactus Bowl||Phoenix, AZ||12/27/16 10:15 PM||Baylor vs Boise State|
|New Era Pinstripe Bowl||New York, NY||12/28/16 2 PM||Georgia Tech vs Maryland|
|Russell Athletic Bowl||Orlando, FL||12/28/16 5:30 PM||West Virginia vs Virginia Tech|
|Foster Farms Bowl||Santa Clara, CA||12/28/16 8:30 PM||Northwestern vs Stanford|
|Advocare V100 Texas Bowl||Houston, TX||12/28/16 9 PM||Kansas State vs Georgia|
|Birmingham Bowl||Birmingham, AL||12/29/16 2 PM||Memphis vs South Carolina|
|Belk Bowl||Charlotte, NC||12/29/16 5:30 PM||North Carolina vs LSU|
|Valero Alamo Bowl||San Antonio, TX||12/29/16 9 PM||Oklahoma State vs Colorado|
|Autozone Liberty Bowl||Memphis, TN||12/30/16 12 PM||TCU vs Kentucky|
|Hyundai Sun Bowl||El Paso, TX||12/30/16 2 PM||Pittsburgh vs Utah|
|Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl||Nashville, TN||12/30/16 3:30 PM||Minnesota vs Arkansas|
|Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl||Tucson, AZ||12/30/16 5:30 PM||Wyoming vs Idaho|
|Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl||Orlando, FL||12/31/16 11 AM||Auburn vs Florida State|
|TaxSlayer Bowl||Jacksonville, FL||12/31/16 11 AM||Miami (Fl) vs Texas A&M|
|Outback Bowl||Tampa, FL||1/2/17 12 PM||Nebraska vs Tennessee|
There are currently 74 bowl-eligible teams. Army is 6-5 but has two wins over FCS teams. Hawaii is 6-7. If we had 80 bowl-eligible teams, neither of those two would go bowling. However, since we will not reach 80, both of those get bids ahead of 5-7 teams. Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama are each 5-6 and can become bowl-eligible with a win this week. If they each win, that would bring us to 78 teams. At least two teams, North Texas and Mississippi State, will get bowl bids due to APR scores. If one of ULL and South Alabama lose, then Texas will get a bowl bid. If both lose, the final APR slot will go to Northern Illinois.
The bowl placement was relatively straightforward, but as always there’s no great way to gauge or guess replacement teams. I figured that the Armed Forces Bowl would do the best it could to get a P5 opponent for a ranked Navy squad, which meant Mississippi State. And because of the lack of eligible Pac 12 teams, I think it’s possible that the Mountain West would try to push down Boise State’s bowl selection to earn the Broncos a P5 opponent in the Cactus Bowl.
Because a lot of this is guesswork, I’m going to offer up a quick explanation of how each conference’s bowl games are distributed.
Some conferences, like the Mountain West and Conference USA, don’t have any real selection order. They just work with their bowl partners at putting together the best matchups, taking into account such considerations as geography, television ratings potential, and potential ticket sales, among others. Other conferences, though, have a more streamlined process.
Therefore, the following is a list of all the bowl pools and which teams I think will fill those pools. Even if it is far more art than science predicting where each team will go within each pool, at least the options for shifting within each pool are limited.
American Athletic Conference
Bowls: Birmingham Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl, Miami Beach Bowl, Military Bowl
Teams: Temple, South Florida, Memphis, Tulsa
Atlantic Coast Conference
Tier I Bowls: TaxSlayer Bowl, Belk Bowl, Sun Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl
Teams: Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami (Fl)
Tier II Bowls: Military Bowl, Independence Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl
N.C. State, Boston College, Wake Forest, (no fourth eligible team, so the ACC will be replaced in the St. Petersburg Bowl)
The Big Ten system is unique. Basically, the bowl picks a team that they want and asks the conference for that team. The Big Ten can then either agree or send a different team. Also, every Big Ten bowl will have five different teams over six years (the Pinstripe’s goal is to get eight different teams in eight years), so our best criteria is that no one will repeat bowls from where they were the last two years.
Conference-USA has no bowl order whatsoever. The champion gets to pick its bowl game, and after that the conference assigns teams as it sees fit.
Bowls: Outback Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl, Music City Bowl, Texas Bowl, Belk Bowl, Liberty Bowl
Teams: LSU, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee