In some ways, this week was easier. With a better distribution of New Year’s Six games across all the conferences (well, except the ACC), that meant that more of the power conference filled more of their obligations. Provided Virginia Tech beats Marshall Saturday, we will be at 81 teams out of the 78 we need.
However, in some ways this was harder. I had to try to predict what the committee will do with Washington State and LSU. So let’s start there.
The Playoff and New Year’s Six Bowls
- Michigan’s loss to Ohio State is a seismic event for the predicted playoff field. The question is, of course, barring any other upsets (more on that in a second), Ohio State or Oklahoma? I have no idea what the committee will prioritize, but personally I’d go with the team that didn’t lose by 29 to Purdue.
- Upset scenario #1: Both Oklahoma and Ohio State are in, of course, if both win their conferences and Clemson loses to Pittsburgh. I don’t rate this as likely, suffice it to say.
- Upset scenario #2: Georgia beats Alabama. This my personal worst-case scenario, as both 1-loss Georgia and 1-loss Alabama would almost certainly be in, probably as #3 and #4 seeds, respectively.
- Playoff certainty: Notre Dame is in. Bank it.
- Somewhat ironically, Washington’s upset in the Apple Cup will probably actually help the Pac-12 get two teams into the New Year’s Six. Wazzu still only has two losses and should rank above other at-large candidates, ensuring they get an at-large bid. The winner of the Pac-12 title game goes to the Rose Bowl regardless.
- Also helpful: if Wazzu doesn’t drop too far, the SEC will probably only get three teams into the New Year’s Six. Georgia is probably Sugar Bowl bound unless they get absolutely obliterated by Alabama, so that leaves Florida as probably ranked ahead of LSU and Kentucky. This may also depend on how far Texas falls if they lose to Oklahoma, so this is really to-be-determined. This could very well change for the last predictions depending on how we see the committee’s priorities when the new rankings are released.
- I’m putting Central Florida in the Fiesta purely because they went to the Peach last year. I actually don’t know if this is a factor or not. Right now, I also don’t know how the committee will regard McKenzie Milton’s injury. If they defeat Memphis, I still suspect all is good. However, if UCF goes down, then the spot probably belongs to the Mountain West winner.
- Barring a catastrophic upset of Clemson, the ACC picture is pretty clear at the top: either Syracuse or NC State will head to the Camping World Bowl.
- After that, the ACC is mush. I figure NC State will go to the Belk if they don’t go to Orlando, otherwise that spot will probably go to Pitt or Virginia.
- I think the Sun Bowl will wind up with either Pitt or Boston College, with the team that doesn’t go there in the Pinstripe.
- I think the Gator Bowl will want Miami, which hasn’t necessarily proven to be the case in the past, but I deem it likely. If not Miami, then maybe Georgia Tech.
- Since the Military Bowl is in Annapolis, they’re going to look for either easy travel for alums or a team that hasn’t been there before. Possibilities along those lines are Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, so I’ll put them in the former.
- At this point, we’re to the Independence Bowl, so I think that is where Georgia Tech will wind up.
- The Quick Lane Bowl can then choose between Virginia, Duke, and Wake Forest. Considering that Duke’s only a national brand in basketball, I figure UVA will get this slot.
- Then in a battle between Duke and Wake Forest, I’m taking Duke in the Gasparilla Bowl.
- This does leave Wake Forest without a bowl bid, so I slotted them in the ESPN-controlled First Responder Bowl as a replacement for a missing Big Ten team.
The Big Ten is relatively straightforward due to its bowl contracts. Michigan and Ohio State will wind up in the playoff-controlled bowls one way or the other, so the rest is just fitting the puzzle pieces together.
The only drama is whether Iowa State or West Virginia will go to the Alamo Bowl. I picked the latter. There is more drama if Texas doesn’t get a New Year’s Six bid, though, in which case UT probably goes to the Alamo and then WVU and Iowa State will be fighting for the Camping World Bowl slot.
With both Washington teams likely now in New Year’s Six bowls, it’s pretty straightforward here as well.
There seems to be a lot of rumors out there that an SEC West team, probably Texas A&M, will go to the Outback Bowl this year. Kentucky is probably a lock for the Citrus since they will probably be the highest rated team left out of the New Year’s Six, but that really depends on how far LSU falls. As-is, I slotted LSU into the Gator.
To give teams time to get passports in order, the Bahamas Bowl already announced their teams: Toledo and FIU. I do kinda wish this was like the old days when many of the bowls could announce teams after Thanksgiving, but alas the New Year’s Six just introduces too many variables. Regardless, the real debate for me in this space was what to do with BYU and Army. Most seem to think Army will head back to the Armed Forces Bowl since there won’t be enough Big 12 teams to fill that spot. As for BYU, they supposedly have a deal with ESPN to put them in an ESPN-controlled bowl, that seems to have mostly centered around the now-defunct Poinsettia Bowl. I wound up putting them as an at-large in the Cheez-It Bowl, working under the assumption ESPN wouldn’t be able to find them anything since most of the other at-large spots are tied up by conference backup affiliations. However, there’s been shenanigans around these things in the past and ESPN moves in mysterious ways. I will be keeping an eye out for news on this front.
As-is, the next projections will be out as soon as I can get them out Saturday night or Sunday morning.