The Pi-Rate Ratings

November 4, 2014

PiRate Ratings College Football Playoffs and Bowl Projections

For the projected bowl matchups, as well as ratings and predicted spreads for both college and pro, go to our website at:

There are 38 bowls plus the National Championship Game, meaning 76 teams out of the 128 total playing in the FBS. As of today, we project 79 teams to become bowl eligible, so just three 6-6 teams will be left out of the postseason party.

All won-loss records shown are predicted final records and not current records.

The Group of Five

These five conferences are the leagues competing for one guaranteed spot in a Big Six Bowl (actually one of the four NewYear’s Eve/Day big bowls not involved in the playoffs, since no Group of Five team will qualify for the playoffs).

As of today, Marshall from Conference USA figures to be the highest rated Group of Five team, as East Carolina fell out of contention with their loss to Temple. Central Florida’s loss at UConn knocked the AAC from consideration. Should Marshall stumble, the door is now open for both Boise State and Colorado State to sneak into the top position. Boise would be there already had the Broncos not lost at Air Force, while CSU might have placed themselves on the cuff of contention for the playoffs had they won their game at Boise and stood at 9-0 today.

American Athletic Conference
The AAC balloon has deflated with the upset losses of both East Carolina and Central Florida. While the league is out of the Big Six picture for now, it promises to be possibly the most incredible finish of the conference races. Our prognosticators here now believe there is a credible chance that this league could end in a six-way tie for first at 6-2 in conference play between Central Florida, East Carolina, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, and Temple. The league has five guaranteed bowl bids, so one of these six would have to earn an at-large bowl invitation. The AAC should have no problem placing that sixth bowl eligible team in a bowl.

1. Birmingham Bowl: East Carolina (6-2/9-3)
2. Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl: Central Florida (6-2/8-4)
3. Miami Beach Bowl: Cincinnati (6-2/8-4)
4. Military Bowl: Temple (6-2/8-4)
5. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston (6-2/8-4)
6. Independence Bowl (at-large invitation): Memphis (6-2/8-4)

Conference USA
Doc Holliday may be the best college football recruiter in America, and his Marshall Thundering Herd may be the best CUSA team in the league’s history. Marshall has five games remaining in November and December standing in its way of a probable Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl bid. A November 22 game at UAB could be tricky, and a probable CUSA Championship Game tilt against Louisiana Tech is the biggest obstacle in the Herd’s trampling of their schedule.

We have removed Western Kentucky from the prospective bowl eligible teams and added UTEP. Rice is making another second half of the season run like Coach David Bailiff’s Owls have done the last two seasons. To run the table the rest of the way in 2014, Rice will have to pull off major upsets on the road against Marshall and Louisiana Tech and handle an improving UTEP team at home.

With Marshall expected to earn the Big Six Bowl invitation, this conference will have six bowl bids, and we predict there will be six bowl eligible teams.

1. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Marshall (8-0/13-0)
2. Hawaii Bowl: Louisiana Tech (8-0/9-4)
3. Bahamas Bowl: UTEP (6-2/8-4)
4. Boca Raton Bowl: Middle Tennessee (6-2/7-5)
5. New Mexico Bowl: U A B (4-4/6-6)
6. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Rice (5-3/7-5)

Mid-American Conference
This is a down season of sorts in the MAC, mostly because there is a lot of parity and no dominant team. Northern Illinois is rebuilding, and Toledo and Bowling Green are not quite up to the standards of a typically dominant NIU team. This league figures to produce a glut of bowl eligible squads, probably two more than there is space avaialable in the bowl party.

1. Bahamas Bowl: Toledo (7-1/9-4)
2. Boca Raton Bowl: Northern Illinois (5-3/8-4)
3. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan (6-2/8-4)
4. Camellia Bowl: Central Michigan (6-2/8-4)
5. Bowl: Akron (6-2/8-5)
6. Birmingham Bowl (at-large invitation): Bowling Green (5-3/7-5)

Also Bowl Eligible
Ohio (4-4/6-6)
Ball St. (5-3/6-6)

Mountain West Conference
This league does not have the notoriety it did when TCU was a member and earning trips to the Rose Bowl. Still, there are some quality teams in the MWC, namely Boise State and Colorado State. Utah State, Air Force, and Nevada add to the quality.

Fresno State has been a big disappointment this season, and we have now removed the Bulldogs from the probable bowl eligible list. Wyoming and San Jose State are both in contention, but their schedules are not favorable, so we have not included them in the privileged list.

