They’re hot and fresh right here.
We’re probably going hear plenty about this, but the biggest question come December 8th is almost certainly going to be: “Who’s Number 4?” And that’s certainly the thorniest issue when I was trying to project this. Here are the teams I perceive to be the candidates:
- Alabama: the committee ranked them 5th last week, but that was before they lost their all-everything QB for the season. Their best win on the season is projected to be Auburn. Their loss is to the projected CFP #1, LSU.
- Oregon: the committee ranked them 6th last week. I currently project them to win the Pac-12 by defeating Utah in the championship game, which would give them a top 10 win. Their loss was to Auburn back in Week 1.
- Georgia: ranked 4th last week, I currently have them losing to LSU in the SEC championship game. Their best win on the season is over Florida, who will probably play in a New Year’s Six bowl. They lost to South Carolina, a team that will probably finish 4-8.
- Utah: I don’t think they have as strong of a resume as Oregon does, but their loss to Southern Cal looks less awful now. Their best win would be beating Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.
- Oklahoma: ranked 10th last week, they lost to K-State earlier this season. Their best wins are projected to be a win over Baylor on the road and a neutral site win over the Bears in the Big 12 championship game.
Obviously, Minnesota and Penn State are in if they win their conference. Baylor is tricky, as I’m not sure a season-split with Oklahoma would get them in.
I think Alabama and Oregon have the best chances given my projections. I think that if Georgia loses in the SECCG, they will have a too-recent loss, no conference title, and a loss to a bad team at home. In my current projections, I have Oregon in, because I think a conference title will put them over the top. I could honestly put together a set of projections with Bama in, and the thing about this is that reality has a way of messing with my predictions. We’ll see how the committee ranks these teams on Tuesday and try to read the tea leaves.
- The SEC is extremely top heavy, and I have four of their teams going to New Year’s Six bowls. (The last at-large spot will probably come down to Florida or Penn State.) The two best teams after Georgia, Florida, LSU, and Bama are probably Texas A&M and Auburn. Mizzou may not be bowl eligible (the NCAA still hasn’t said), which makes some of the situations in the lower-tier SEC bowls somewhat dire.
- The Pac-12 was tough to project this week, as it’s a nest of 5-5 and 4-6 teams. Outside of the teams that are already eligible, I feel like it’s basically random which of the rest will get in.
- The Big 12’s championship game is still dumb, but if Oklahoma beats Baylor again it’ll probably work out.
- The CFP hasn’t said yet what will happen with regards to the Orange Bowl if no ACC team is ranked in the final standings other than Clemson. I’m assuming they’ll still take an ACC team of some sort. Wake Forest was an early favorite, but they’ve dropped 3 games now, which probably makes Virginia the favorite if they win the Coastal. Other candidates are a better-than-anyone-expected Louisville and a Coastal-winning Virginia Tech. Watching Georgia crush one of these teams is going to be incredibly depressing for me.
- The favorites for the G5 At-Large bid are the AAC winner and Boise State.
- The “Power Six” thing by the AAC maybe dumb, but looking at the AAC’s bowl games, well, there could be a lot of blowouts. It’s hard to see how their games against the MAC, Sun Belt, and Conference USA will be competitive. The AAC tried to remedy this by getting games like the Birmingham Bowl, where they would play lower-tier major conference teams, but the major conferences don’t have enough teams for those bowl slots anymore.
- Your Internet College Football Hipster Projected Bowl of the Week is the New Orleans Bowl, which I have as Appalachian State vs. Louisiana Tech. I have App State going 11-1 and winning the Sun Belt, and LT is quietly tearing up C-USA, where I have them going 10-2. Oh, and App State doesn’t win the Sun Belt, then Louisiana(-Lafayette) probably will. Dear New Orleans Bowl Committee: if you can match these conference champions in your game, do it. DO IT NOW.