They’re late but they’re here.
First, let’s start with the “Not Enough Teams” watch. This time around, I’ve got 78 teams for 80 slots. I will say that I tried to be a bit more optimistic this time around, and well having more data always helps. I’m naturally not a very optimistic person, but if I had to guess, I think we’re going to make it.
I’ll do my first breakdown of the year.
I went with Clemson, Baylor, Alabama, and Ohio State in that order. I would say my jilted team in this case would the winner of the Notre Dame/Stanford game, assuming they win out otherwise. We’ve still got plenty of season to go, though. It’s entirely possible the Big 12’s round-robin schedule will eat its own children again, or Ohio State losing to Michigan State.
The last slot of the playoff controlled bowls was probably the toughest, though. I went back and modified my predictions so that I had Utah beating UCLA and wining the Pac-12 South, which allowed me to slot them into the Fiesta Bowl. The winner of the American is probably still on the fast-track to the Group of Five slot, though the question is if it’ll be Houston or Navy, I’d think. Otherwise, I don’t think my picks are controversial at this point.
I have North Carolina winning the Coastal, but I don’t think a two-loss UNC (one current loss plus a loss to Clemson in the ACC championship game) is going to get into a CFP-controlled bowl. Otherwise, the picks proceed apace. I have Virginia Tech edging into a bowl on the back of a Frank Beamer farewell tour, even if that means a return to the Military Bowl for a second straight year. Coach-less and 7-5 Miami get sent to Detroit.
With TCU’s loss to Oklahoma State, I have them taking a loss to Baylor. I’m not sure a two loss TCU makes it into the CFP-controlled bowls. I don’t think Oklahoma is going to fare well in their backloaded schedule, either. I have Texas, Texas Tech, and West Virginia finishing 6-6. Kansas State figures to just miss out.
Michigan State’s shock loss to Nebraska removes them from CFP-bowl contention, while not really doing much for Nebraska’s own bowl prospects, so that has to be a bummer for the Big Ten. In fact, I don’t have the Big Ten west faring well as a whole, with that sixth win likely eluding Illinois as well as Nebraska and Minnesota.
The Pac-12 is doing its part, especially with probably the best ever team to lose to a FCS team, Washington State, likely to finish 8-4 at this point. (Seriously, who saw that coming back in September?)
The SEC figures to be the only conference to get three teams into the CFP-controlled bowls, but the drop off does seem pretty stark after Alabama, LSU, and Florida. The best of the bunch seems to be a 9-3 Georgia. (Yeah.) But hey, I did manage to set up a Texas-Texas A&M matchup in the Texas Bowl. (Seriously, it’s just too perfect, which is probably why it won’t happen. But seriously, the Texas Bowl! Come on!)
Group of Five
As I said earlier, the winner of Houston-Navy figures to have the best shot at the Group of Five slot, followed by Temple probably. Undefeated Toledo may have had a shot, but that likely slipped away.