Welcome to my first stab at projecting the 40 bowl matchups for 2016-17. I’ll publish a new version every Tuesday in November and a final one the morning of Dec. 4 (Selection Sunday).
Note that the Rose (Big Ten vs. Pac-12), Sugar (Big 12 vs. SEC) and Orange (ACC vs. SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame) will all select teams from their contract conferences this year. Most take the highest-ranked available. The only available spot for the highest Group of 5 champ is the Cotton Bowl, which also holds the only available at-large spot. That will go to the highest-ranked available team after the other New Year’s Six bowls get filled.
That spot, incidentally, is the hardest one to project as of now. I went with Penn State, which looks increasingly capable of running the table and finishing 10-2, but I also considered Nebraska, Auburn, Florida and Virginia Tech.
(NOTE: * -- replacement team for a conference without enough eligible teams)