Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 4

I’m going to avoid any snarky remarks about being better at this than some notable professionals in the predictions business and cut right to the chase.

I’ve always liked ESPN’s Bubble Watch feature for the NCAA tournament, and in some ways, this is a similar exercise. So let’s go conference-by-conference and assess their chances. The full predictions, as usual, are here.

Win and they’re in the CFP:

  • Clemson (6-0 ACC, 9-0 overall): Clemson closes with Pitt, Wake Forest, and South Carolina. They would have to lose to both Pitt and Wake Forest to miss out on the ACC Championship Game, which would also deny them a chance at the playoff. If they win out, they’re in.

CFP bubble:

  • Louisville (6-1, 8-1): they close with Wake Forest, Houston, and a potential SEC East champion Kentucky. They figure to win all three, but Clemson has to lose twice for them to have any shot at the ACCCG and, therefore, the playoff. They do, however, figure to take the ACC’s spot in the Orange Bowl, so it’s not all bad.

Bowling: Florida State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, North Carolina

Work left to do:

  • Miami (2-3, 5-4): The Canes finally got out of their post-FSU funk by demolishing Pitt 51-28. They figure to win out against Virginia, NC State, and Duke.
  • Pittsburgh (2-3, 5-4): Pitt just needs to win one out of Clemson, Duke, and Syracuse, and, well, 7-5 looks pretty likely.
  • Georgia Tech (2-3, 5-4): we just need to win one of Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia. I’m not sure how good I feel about it, but I currently have us in.
  • Syracuse (2-3, 4-5): the Orange have to win two out of NC State, Florida State, and Pitt. I think they’ll be lucky to win one.
  • North Carolina State (1-4, 4-5): their loss to Boston College really hurt their chances a few weeks back. I like them against Syracuse, but they close with Miami and North Carolina.
  • Boston College (1-5, 4-5): I should probably rank BC higher, because they might have the best chances of the 4-5 teams. Yeah, they’ll lose to FSU, but then they get UConn and Wake Forest. That said, Wake is improved this year BC still has trouble generating offense. If they win in Winston-Salem, it’ll be an upset.
  • Duke (0-5, 3-6): not dead yet, but that figures to no longer be the case after a visit from the Tar Heels Saturday.

Big 12
CFP bubble:

  • Oklahoma (6-0, 7-2): figures to be the Big 12’s Sugar Bowl rep. Too many things have to happen in front of them to make it into the actual playoff.
  • Oklahoma State (5-1, 7-2): I’m currently projecting the Big 12 to only get one team into the CFP-controlled bowls. Provided neither lose before then, the Bedlam winner figures to make it into the Sugar Bowl.
  • West Virginia (4-1, 7-1): it’s a long shot for the Mountaineers to make it to a CFP-controlled bowl. If they beat Oklahoma in Morgantown, they would then need the Sooners to turn around and win Bedlam in order for them to win as Big 12 champs.

Bowling: Baylor

Work left to do:

  • Texas Christian (3-3, 5-4): I like the Horned Frogs the best out of the group we’re about to go over, but that mostly just means I like them to go 5-4 in-conference and not 4-5. But that’ll be enough.
  • Kansas State (3-3, 5-4): K-State figures to make it to 6-6 since they get to play Kansas. Anything beyond that is a reach.
  • Texas (3-3, 5-4): See above, but they do also play TCU at home.
  • Texas Tech (2-4, 4-5): the Red Raiders need two, and they’ll probably have to go through Iowa State and Baylor to do it. I think they can, but it’ll be a close thing.

Big Ten
Win and they’re in the CFP:

  • Michigan (6-0, 9-0): they’ll get two more warmups, but then they’ll have two tough games in quick succession. First, they’re going to Columbus this year. If they get past the Buckeyes, they’ll probably get to play Wisconsin again in the Big Ten Championship Game. They beat the Badgers 14-7 at home the first time around.
  • Ohio State (5-1, 8-1): if they beat Michigan, then they’ll also have the same Badger issue. Either way, the loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game is going to the Rose Bowl.

