The Pi-Rate Ratings

December 1, 2014

PiRate Ratings College Football Playoffs and Bowl Projections

Thanksgiving weekend proved to be the biggest mover and shaker of the FBS standings of any week so far, as the Playoff Four lost one team, multiple Power Five Conference races were affected, and the top two leading contenders in the Group of Five conference race for a Big Six Bowl were upset.

Thus, a majority of the bowls see new teams gracing their predicted path. Let’s review all the changes from the weekend.

The ACC showed the SEC for one weekend who their daddy was, as the league went 4-0 against the bully. Georgia Tech may have earned a slot in a Big Four bowl even if the Yellow Jackets lose to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Louisville and Clemson both could have moved ahead of Duke in the selection order with wins over their in-state rivals.

Pittsburgh won at Miami to become bowl eligible, and the ACC now has 11 bowl eligible teams. Unless two ACC teams receive Big Six Bowl invitations, the league will have one too many bowl eligible teams. Miami and Boston College will be the two contenders to not receive a bid, if Georgia Tech fails to earn a Big Six Bowl.

The Big Ten saw Wisconsin defeat Minnesota to win the West Division flag, but two other major news items will affect the bowl bids from this league. Ohio State dismissed rival Michigan, but it came at a very costly price. Losing quarterback J. T. Barrett for the season in the final half is something the Buckeyes probably won’t be able to overcome with one week to prepare for the Badgers. Cardale Jones has limited playing experience, mostly in a mop-up role, and the sophomore was passed on the depth chart by the freshman Barrett.

Additionally, the Buckeye nation will deal with the tragic suicide of Kosta Karageorge.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was served his walking papers Sunday, and he will not be around to coach his team in the Cornhuskers’ bowl. The home loss to Minnesota was unforgivable to NU fans that believe that the days of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne can be replicated in the 21st Century. A 66-27 record was not good enough. Frank Solich left Nebraska with a 58-19 record, as the fans in Lincoln felt that was not good enough. Remember Bill Callahan? He replaced Solich and took NU to a 27-22 record, including memorable losses to Texas Tech by 60 points and surrendering 76 points to Kansas.

Rumors have it that the Nebraska football players are quite agitated over this move, and there could be implications in the postseason. Interim Head Coach Barney Cotton will not have a chance to become the ne head coach, but Cotton should not be unemployed for long. He is one of the best offensive line coaches and a very credible offensive coordinator, producing great results everywhere he has been, including producing very successful offenses at schools like New Mexico State and Iowa State. When even your punter is making public statements against this firing, you know there is fire. Rumor also has it that many committed recruits are now backing out of their commitment, and the program could be on the verge of other programs that saw negative reactions like this bring a program down for a decade.

Baylor’s narrow win over a weak Texas Tech team may keep the Bears out of the Final Four, even though they beat TCU and will be the Big 12 Champions if they defeat Kansas State in Waco this week. The Horned Frogs demolished Texas doing what the selection committee calls “controlling the game for 60 minutes.”

Arizona emerged as the Pac-12 South winner after UCLA’s offense stagnated against Stanford, while the Cardinal offense accumulated plus 200 yards both on the ground and through the air. California and Oregon State both failed to win their sixth game, leaving the conference with eight bowl eligible teams. Since the Pac-12 Championship Game loser should still earn a Big Six Bowl bid, this league will not have an extra team available to go elsewhere as an at-large bowl substitute.

The SEC came away the loser of the weekend. With Mississippi State losing to Ole Miss, the SEC now can only hope to put one team in the Playoffs. Should Missouri upset Alabama in the conference title game, the SEC could actually be shut out of the Playoffs if Florida State, Oregon, TCU, and Baylor win.

With Tennessee defeating Vanderbilt, the league finishes with 12 bowl eligible teams. There will most likely be one extra team remaining after bowl bids go out, and obviously any SEC team still without a bowl will become the leading at-large candidate, regardless of any secondary bowl agreements with lesser leagues.

The Group of Five conferences now looks to Boise, Idaho, this weekend. If Boise State takes care of business and dismisses a 6-6 Fresno State team in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game, the Broncos will most likely head to the Fiesta Bowl. Should the Bulldogs pull off the big upset, then Memphis might be the leader in the clubhouse for a possible Peach Bowl bid. The Tigers finished up their regular season with a 9-3 record and share of the AAC Championship.

Our conference-by-conference bowl look continues. Won-loss records shown are our projections.

[  ] indicates a team is an at-large selection for the bowl for which we have projected.

Group of Five Conferences

American Athletic Conference
As mentioned previously, Memphis concluded the regular season with a 41-10 romping over Connecticut. The Tigers are assured of a tie for the AAC title with a 7-1 mark. If Boise State beats Fresno State, the Tigers’ reward might be a trip to Birmingham. The league champion deserves a better fate than playing in a run-down, falling apart stadium. What’s worse is that Coach Justin Fuente might be leaving the Bluff City for ritzier football climes, like Lincoln, Nebraska for instance.

