The College Football Playoff Committee had a couple of surprises in their release of their rankings Tuesday night, when they moved Oregon ahead of Florida State and TCU ahead of Alabama.
The Crimson Tide will move into the top four next week, possibly jumping the rest of the field to number one if they shellac Mississippi State this weekend. Of course, a loss to the Bulldogs probably puts Alabama into the Orange Bowl or even Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, depending on what happens in the Iron Bowl.
The sixth-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils sit pretty as well. If ASU wins out, which is a tough if with a home finale at Arizona needing to be won before a Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon, they will most certainly be one of the top four.
Ohio State and Baylor need a lot of help, and Nebraska and Duke are one-loss teams with no chance at making it to the playoffs.
The race for the best Group of Five team and recipient of a Big Six bowl invitation is a three-team race between Marshall, Colorado State, and Boise State. The Rams have been moving up every week, but it with New Mexico and Air Force left on the schedule, CSU cannot leapfrog over an undefeated Marshall team.
Here is our bowl outlook per conference. Note, that this outlook was written before Tuesday night’s games were played.
Note: Records shown are projected final regular season records, with conference record followed by total record.
Group of Five
American Athletic Conference
Memphis won at Temple last week, and the Tigers now have the championship in their site. Cincinnati, East Carolina, and Central Florida are still in contention, while Houston suffered a big loss at Tulane.
Since the champion of this league is not guaranteed any particular bowl, the probably bowl teams are merely playing for the trophy. The bowl bids will go to the teams that make the most sense for each bowl.
With Temple’s loss last week, the Owls are likely looking at being left out of the bowl picture unless they upset Penn State or Cincinnati.
1. Birmingham Bowl: Memphis 7-1/9-3 (vs. Florida)
2. St. Petersburg Bowl: Central Florida 6-2/8-4 (vs. Miami)
3. Miami Beach Bowl: Cincinnati 7-1/9-3 (vs. BYU)
4. Military Bowl: East Carolina 6-2/9-3 (vs. Virginia Tech)
5. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston 5-3/7-5 (vs. South Alabama [at-large])
Also Bowl Eligible: Temple 4-4/6-6
Marshall will get a bit of a test at home this week against a hot Rice team, and they could have a trap game at UAB a week later, but the Thundering Herd appears to be somewhat safe in getting into the CUSA Championship Game with a 12-0 record. Louisiana Tech could be a tough opponent, but MU should be able to sneak by and earn a Big Six Bowl bid. One loss will probably doom those chances.
Louisiana Tech must get by Rice on November 29 to win the West Division, but that game is in Ruston, so the Bulldogs will be a hefty favorite.
1. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Marshall 8-0/13-0 (vs. Michigan St.)
2. Hawaii Bowl: Louisiana Tech 8-0/9-4 (vs. Utah St.)
3. Bahamas Bowl: Rice 5-3/7-5 (vs. Toledo)
4. Boca Raton Bowl: Middle Tennessee 6-2/7-5 (vs. Northern Illinois)
5. New Mexico Bowl: U T E P 5-3/7-5 (vs. Air Force)
6. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Western Kentucky 3-5/6-6 (vs. Michigan)
7. Independence Bowl (at-large): U A B 4-4/6-6 (vs. North Carolina)
Reminder: This review was written prior to kickoff of the two MAC games Tuesday night.
The MAC is out of the Big Six Bowl picture this year. The Toledo-Northern Illinois winner will still be too far behind the other contenders from the AAC, CUSA, and Mountain West.
As of this writing, it looks like seven MAC teams will be bowl eligible, but only five teams will receive invitations.
1. Bahamas Bowl: Toledo 8-0/10-3 (vs. Rice)
2. Boca Raton Bowl: Northern Illinois 5-3/8-4 (vs. Middle Tennessee)
3. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Bowling Green 6-2/8-5 (vs. Nevada)
4. Camellia Bowl: Central Michigan 6-2/8-4 (vs. Texas St.)
5. GoDaddy.com Bowl: Western Michigan 6-2/8-4 (vs. Louisiana-Lafayette)
Also Bowl Eligible: Akron 5-3/7-5 & Ohio 4-4/6-6
Mountain West Conference
Boise State and Colorado State are two MWC teams that nobody in a Power Five conference wants to play at this point. The Broncos and Rams are capable of defeating a 9-3 team from any of the big conferences.
All of the strength in this league lies in the Mountain Division, as the West Division should be won with a 5-3 conference mark, while three from the other division will be 6-2 or better. With the top two teams headed to possible 11-win seasons, this league deserves better bowl destinations, but they probably will not get them.
1. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise St. 7-1/11-2 (vs. Stanford)
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Colorado St. 7-1/11-1 (vs. Navy)
3. Hawaii Bowl: Utah St. 6-2/9-4 (vs. Louisiana Tech)
4. New Mexico Bowl: Air Force 4-4/8-4 (vs. UTEP)
5. New Orleans Bowl: San Diego St. 5-3/7-5 (vs. Arkansas St.)
6. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Nevada 5-3/8-5 (vs. Bowling Green)
We erred in recent weeks. Georgia Southern is not eligible for a bowl this season unless there are not enough FBS teams bowl eligible. There will be more than enough, so GSU is playing simply for the pride of becoming co-champs of the SBC.
Louisiana-Lafayette figures to be the other co-champ, and the Ragin’ Cajuns have been to the New Orleans bowl so many years in a row, the Sports Information Department in Lafayette can almost place this game on the schedule on their media guide.
Because we believe ULL would like to go somewhere else this year, we are placing them in another bowl.
1. GoDaddy.com Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette 8-0/9-3 (vs. Western Michigan)
2. New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas St. 6-2/8-4 (vs. San Diego St.)
3. Camellia Bowl: Texas St. 5-3/7-5 (vs. Central Michigan)
4. Armed Forces Bowl (at-large): South Alabama 5-3/6-6 (vs. Houston)
Independents (not including Notre Dame)
BYU is a lock to become bowl eligible, while Navy should get there as well. Army is not yet eliminated from bowl eligibility, but the Black Knights must eliminate Western Kentucky from bowl eligibility this week, or else the season will end against Navy.
1. Miami Beach Bowl: B Y U 7-5 (vs. Cincinnati)
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy 7-5 (vs. Colorado St.)
The Power Five Conferences
Atlantic Coast Conference
Florida State looks less and less impressive every week, and another poor first half performance this week against Miami could be too difficult to overcome. The Seminoles falling to number three in the Playoff rankings should wake the team up, and FSU could go out and play their best game of the season this weekend.
Duke is not getting any respect at 8-1, and even ACC pundits believe Virginia Tech could upset the Blue Devils this week.
Clemson remains in contention for a Big Six Bowl, but if Duke goes 11-2, the Tigers will have to settle for the best of the rest.
Virginia, Syracuse, and Wake Forest figure to miss out on bowls, while the loser of this week’s North Carolina-Pittsburgh game will probably join that trio.
1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Florida St. 8-0/13-0 (vs. Mississippi St.)
2. Orange Bowl: Duke 7-1/11-2 (vs. Ohio St.)
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson 7-1/10-2 (vs. Kansas St.)
4. Gator Bowl: Notre Dame 9-3 (vs. Ole Miss)
5. Belk Bowl: Georgia Tech 5-3/8-4 (vs. LSU)
6. Sun Bowl: Louisville 5-3/8-4 (vs. Arizona)
7. Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College 4-4/7-5 (vs. Rutgers)
8. Military Bowl: Virginia Tech 3-5/6-6 (vs. East Carolina)
9. Independence Bowl: North Carolina 4-4/6-6 (vs. UAB [at-large])
10. Quick Lane Bowl: North Carolina St. 2-6/6-6 (vs. Illinois)
11. St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami 5-3/8-4 (vs. Central Florida)
Big Ten Conference
Ohio State might be a contender for national champion if they had not fallen to a mediocre Virginia Tech team. We believe the Buckeyes are strong enough today to compete against any of the four top teams.
If Michigan State wins out to finish 10-2, the Spartans should be in good shape for a Big Six bowl. If Sparty falls again, then either Nebraska or Wisconsin could sneak into the bonanza.
If Nebraska goes 10-2, the Cornhuskers could bully their way over many others into a Big Six Bowl.
Michigan is now just one win away from bowl eligibility, and the Wolverines must beat Maryland to get that bid, because upsetting Ohio State does not look possible. So, this Saturday’s game with the Terps could be Brady Hoke’s last win in Ann Arbor.
Illinois is just 4-5 with three games to go, but we believe the Illini will win two more games to give this league 11 bowl eligible teams.