CFP bubble:

  • Pennsylvania State (5-1, 7-2): since the Nittany Lions don’t figure to lose again, I have them as slight favorites to get a 3rd spot for the Big Ten in one of the CFP-controlled bowls. 
  • Wisconsin (4-2, 7-2): of the three teams atop the West division, I like the Badgers the best to win out and clinch the division (since they beat the other two contenders). That said, it’s an open question how the Committee would treat a 10-3 BTNCG loser against a 10-2 Penn State. I mean, after all, that means all three of Wisconsin’s losses were to some combination of Michigan and Ohio State. It may depend on if and how they lose. Of course, the ultimate chaos scenario is if they win the BTNCG…
  • Nebraska (4-2, 7-2): to even be in this discussion, Nebraska needs Wisconsin to lose to one of Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota, and then for us to have selective amnesia about that time they lost 62-3 to Ohio State, and then for them to upset those selfsame Buckeyes or Michigan in the BTNCG. Yeah… 

Bowling: Minnesota

Work left the to do:

  • Iowa (3-3, 5-4): Iowa gets to play Illinois, which bodes well for them getting to 6 wins. Which is totally what they’re paying Kirk Ferentz some unholy sum of money for, right?
  • Indiana (3-3, 5-4): they Hoosiers only need to win one more, but it’s going to come down to the end, since they get to play Penn State and Michigan before finishing with Purdue.
  • Maryland (2-4, 5-4): that’s right, the Terps! They fails a similar predicament, though, with Ohio State and Nebraska lined up before Rutgers.
  • Northwestern (3-3, 4-5): by far the easiest schedule, but they need to win two of Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois.
  • Illinois (2-4, 3-6): at trip to Madison this weekend should end their hopes.
  • Purdue (1-5, 3-6): the Boilermakers would have to win out against Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Yeah, that’s not happening.

Win and they’re in the CFP:

  • Washington (6-0, 9-0): their bonafides will continue to improve with a visit from an improving USC team this weekend, but the real drama figures to be in Pullman. Sadly, I see that game has already been scheduled for 12:30 PM Pacific time. 

CFP bubble:

  • Colorado (5-1, 7-2): I don’t think they can make the playoff, per se, but the Pac-12 championship loser figures to make the Rose Bowl (or the winner if they’re not Washington, for that matter). 
  • Utah (4-2, 7-2): see above.
  • Washington State (6-0, 7-2): they can get to the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 champs, but that’s about it.

Bowling: Southern California, Stanford

Work left to do:

  • Arizona State (2-4, 5-4): if they can survive playing Utah and at Washington, they’ll be playing in Tuscon for a bowl bid.
  • California (2-4, 4-5): it’s not impossible for the Bears, but they need to win two out of Washington State, Stanford, and UCLA. Which, again, it’s not impossible, but it does feel unlikely.
  • Oregon (1-5, 3-6): the Ducks have to win out against an improving Stanford and then two straight road games against Utah and Oregon State. The odds of winning all three figure to slim.
  • California-Los Angeles (1-5, 3-6): they have to win out against Oregon State, Southern Cal, and Cal. This doesn’t bode well.

Win and they’re in the CFP:

  • Alabama (6-0, 9-0): considering the current state of the SEC East, the only game of any importance left on their schedule is the Iron Bowl. Considering the stakes, can we get it moved back to Legion Field one more time?
  • Auburn (6-1, 7-2): yeah, a two-loss SEC champ figures to crack the top four. Such is life.

CFP bubble:

  • Texas A&M (4-2, 7-2): remember, one of Auburn’s two losses is to TAMU, but by blowing it against Miss State they also likely blew any chance of being able to win the SEC. They’re still in a good spot to get a Sugar Bowl bid, though.