Cincinnati, Central Florida, East Carolina, and Houston will earn bowl bids, while Temple must beat Tulane in New Orleans to become bowl eligible. We believe the Owls will win but find no bowl invitations forthcoming.

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. Pittsburgh)
5. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston 5-3/7-5 (vs. [ South Carolina ])

Also Bowl Eligible: Temple 4-4/6-6

Conference USA
What a losing week for CUSA! First, Marshall’s upset home loss to Western Kentucky rearranged the entire bowl order for this league. The Thundering Herd will not move up to a Big Six Bowl, and now there will be a glut of bowl eligible teams for this league’s guaranteed five bowl bids. With eight bowl eligible teams, three will most likely be left out of the postseason bonanza. Definitely, one of that sad trio will be UAB, as the Blazers will be shutting down their football program this week, the first FBS school to do so since Pacific almost 20 years ago.

1. Hawaii Bowl: Marshall 7-1/12-1 (vs. Air Force)
2. Bahamas Bowl: Louisiana Tech 7-1/8-5 (vs. Northern Illinois)
3. Boca Raton Bowl: Rice 5-3/7-5 (vs. Toledo)
4. New Mexico Bowl: UTEP 5-3/7-5 (vs. Utah St.)
5. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Western Kentucky 4-4/7-5 (vs. [ Texas St. ])

Also Bowl Eligible: Middle Tennessee 5-3/6-6, Old Dominion 4-4/6-6, UAB 4-4/6-6

Mid-American Conference
Northern Illinois won at Western Michigan to clinch the West Division title, while Bowling Green was the only East Division team with a plus .500 conference mark. The West has the top four teams in NIU, Toledo, WMU, and CMU.

Ohio was a leader for an at-large bowl bid until the SEC’s lost weekend more than likely created an extra at-large bowl bid for the top league.

The Huskies would be 11-2 with a win over BGU in the MAC title game, but that probably would not be enough to move NIU into the Big Six Bowl picture.

1. Bahamas Bowl: Northern Illinois 7-1/11-2 (vs. Louisiana Tech)
2. Boca Raton Bowl: Toledo 7-1/8-4 (vs. Rice)
3. Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan 6-2/8-4 (vs. Fresno St.)
4. Camellia Bowl: Central Michigan 5-3/7-5 (vs. Appalachian St.)
5. GoDaddy.com Bowl: Bowling Green 5-3/7-6 (vs. Arkansas St.)

Also Bowl Eligible: Ohio 4-4/6-6

Mountain West Conference
Of the Group of Five teams, Boise State now has the most spectacular resume. The Broncos lost to Ole Miss and Air Force, two definite bowl teams. So, if BSU defeats Fresno State this week in the league title game, Boise should be headed to Tempe, Arizona, for the Fiesta Bowl, or possibly Arlington, Texas, for the Cotton Bowl. If this happens, then all seven bowl eligible teams will go bowling.

If Fresno State loses at Boise, the Bulldogs will finish 6-7, but it appears that FSU would still be bowl eligible in this case, as has happened in the past with other teams, most notably UCLA in 2011.

1. BIG SIX—Fiesta Bowl: Boise St. 7-1/11-2 (vs. Arizona)
2. Las Vegas Bowl: Colorado St. 6-2/10-2 (vs. Stanford)
3. Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego St. 5-3/7-5 (vs. Navy)
4. Hawaii Bowl: Air Force 5-3/9-3 (vs. Marshall)
5. New Mexico Bowl: Utah St. 6-2/9-4 (UTEP)
6. New Orleans Bowl: Nevada 4-4/7-5 (vs. Louisiana-Lafayette)
7. Idaho Potato Bowl: Fresno St. 5-3/6-7 (vs. Western Michigan)

Sunbelt Conference
The SBC finished with five bowl eligible teams for three bowl tie-ins. We believe that one of the extra bowl eligible teams will garner the last available at-large bid.

Georgia Southern technically is the sixth bowl eligible team, but the Eagles are in their final transition season before earning total FBS membership. GSU won the SBC title, but they failed to receive a waiver to become bowl eligible. An appeal was filed, but don’t count on this team getting into a bowl, even though they are clearly the titan of the league this year with near wins over bowl eligible Georgia Tech and North Carolina State teams.

Louisiana Lafayette is the top actual bowl eligible team, and the Ragin’ Cajuns have appeared in three consecutive New Orleans Bowl games. Technically, the GoDaddy bowl gets first choice of SBC teams, and they have selected Arkansas State three years running. We had switched the teams last week, but we are going back to selecting the trend to continue.

