Slotting teams into bowl games for these predictions columns was always an educated guess at best, but now, thanks to several changes in the bowl system, it’s not far removed from dart-throwing.
First, the new College Football Playoff selection committee – not the bowls themselves — is slotting teams into the six major bowls. See my Forward Pass column earlier this week for an explanation of how I arrived at my six matchups.
And because there’s no limit for how many teams a conference can place in those games, the committee’s picks will have a trickle-down on the other 32 bowls.
Complicating things further, the ACC, Big Ten and SEC have all decided to pool together several lower-profile bowls of similar prestige and decide themselves which teams will play where based on geography, matchup and avoiding repeat trips to the same bowls or region.
So while this lineup is loosely based on my own predicted conference standings, there are some situations where a predicted fourth-place team is going to what you might consider the seventh-best bowl, or vice versa.
So I wouldn’t book any travel arrangements based on the following lineup. But it’s always a fun exercise nonetheless.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF BOWLS
Ole Miss (at-large) vs. East Carolina (Group of 5)
Ohio State (Big Ten champ) vs. Washington (at-large)
Clemson (ACC) vs. Alabama (SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame)
Oklahoma (Big 12 champ) vs. Stanford (at-large)
Auburn (CFP No. 2) vs. UCLA (CFP No. 3)
Florida State (CFP No. 1) vs. Georgia (CFP No. 4)
ALL OTHER BOWLS
La.-Lafayette (Sun Belt) vs. Colorado State (MWC)
Fresno State (MWC) vs. North Texas (C-USA)
Utah State (MWC No. 1) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12 No. 6)
Nevada (MWC) vs. Akron (MAC)
Arkansas State (Sun Belt) vs. Ohio (MAC)
Cincinnati (American) vs. BYU (BYU)
Boca Raton, Florida
Marshall (C-USA) vs. Ball State (MAC)
Boise State (MWC) vs. Navy (Navy)
Northern Illinois (MAC) vs. FAU (C-USA)
San Diego State (MWC) vs. Middle Tennessee (C-USA)
Heart of Dallas
Maryland (B1G Nos. 8-9) vs. UTSA (C-USA)
Minnesota (B1G Nos. 8-9) vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Nos. 7-9)
St. Petersburg, Florida
UCF (American) vs. NC State (ACC No. 10)
Pittsburgh (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Memphis (American)
El Paso, Texas
Louisville (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 5)
Syracuse (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Rice* (SEC Nos. 9-10)
Bronx, New York
Miami (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Michigan (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Oregon (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Wisconsin (B1G Nos. 2-4)
Missouri (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Texas (Big 12 No. 5)
Kansas State (Big 12 No. 3) vs. North Carolina (ACC No. 2)
Mississippi State (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Duke (ACC Nos. 3-6)
South Carolina (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Notre Dame** (ACC Nos. 3-6)
Santa Clara, California
Oregon State (Pac-12 No. 4) vs. Indiana (B1G Nos. 5-7)
LSU (SEC No. 2) vs. Michigan State (B1G Nos. 2-4)
Nebraska (B1G Nos. 2-4) vs. Florida (SEC Nos. 3-8)
Fort Worth, Texas
Houston (American) vs. TCU (Army/Big 12 No. 7)
Vanderbilt (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Iowa (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Baylor (Big 12 No. 2) vs. USC (Pac-12 No. 2)
Oklahoma State (Big 12 No. 6) Washington State (Pac-12 No. 7)
Tulane (American) vs. Georgia Tech* (SEC No. 9-10)
Bowling Green (MAC) vs. South Alabama (Sun Belt)
* replacement for a conference without enough eligible teams
** Notre Dame can play in any ACC bowl as long as it is within one win of the team it’s replacing.
Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for FOXSports.com. Before joining FOX Sports, he covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. His new book, “The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the College Football Playoff,” is now available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @slmandel. Send emails and Mailbag questions to Stewart.Mandel@fox.com.