Bowling: Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas

Work left to do:

  • Louisiana State (3-2, 5-3): as it turns out, Alabama is pretty good! But the Tigers get to close out with a fading Arkansas team, and if that doesn’t get them to 6, well, they were originally going to play Presbyterian, which, is that really that different from an SEC East team at this point?
  • Kentucky (4-3, 5-4): the Wildcats have only one more conference game, and that’s at Tennessee. I’d say that’s a toss-up at this point, but either way, they’ll beat Austin Peay and then lose badly to Lamar Jackson and company. So their ceiling is pretty solidly set at 7 wins.
  • Georgia (3-4, 5-4): Georgia figure to be in good shape to get to 7-5, which is what they got Kirby Smart for, right?
  • South Carolina (3-4, 5-4): seriously, where does the tradition of SEC teams parking a FCS team the weekend before Thanksgiving come from? Either way, it’ll get the Gamecocks bowling.
  • Mississippi (1-4, 4-5): well, the Rebels are down a Chad Kelly against Texas A&M this weekend. That’s not good! But then they get to play Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
  • Vanderbilt (1-4, 4-5): Vandy closes with Mizzou, Mississippi, and Tennessee. I figure they’ll only win one of those, but thanks to their APR scores and general lack of enough teams that will be bowl eligible, I figure they’ll go bowling at 5-7.
  • Mississippi State (2-3, 4-5): the odds of Miss State also pulling off upsets against two of Alabama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss are pretty slim. But there’s a chance!

I’ll cover the Group of Five, but in brief.

Bowling: Temple, South Florida, Navy, Houston, Tulsa, Memphis

Work left to do: Central Florida (3-2, 5-4), Cincinnati (1-4, 4-5), Southern Methodist (2-3, 4-5), East Carolina (1-4, 3-6), Tulane (0-5, 3-6)

Conference USA
Bowling: Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee State, Louisiana Tech

Work left to do: Texas-San Antonio (4-2, 5-4), Southern Mississippi (3-2, 5-4), North Texas (2-3, 4-5), Charlotte (3-2, 4-5), Texas-El Paso (1-4, 3-6)

Work left to do: Brigham Young (5-4), Army (5-4), Notre Dame (3-6)

CFP Bubble:

  • Western Michigan (6-0, 10-0): the Broncos currently lead… the Broncos of Boise State in the CFP Poll by one spot. I don’t think Western Michigan is truly safe for the Group of Five spot unless they win out and Boise either loses again or doesn’t make the Mountain West title game.

Bowling: Ohio, Toledo, Eastern Michigan

Work left to do: Akron (3-3, 5-5), Central Michigan (2-4, 5-5), Miami (4-2, 4-6), Ball State (1-5, 4-6), Northern Illinois (3-2, 3-6)

Mountain West
CFP Bubble:

  • Boise State (4-1, 8-1): Boise figures to be heavy favorites in their remaining games, but they need Wyoming to lose twice to make the Mountain West title game. The Cowboys do have a game against San Diego State, but they’d still need to drop the ball against UNLV or New Mexico for Boise to have a shot. If Boise makes the MWC title game and beats San Diego State, though, that still figures to give them a better resume than Western Michigan. 

Bowling: Wyoming, New Mexico, Air Force, San Diego State

Work left to do: Colorado State (3-3, 5-4), Hawaii (3-3, 4-6), Nevada-Las Vegas (2-3, 3-6), Utah State (1-5, 3-6), Nevada (1-4, 3-6)

Sun Belt
Bowling:  Appalachian State (5-0, 7-2), Troy (4-0, 7-1)

Work left to do: Arkansas State (4-0, 4-4), Idaho (3-2, 6-4), Georgia Southern (3-2, 4-5), South Alabama (1-5, 4-5), Louisiana-Lafayette (2-3, 3-5), Louisiana-Monroe (2-3, 3-6), New Mexico State (1-3, 2-6), Texas State (0-4, 2-6)

Overall, I was three teams short this week, but that includes a 5-7 Vanderbilt. If this threat continues to linger, we should start seeing some stories Thanksgiving week about what will happen. Until then…