That leaves six bowl eligible teams in a league with six bowl tie-ins.

1. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State (7-1/11-2)
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Colorado State (7-1/11-1)
3. Hawaii Bowl: Utah State (6-2/9-4)
4. New Mexico Bowl: Air Force (4-4/8-4)
5. New Orleans Bowl: Nevada (5-3/8-5)
6. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: San Diego State (5-3/7-5)

Sunbelt Conference
We will probably know in two weeks whether or not this league will have undefeated co-champions. Louisiana-Lafayette should have little trouble at New Mexico State this week, but a road game against rival Louisiana-Monroe is not going to be easy, especially since the Warhawks will need to win that game to get to 6-6.

Georgia Southern plays a tough Texas State team in San Marcos and may be looking ahead a week to a trip to Navy. Should the Eagles win this week, and UL-Lafayette wins next week, the two top teams should both finish 8-0 in league play.

Besides the previously mentioned Texas State Bobcats, Arkansas State will finish bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season with four different head coaches. South Alabama is probably headed to a 6-6 finish and no bowl invitation.

1. Bowl: Georgia Southern (8-0/9-3)
2. New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette (8-0/9-3)
3. Camellia Bowl: Arkansas State (6-2/8-4)
4. Armed Forces Bowl (at-large invitation): Texas State (5-3/7-5)

Also Bowl Eligible: South Alabama (5-3/6-6)

Independents (Notre Dame is included in the ACC)
Army must win out to become bowl eligible, and the Black Knights cannot even take Fordham lightly, as they already have a loss to Yale. This will not be the year the men from West Point get back to a bowl. Thus, the Armed Forces Bowl will need to find a replacement team.

BYU is one win away from bowl eligibility and will get that sixth win, if not November 15 against UNLV, then definitely the following week against Savannah State.

Navy still has some work to do. The Midshipmen are 4-5. All three of their final games are tricky, as Georgia Southern and South Alabama are sneaky good, while even a winless Army team would be tough to beat much less this 2-win squad. However, Navy has a week off between each of these games and should win at least two if not all three to gain their automatic bowl bid.

1. Miami Beach Bowl: B Y U (7-5)
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy (7-5)

The Power 5

We do not use the current rankings to set our playoff and bowl pairings. “If the season ended today” is only good when the season actually ends today. We look into the future to try to predict where the teams will be on December 7.

This week presents multiple contests which serve as eliminator games. It is like a Round of 64 and 32 NCAA Basketball weekend, where by Sunday morning, there will be a Sweet 16.

Here are the top games that will affect the Power 5 rankings this week:

Baylor at Oklahoma: The Bears are still in the thick of the playoff race, while Oklahoma is merely playing for a Cotton Bowl or Fiesta Bowl bid. Baylor won 41-12 last year and outgained the Sooners by more than 220 yards. OU will be ready to play its best game of the season.

Notre Dame at Arizona St.: Call this a pure elimination game for sure. The loser has no chance, while the winner stays in contention from near the back of the pack, but if the winner wins out, they will have a shot at playing in the Rose or Sugar Bowl. Even if the winner misses out on the playoffs, they are sure to get one of the other Big Six bowls.

The Sun Devils need Oregon to keep winning until the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Kansas State at TCU: The winner of this game has an excellent shot at finishing 12-1. The Big 12 may not be as highly ranked as in past years, but a 12-1 team here will have a nice resume.

Alabama at LSU: This is never a gimme game for the Crimson Tide. A loss here would just about end ‘Bama’s chances to make the playoffs but not totally eliminate them. With wins over Mississippi State and Auburn, Coach Nick Saban’s squad could still sneak in as the number four team. A win Saturday combined with wins over Mississippi State, Auburn, and the SEC East champion probably moves the Tide to number two and host of the Sugar Bowl in the playoffs.

LSU would need a lot of help to sneak into the playoffs. The Bengal Tigers would have to beat ‘Bama by double digits and then easily dismiss Arkansas and Texas A&M on the road. Then, Mississippi State would have to lose to both Alabama and Ole Miss, and the champions of the Big Ten and Big 12 would have to lose a second game as well.

Ohio State at Michigan State: This is a pure playoff eliminator. The winner can earn a playoff spot if they finish 12-1, and still it could be tough. The Spartans still have to jump at least one SEC school plus TCU and Oregon, and that loss to the Ducks will keep the quack attack ahead of them if both finish 12-1.