1. GoDaddy.com Bowl: Arkansas St. 5-3/7-5 (vs. Bowling Green)
2. New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette 7-1/8-4 (vs. Nevada)
3. Camellia Bowl: Appalachian St. 6-2/7-5 (vs. Central Michigan)
4. Heart of Dallas Bowl: [ Texas St. ] 5-3/7-5 vs. (Western Kentucky)

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

Independents (not including Notre Dame)
Not much changed here this week. BYU had already clinched their Miami Bowl berth. Navy officially clinched their Poinsettia Bowl bid, while Army had already been eliminated from bowl eligibility.

1. Miami Beach Bowl: BYU 8-4 (vs. Cincinnati)
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy 7-5 (vs. San Diego St.)

Power Five Conferences

Atlantic Coast Conference
Florida State’s resume gained a little clout this week with Louisville, Clemson, and Georgia Tech defeating SEC rivals. Should the Seminoles beat the Yellow Jackets in this week’s conference title game, FSU is without a doubt in the initial College Football Playoffs.

With Georgia Tech at 10-2 and Louisville, Clemson, and Duke at 9-3, odds are very good that the ACC will receive the Gator Bowl bid over the Big Ten, while the Big Ten is stuck with the Music City Bowl.

It will be interesting to see how far Notre Dame falls in the bowl pecking order, as they concluded the season on a four-game losing streak and 1-5 in the second half of the season. It figures the Irish will get into a tier 2 ACC bowl, but it will be a lower tier 2. They cannot pass any 9-3 team in bowl selections.

1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Florida St. 8-0/13-0 (vs. Oregon)
2. BIG SIX—Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech 6-2/10-3 (vs. Wisconsin)
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson 6-2/9-3 (vs. Kansas St.)
4. Gator Bowl: Louisville 5-3/9-3 (vs. Georgia)
5. Belk Bowl: Duke 5-3/9-3 (vs. Auburn)
6. Sun Bowl: Notre Dame 7-5 (vs. Washington)
7. Pinstripe Bowl: North Carolina St. 3-5/7-5 (vs. Rutgers)
8. Military Bowl: Pittsburgh 4-4/6-6 (vs. East Carolina)
9. Independence Bowl: North Carolina 4-4/6-6 (vs. Texas A&M)
10. Quick Lane Bowl: Virginia Tech 3-5/6-6 (vs. Illinois)
11. St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami 3-5/6-6 (vs. Central Florida)
12. Texas Bowl: [ Boston College ] 4-4/7-5 (vs. LSU)

Big Ten
Ohio State has now had three significant quarterback injuries in two seasons. In 2013, Braxton Miller missed time early in the season. Kenny Guiton filled in and performed like an All-American with an even higher QB rating than Miller and an ability to run the ball almost as competently as the Heisman Trophy contender.

Once again, Miller sustained an injury this season, missing the entire campaign. Guiton was no longer around, so the backup roll fell in the hands of redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who merely came in and performed like an All-American just like Guiton last year.

Now, Barrett is out for the season. Can Coach Urban Meyer find All-American quarterback play in a third stringer that was passed on the depth chart by Guiton last year and Barrett this year? Cardale Jones is not an All-American caliber signal caller. He is better than the average sub, but in baseball terminology, his value over a replacement player is small.

Wisconsin is playing its best ball in November, dismissing their top three contenders in consecutive weeks to earn the West Division crown. A punishing ground game makes the mediocre passing game a little more potent, while the defense is better than average but not great. The difference in this game is that Joel Stave has significant big game experience, and we believe the Badgers will win the game this week and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl, beating out an SEC team for the privilege.

Illinois earned bowl eligibility while preventing rival Northwestern from earning that honor, while Michigan came up short in their upset bid over Ohio State.

1. BIG SIX—Orange Bowl: Wisconsin 7-1/11-2 (vs. Georgia Tech)
2. BIG SIX—Cotton Bowl: Ohio St. 8-0/11-2 (vs. Baylor)
3. BIG SIX—Peach Bowl: Michigan St. 7-1/10-2 (vs. Mississippi St.)
4. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Nebraska 5-3/9-3 (vs. Missouri)
5. Outback Bowl: Minnesota 5-3/8-4 (vs. Ole Miss)
6. Holiday Bowl: Iowa 4-4/7-5 (vs. UCLA)
7. Music City Bowl: Maryland 4-4/7-5 (vs. Tennessee)
8. San Francisco Bowl: Penn St. 2-6/6-6 (vs. USC)
9. Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers 3-5/7-5 (vs. North Carolina St.)
10. Quick Lane Bowl: Illinois 3-5/6-6 (vs. Virginia Tech)

No League Team Available for the final bowl tie-in (Heart of Dallas or Armed Forces)

Big 12 Conference
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is adamant that he will play against Kansas State this week after suffering a mild concussion against Texas Tech, said injury causing headaches, double vision, and other issues. Even if Petty plays, Kansas State is not a pushover, and this game could be close with the visiting Wildcats definitely in contention.

