Okay, sorry they’re late, but I did the research for the first time this year and learned several important facts. Since these facts mostly affect the CFP and its related bowls, let’s start there.
First off, my playoff standings are pretty well in line right now. I’m predicting Michigan State will beat Iowa Saturday, in addition to Alabama and Clemson winning, so I have my top four as such:
- Clemson (Orange)
- Alabama (Cotton)
- Oklahoma (Cotton)
- Michigan State (Orange)
Three of these teams play Saturday with varying degrees of affecting the above scenario.
- If Iowa beats Michigan State, they’re in. This is the easiest.
- Clemson or Alabama losing really throws a spanner into the works. I don’t think anyone really considers North Carolina or Florida playoff material, but who then steps in? If only one loses, then the main beneficiary is probably Ohio State. If both loses, then it’s going to be the Buckeyes… and who, exactly? The only remaining 1-loss team is North Carolina. Would a Pac-12 champion Stanford get in over them, even with two losses? Could a 1-loss Clemson get in anyway? The mind reels.
It looks like right now the Big Ten will be a three-bid conference. I also originally had the Big 12 as getting three bids, but no one seems to agree with me, so I put Florida State in and shuffled things around (this is part of why it took so long).
I also found out that for four of the major conferences, the next highest team from that conference in the CFP Poll gets the conference’s designated bowl, if it has one that particular year. The exception is the Big 12, which sends its second place team, which means that as it stands (assuming they win Saturday) Baylor will be the Big 12’s second team.
I also found out that Florida State is pretty highly ranked, which came as a total surprise to me because a) I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the CFP Poll (since the only that matters will come out on Sunday) and b) they lost to us, so I assumed they wouldn’t be ranked very highly. But their only other loss to #1 Clemson, so I guess that’s working out for them.
As a result, I have the other CFP Bowls lined up as such:
- Peach: Iowa vs. Florida State
- Fiesta: Houston vs. Notre Dame
- Rose: Ohio State vs. Stanford
- Sugar: Baylor vs. Mississippi
Fun, right? So let’s talk about the major conferences real quick.
Even if they lose Saturday, I think North Carolina will still be the Russell Athletic Bowl’s most attractive option unless Florida State falls to them. From there, most of the wrangling involves figuring out which bowls will want Frank Beamer’s last game. I suspect the Military Bowl wants the Hokies back, but that they’ll get snatched by the Belk Bowl first. There’s also trying to figure out the TaxSlayer/Music City situation for this year, but I’m betting that they’ll swap this year, resulting in Miami going to the TaxSlayer.
The ACC has 8 affiliated bowl games outside of the CFP, and if they do indeed send two to the CFP, then they will be one team short.
The Big Ten is pretty straightforward, given all the restrictions placed on the bowl games over their contracts. (In other words, look for the games to avoid having the same team twice any time soon.) The Big Ten has eight affiliated non-CFP bowls, and by sending three teams to the CFP, they will be three teams short.
The only place where I broke rank for the Big 12 was putting Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl ahead of West Virginia, which if they can get a TTU-TAMU matchup will probably happen. The Big 12 will be two teams short this year.
Despite nine conference games supposedly being the death knell for bowl eligibility, the Pac-12 is the only major conference with a surplus of teams this year. Barring a calamity this Saturday, the Pac-12 will only be sending its champion to a CFP game, so they’re not getting a lot of relief there. However, all these teams will play in bowl games, the problem is figuring out where, and unfortunately my research was not very helpful on this front. Currently, I have California, Washington, and Arizona as my extra teams. Those will probably remain guesses until Sunday.
Without a quarterback, Florida looks dead in the water, but hey, stranger things have happened. (Probably.) Barring a Gator victory, though, the SEC is going to be a two-bid league this year, with Alabama and Mississippi likely getting the honors.
Outside of that, the SEC is still a mess. What does one do with the damaged goods Gators, for instance? I still have them in the Citrus Bowl (the SEC’s top non-CFP spot), but the Citrus could also take Georgia or LSU. Of course, how do to the coaching changes (or lack thereof) affect those two schools’ standing? Based on my research, the TaxSlayer will probably take Georgia or LSU, but the Outback would prefer Georgia or Tennessee. The Vols could end up in the Belk, Music City, Liberty, or Outback. I have them in the Music City, but that could change Saturday night. We’ll see.
It should have been banner year for the Group of Five, who, for the first time I can, recall, will get all their eligible teams into bowl games. Since a lot of these will be at-large bids, that’s additional revenue for these conferences and schools, so it’s a boon for them. Of course, the MAC is the only conference that’s really taking advantage, with two extra teams (though the Mountain West also has an extra team). A major contributer to the lack-of-eligible-teams crisis is Conference USA, which has seven bowl games lined up, but only five eligible teams.
Indeed, let’s talk about that lack of teams. Currently, I have 75 eligible teams, leaving me five short. I suspect that’s where I’ll end up, but here’s the other teams that could get eligible Saturday:
- Kansas State, if they defeat West Virginia
- Georgia State, if they defeat Georgia Southern
- South Alabama, if they defeat Appalachian State
So that means we’ll need somewhere between two to five teams with losing records. Here are the teams next in line, in order, courtesy ESPN:
- Missouri (won’t accept)
- Kansas State
- San Jose State
Some of those are ties, but I listed them out in the order most likely to be selected. In general, it’s thought that these teams would still be bound to their conference’s bowl contracts, where applicable. In the most likely scenario (five teams needed), that likely means Nebraska to the Foster Farms, Kansas State to the Cactus (which would have a currently unknown knock-on effect in the Mountain West), Minnesota to the Quick Lane, and then San Jose State and Illinois to the remaining two bowls needing at-large teams (probably the Cure Bowl and the Heart of Dallas Bowl).