Ohio State needs a lot of help and could still finish on the outside looking in at 12-1.

Oregon at Utah: The Utes are done and can only hope for an Alamo or Holiday Bowl bid as a consolation prize or else settle for a lesser bowl. Oregon is still very much in the playoff picture and should make the final four if they win out. They will not sniff the playoffs with one more loss.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Florida State reminds our founder of the 1958 Kentucky basketball team that won the national championship. That group of Wildcats were known as the “Fiddlin’ Five.” They just fiddled around for 25-30 minutes before going on one big run at the end to win.

Can the Seminoles continue this style of fiddlin’ for 2 ½ quarters before scoring three touchdowns in a five to seven-minute span and win the National Championship for a second consecutive season?

We don’t know the answer, but FSU probably can play this way the rest of the regular season and finish 13-0. The game at Miami on November 15 could be close for awhile, and maybe if Duke wins the Coastal Division, the Blue Devils can make a Championship Game rematch much closer than 2013, when the Seminoles won 45-7.

Elsewhere in the league, we have removed Virginia from bowl eligible likelihood, and this places Coach Mike London back on that hot seat. In the Cavaliers’ place, we have added North Carolina State back into the bowl mix.

Even though three league members might finish 6-6, the entire trio will have bowl preference over a possible 8-4 Miami Hurricanes. If they cannot put 10,000 fans in their home stadium, they aren’t likely to bring many to a bowl game.

In the past, Boston College has not sent many fans to its bowl games, but we believe a site closer to home will help the Eagles sell more tickets.

1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Florida State (8-0/13-0)
2. Orange Bowl: Duke (7-1/11-2)
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson (6-2/9-3)
4. Gator Bowl: Notre Dame (9-3)
5. Belk Bowl: Georgia Tech (6-2/9-3)
6. Sun Bowl: Louisville (4-4/7-5)
7. Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College (5-3/8-4)
8. Military Bowl: North Carolina (4-4/6-6)
9. Independence Bowl: Virginia Tech (3-5/6-6)
10. Quick Lane Bowl: North Carolina State (2-6/6-6)
11. Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami (5-3/8-4)

Big Ten Conference
Who would have ever thought that a Nebraska team could go 12-1 in the regular season and just be an afterthought in the NCAA Championship picture? You have to figure that had they stayed in the Big 12, the Cornhuskers would have been a cinch to make the playoffs at 12-1. That shows how far the Big Ten has fallen in prestige. Could it be that this league is now more of a basketball power than football power? Of course, this league has been the bridesmaid in the Final Four since Michigan State won that title more than a dozen years ago.

All eyes will be looking in at East Lansing Saturday, when Michigan State and Ohio State settle the East Division title. The Buckeyes have a huge revenge factor in this game, as they were 12-0 when MSU knocked them out of the BCS Championship picture last year with a stunning 34-24 upset win.

We have removed Penn State and Northwestern from the bowl picture this week, and we have kept Illinois and added Michigan to the mix. With nine bowls guaranteed and ten bowls likely with two league teams playing in Big Six bowls, there will be space for all bowl eligible clubs.

1. Orange Bowl: Ohio State (8-0/12-1)
2. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Michigan State (7-1/10-2)
3. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Nebraska (5-3/9-3)
4. Outback Bowl: Iowa (6-2/9-4)
5. Holiday Bowl: Wisconsin (6-2/9-3)
6. Music City Bowl: Maryland (4-4/7-5)
7. San Francisco Bowl: Minnesota (4-4/7-5)
8. Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers (2-6/6-6)
9. Quick Lane Bowl: Michigan (4-4/6-6)
10. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Illinois (3-5/6-6)

Big 12 Conference
TCU, Baylor, and Kansas State all still hold playoff hopes, but they will all need some help. Even with one SEC team assured of falling out of the top four, Oregon is still in front of this trio, and the Ducks will have defeated Michigan State, UCLA, Stanford, Utah, and probably Arizona State if they finish 12-1.

This league is almost a lock to place two teams in Big Six bowls, even if no team makes the playoffs. With two Big Six bowls plus six other bowl tie-ins, there needs to be eight bowl eligible teams to fill the slots. We believe there will only be six bowl eligible teams, so there will be room for two at-large invitations courtesy of the Big 12.