TCU has conference bottom feeder Iowa State in Ft. Worth, and the Horned Frogs have two extra days preparation for this game, so it figures that TCU will win with ease to finish 11-1.

Oklahoma State still has slim bowl eligibility chances, but the Cowboys must win at Oklahoma this week. If the Sooners win, the Big 12 will definitely come up shy in its obligations to supply teams to at least seven bowls, and realistically eight bowls, since two league teams will be in Big Six Bowls.

1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: TCU 8-1/11-1 (vs. Alabama)
2. BIG SIX—Cotton Bowl: Baylor 8-1/11-1 (vs. Ohio St.)
3. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma 6-3/9-3 (vs. Arizona St.)
4. Russell Athletic Bowl: Kansas St. 7-2/9-3 (vs. Clemson)
5. Liberty Bowl: Texas 5-4/6-6 (vs. Arkansas)
6. Cactus Bowl: West Virginia 5-4/7-5 (vs. Utah)

No League Team Available for the final two bowl tie-ins (Texas and Heart of Dallas or Armed Forces)

Pac-12 Conference
Oregon has lost three games in two seasons. Two of those three losses came at the hands of Arizona, the Ducks’ Pac-12 Championship Game opponent. If OU can figure out how to beat the Wildcats, the Ducks will be swimming in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. If Arizona wins again, the Wildcats have an infinitesimal chance of moving into the Final Four, needing Ohio State, Baylor, and Florida State or Alabama to lose.

Oregon State and California were eliminated from bowl eligibility, and with chances likely that the loser of the Championship Game will end up in Tempe, this league no longer appears to have an extra team for at-large bowl possibilities.

1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Oregon 8-1/12-1 (vs. Florida St.)
2. BIG SIX—Fiesta Bowl: Arizona 7-2/10-3 (vs. Boise St.)
3. Alamo Bowl: Arizona St. 6-3/9-3 (vs. Oklahoma)
4. Holiday Bowl: UCLA 6-3/9-3 (vs. Iowa)
5. San Francisco Bowl: USC 6-3/8-4 (vs. Penn St.)
6. Sun Bowl: Washington 4-5/8-5 (vs. Notre Dame)
7. Las Vegas Bowl: Stanford 5-4/7-5 (vs. Colorado St.)
8. Cactus Bowl: Utah 5-4/8-4 (vs. West Virginia)

Southeastern Conference
The SEC West cannibalized itself this season, as all seven teams went undefeated outside of conference play but beat each other up to the point where only Alabama emerged with a chance to make the Final Four. If the Crimson Tide do the unthinkable and lose to Missouri, then the SEC just might be left out of the first Big Dance on the gridiron.

Mississippi State should still receive a Big Six Bowl, probably in Atlanta, where the Bulldog fans hopefully will show up and not take it as a door prize. If Missouri beats Alabama, the Tigers will then knock Wisconsin out of the Orange Bowl, but we are sticking with the Tide to win.

There are going to be excellent opportunities to make some very interesting and competitive bowl games with all the bowl eligible teams. Because the league wants no part of pairing Texas A&M and Texas, the Aggies will be placed in a bowl where Texas cannot be the opponent. However, in doing so, it may open up the chance to pit old rivals Texas and Arkansas against each other. Also, Missouri could be paired against Nebraska in an old rivalry game.

There is going to be one extra bowl eligible team from the SEC, but that team will be the number one choice when the at-large invitations are doled out.

1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Alabama 7-1/12-1 (vs. TCU)
2. BIG SIX—Peach Bowl: Mississippi St. 6-2/10-2 (vs. Michigan St.)
3. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Missouri 7-1/10-3 (vs. Nebraska)
4. Outback Bowl: Ole Miss 5-3/9-3 (vs. Minnesota)
5. Gator Bowl: Georgia 6-2/9-3 (vs. Louisville)
6. Belk Bowl: Auburn 4-4/8-4 (vs. Duke)
7. Texas Bowl: LSU 4-4/8-4 (vs. [ Boston College ])
8. Music City Bowl: Tennessee 3-5/6-6 (vs. Maryland)
9. Liberty Bowl: Arkansas 2-6/6-6 (vs. Texas)
10. Independence Bowl: Texas A&M 3-5/7-5 (vs. North Carolina)
11. Birmingham Bowl: Florida 4-4/6-5 (vs. Memphis)
12. Armed Forces Bowl: [ South Carolina ] 3-5/6-6 vs. Houston

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