1. Orange Bowl: Ohio St. 8-0/12-1 (vs. Duke)
2. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Michigan St. 7-1/10-2 (vs. Marshall)
3. Cotton Bowl: Nebraska 6-2/10-2 (vs. TCU)
4. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Wisconsin 7-1/10-3 (vs. Auburn)
5. Outback Bowl: Iowa 4-4/7-5 (vs. Georgia)
6. Holiday Bowl: Minnesota 4-4/7-5 (vs. USC)
7. Music City Bowl: Penn St. 2-6/6-6 (vs. Tennessee)
8. San Francisco Bowl: Maryland 4-4/7-5 (vs. Washington)
9. Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers 2-6/6-6 (vs. Boston College)
10. Quick Lane Bowl: Illinois 3-5/6-6 (vs. North Carolina St.)
11. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Michigan 4-4/6-6 (vs. Western Kentucky)
Big 12 Conference
TCU has moved into the top four of the most recent rankings, and we believe the Horned Frogs will win out to finish 11-1, but we do not have TCU in our playoff predictions. We also believe Baylor will finish 11-1 and not get into the playoffs. Alabama can beat Mississippi State and Auburn to win the SEC West, and then after dismissing Florida in the SEC Championship Game, the Tide could actually end up ranked number one. Losing on the road against the top team would not be enough to drop Mississippi State out of the playoff race, and if Oregon and Florida State keep winning, we believe TCU will be the team falling out of the top four.
We have moved Texas into the bowl probables at the expense of Oklahoma State. Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Kansas are not in the picture.
1. Cotton Bowl: T C U 8-1/11-1 (vs. Nebraska)
2. Fiesta Bowl: Baylor 8-1/11-1 (vs. Arizona St.)
3. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma 6-3/9-3 (vs. UCLA)
4. Russell Athletic Bowl: Kansas St. 7-2/9-3 (vs. Clemson)
5. Liberty Bowl: West Virginia 5-4/7-5 (vs. Missouri)
6. Cactus Bowl: Texas 5-4/6-6 (vs. Utah)
Arizona State’s win over Notre Dame was a shot in the arm for the entire conference. If the Sun Devils don’t overlook a weakening Oregon State team in Corvallis and then take care of business against Washington State, the regular season finale at Arizona will be the most important game for this team since the 1997 Rose Bowl or 1975 Fiesta Bowl.
Arizona State is not automatically going to win the Pac-12 South. UCLA, USC, and Arizona still have shots to get into the conference championship game.
In the North, Oregon is already assured of the division title, and if they win out, they will get a chance to play for the national title for the second time in five seasons.
We have dropped Oregon State from the bowl probable list this week. The Beavers would have to win two out of their final three to get to 6-6, and their final three come against Arizona State, Washington, and Oregon. We believe 0-3 is likely.
1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Oregon 8-1/12-1 (vs. Alabama)
2. Fiesta Bowl: Arizona St. 8-1/11-2 (vs. Baylor)
3. Alamo Bowl: U C L A 7-2/10-2 (vs. Oklahoma)
4. Holiday Bowl: U S C 6-3/8-4 (vs. Minnesota)
5. San Francisco Bowl: Washington 4-5/8-5 (vs. Maryland)
6. Sun Bowl: Arizona 6-3/9-3 (vs. Louisville)
7. Las Vegas Bowl: Stanford 5-4/7-5 (vs. Boise St.)
8. Cactus Bowl: Utah 4-5/7-5 (vs. Texas)
9. Texas Bowl (at-large): California 3-6/6-6 (vs. Texas A&M)
If Alabama wins this week against Mississippi State, which we believe they will, and if Mississippi State recovers to beat Ole Miss, while the Crimson Tide beat Auburn and win the SEC Championship Game, we cannot see how the committee cannot take both teams.
Nobody else in the league has a chance to sneak into the top four without about seven or eight other teams losing. Auburn and LSU played their way out of the tournament last week, while Georgia did so the week before.
Kentucky was once 5-1 and looking like a lock to make it to a bowl game for the first time in four seasons. But, four consecutive losses have UK at 5-5 with Tennessee and Louisville remaining on the schedule. We have the Wildcats out.
South Carolina must beat either Florida or Clemson to earn a bowl bid, and we do not see the Gamecocks doing so.
1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Alabama 7-1/12-1 (vs. Oregon)
2. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Mississippi State 7-1/11-1 (vs. Florida St.)
3. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Auburn 5-3/9-3 (vs. Wisconsin)
4. Outback Bowl: Georgia 5-3/9-3 (vs. Iowa)
5. Gator Bowl: Ole Miss 5-3/9-3 (vs. Notre Dame)
6. Belk Bowl: L S U 5-3/9-3 (vs. Georgia Tech)
7. Texas Bowl: Texas A&M 4-4/8-4 (vs. California [at-large])
8. Liberty Bowl: Missouri 5-3/8-4 (vs. West Virginia)
9. Music City Bowl: Tennessee 4-4/7-5 (Penn St.)
10. Birmingham Bowl: Florida 5-3/7-5 (vs. Memphis)