1. Cotton Bowl: T C U (8-1/11-1)
2. Fiesta Bowl: Baylor (8-1/11-1)
3. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma (6-3/9-3)
4. Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia (7-2/9-3)
5. Liberty Bowl: Kansas State (6-3/8-4)
6. Cactus Bowl: Oklahoma State (4-5/6-6)

Pac-12 Conference
Oregon controls its own destiny in our opinion. If the Ducks win out, at 12-1, they have about a 97% chance of finishing in the top four.

Arizona State needs help to move into the top four even if they win out by defeating Notre Dame, Oregon State, Arizona, and Oregon. Coach Todd Graham may be the best coach under the radar, as he has built winners at Rice, Tulsa, and Pittsburgh prior to coming to Tempe. Arizona State is the largest undergraduate university in FBS football, and the means are there for Graham to make this one of the top programs in the nation.

The Pac-12 has only seven guaranteed bowl bids, because a proposed bowl at the Los Angeles Coliseum around Christmas never materialized. This conference will be the top banana in the at-large priority mix. We believe there will be room for one Pac-12 to accept an at-large bowl bid.

1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Oregon (8-1/12-1)
2. Fiesta Bowl: Arizona State (8-1/11-2)
3. Alamo Bowl: U S C (7-2/9-3)
4. Holiday Bowl: U C L A (6-3/9-3)
5. San Francisco Bowl: Washington (5-4/8-4)
6. Sun Bowl: Arizona (5-4/8-4)
7. Las Vegas Bowl: Utah (5-4/8-4)
8. Cactus Bowl: Stanford (5-4/7-5)
9. Texas Bowl (at-large invitation): California (3-6/6-6)

Southeastern Conference
The “Good Ole Boys” down South would argue that the top four teams in the SEC should be the four playoff teams, and with Alabama, Mississippi State, and Auburn this season, they might be 75% correct.

However, we see no possibility where three SEC teams will make the playoffs in year one. If it were to happen, there would be hell to pay by the other leagues.

In all honesty, the playoffs should be eight deep, and we believe this will happen in the next five or six years, thus allowing for automatic bids for all the Power 5 conference champions.

When Alabama has something to play for in November, you never bet against the Crimson Tide. They may be out of favor following their loss to Ole Miss and narrow win over Arkansas, but they are still Alabama, just like Kentucky in basketball.

Auburn is probably a little better in 2014 than they were last year when they advanced to the National Championship Game, but the Tigers still must face the Tide in Tuscaloosa.

Mississippi State is only the top-rated team in the land, but the Bulldogs have a November 15 date in Tuscaloosa and figure to end their reign at the top that day. Even a dejected Ole Miss squad could spoil the Maroons playoff chances at the Egg Bowl.

LSU’s season is on the line this Saturday night, and you know the Tigers have that magic at Tiger Stadium when the moon is out.

The East is a mess now with Florida knocking Georgia out of the playoff picture. If Georgia loses to Auburn, which is now a good bet, and Missouri falls at Texas A&M or Tennessee, which is also a high probability, and Florida beats South Carolina and Vanderbilt, which is highly probable, then there will be a three-way tie for first in the division. Let’s look at the tiebreaker system to see which team would be fodder for the West Division champion.

1. Head-to-Head: all three teams will be 1-1 against each other.
2. East Division Records: Georgia would be 4-2; Florida would be 5-1; and Missouri would be either 5-1 or 4-2 depending on whether they lost to A&M or UT. If Missouri lost to the Aggies and beat the Vols, then they would lose in the SEC Championship Game. If the Tigers lost to the Vols instead, then Florida would lose in the SEC Championship Game. For now, we believe the Gators will be that unfortunate team, and it will be hard to can Will Muschamp if he take UF to Atlanta on December 6.

With three teams playing in Big Six bowls, the league will not meet its bowl obligations, probably falling short by two, because we believe Kentucky will lose out to finish 5-7, and South Carolina will come up one game short as well.

1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Alabama (7-1/12-1)
2. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Mississippi State (7-1/11-1)
3. Cotton Bowl: Auburn (6-2/10-2)
4. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Missouri (5-3/9-3)
5. Outback Bowl: L S U (5-3/9-3)
6. Gator Bowl: Ole Miss (5-3/9-3)
7. Music City Bowl: Tennessee (4-4/7-5)
8. Liberty Bowl: Georgia (5-3/9-3)
9. Belk Bowl: Florida (5-3/7-5)

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