38 preseason bowl projections that will definitely be right (or not)

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.


Date Bowl game Location Projection
Dec. 31 Peach Atlanta Ole Miss (at-large) vs. East Carolina (Group of 5)
Dec. 31 Fiesta Glendale, Arizona Ohio State (Big Ten champ) vs. Washington (at-large)
Dec. 31 Orange Miami Clemson (ACC) vs. Alabama (SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame)
Jan. 1 Cotton Arlington, Texas Oklahoma (Big 12 champ) vs. Stanford (at-large)
Jan. 1 Rose Pasadena, California Auburn (CFP No. 2) vs. UCLA (CFP No. 3)
Jan. 1 Sugar New Orleans

Florida State (CFP No. 1) vs. Georgia (CFP No. 4)


Date Bowl game Location Projection
Dec. 20 New Orleans New Orleans

La.-Lafayette (Sun Belt) vs. Colorado State (MWC)
Dec. 20 New Mexico Albuquerque Fresno State (MWC) vs. North Texas (C-USA)
Dec. 20 Las Vegas Las Vegas Utah State (MWC No. 1) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12 No. 6)
Dec. 20 Idaho Potato Boise Nevada (MWC) vs. Akron (MAC)
Dec. 20 Camellia Montgomery, Alabama Arkansas State (Sun Belt) vs. Ohio (MAC)
Dec. 22 Miami Beach Miami Cincinnati (American) vs. BYU (BYU)
Dec. 23 Boca Raton Boca Raton, Florida Marshall (C-USA) vs. Ball State (MAC)
Dec. 23 Poinsettia San Diego Boise State (MWC) vs. Navy (Navy)
Dec. 24 Bahamas Nassau Northern Illinois (MAC) vs. FAU (C-USA)
Dec. 24 Hawaii Honolulu San Diego State (MWC) vs. Middle Tennessee (C-USA)
Dec. 26 Heart of Dallas Dallas Maryland (B1G Nos. 8-9) vs. UTSA (C-USA)
Dec. 26 Quick Lane Detroit Minnesota (B1G Nos. 8-9) vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Nos. 7-9)
Dec. 26 St. Petersburg St. Petersburg, Florida UCF (American) vs. NC State (ACC No. 10)
Dec. 27 Military Annapolis, Maryland Pittsburgh (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Memphis (American)
Dec. 27 Sun El Paso, Texas

Louisville (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 27 Independence Shreveport, Louisiana Syracuse (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Rice* (SEC Nos. 9-10)
Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bronx, New York Miami (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Michigan (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Dec. 27 Holiday San Diego Oregon (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Wisconsin (B1G Nos. 2-4)
Dec. 29 Liberty Memphis Missouri (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Texas (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 29 Russell Athletic Orlando Kansas State (Big 12 No. 3) vs. North Carolina (ACC No. 2)
Dec. 29 Texas Houston Texas A&M (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 No. 4)
Dec. 30 Music City Nashville Mississippi State (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Duke (ACC Nos. 3-6)
Dec. 30 Belk Charlotte South Carolina (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Notre Dame** (ACC Nos. 3-6)
Dec. 30 San Francisco Santa Clara, California Oregon State (Pac-12 No. 4) vs. Indiana (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Jan. 1 Capital One

Orlando LSU (SEC No. 2) vs. Michigan State (B1G Nos. 2-4)
Jan. 1 Outback Tampa Nebraska (B1G Nos. 2-4) vs. Florida (SEC Nos. 3-8)
Jan. 2 Armed Forces Fort Worth, Texas Houston (American) vs. TCU (Army/Big 12 No. 7)
Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Jacksonville Vanderbilt (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Iowa (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Jan. 2 Alamo San Antonio

Baylor (Big 12 No. 2) vs. USC (Pac-12 No. 2)
Jan. 2 Cactus Tempe, Arizona Oklahoma State (Big 12 No. 6) Washington State (Pac-12 No. 7)
Jan. 3 Birmingham Birmingham, Alabama Tulane (American) vs. Georgia Tech* (SEC No. 9-10)
Jan. 4 GoDaddy Mobile, Alabama 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.