Bowl projections: Alabama, FSU, Oregon, TCU will play for title

A couple of mild surprises in Tuesday night’s selection committee rankings prompted me to completely blow up my projected lineup from earlier in the week. A quick explanation of version 2.0:

* While TCU moved ahead of Florida State for No. 3, I believe they’ll flip back next week if the ‘Noles beat No. 11 Georgia Tech. At this point, however, I’m much more doubtful that Baylor, who I previously had No. 4, is going to displace the Horned Frogs.

* It now appears the Big Ten, not the SEC, is going to face the ACC in the Orange Bowl, and in fact the matchup is almost certain to be Georgia Tech (win or lose Saturday) against Michigan State (provided Alabama beats Missouri). I believe the committee will drop Ohio State behind the Spartans if they lose to Wisconsin with backup QB Cardale Jones.

* The ripple effects of that development are that Mississippi State, which I had in the Orange Bowl, would move to the Peach Bowl; and that the Big Ten would place three teams in New Year’s Six bowls but lose its spot in the Citrus Bowl to the ACC (as per that contract). Which means I then had to adjust almost every other ACC selection below that.

*  Finally, I originally had Ole Miss, not Ohio State, as the last at-large team, but the gap between the No. 5 Buckeyes and No. 12 Rebels is larger than I expected so I put Ohio State back in. Which means I had to adjust several SEC selections as well.

Damn you, committee.

If you’re truly interested in learning how your favorite team will get placed where this week I encourage you to read my Selection Sunday primer. As I learned in the course of reporting it, the ACC’s, Big Ten’s and SEC’s new conference-controlled selection process hold such wide latitude that a league’s 9-3 team could wind up where you’d normally expect to see a 6-6 team or vice versa.

Finally, I’m projecting 80 eligible teams for 76 spots. The unlucky ones left out: Ohio, Texas State, Temple and, unfortunately, UAB.


Dec. 31 Peach Atlanta Ohio State (at-large) vs. Mississippi State (at-large)
Dec. 31 Fiesta Glendale, Arizona Arizona (at-large) vs. Boise State (Group of 5)   
Dec. 31 Orange Miami Georgia Tech (ACC) vs. Michigan State (SEC/B1G/ND)
Jan. 1 Cotton Arlington, Texas Baylor (at-large) vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten champ)
Jan. 1 Rose Pasadena, California Oregon (CFP No. 2) vs. Florida State (CFP No. 3)
Jan. 1 Sugar New Orleans Alabama (CFP No. 1) vs. TCU (CFP No. 4)


Dec. 20 New Orleans New Orleans, La. Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt) vs. Middle Tennessee* (MWC)
Dec. 20 New Mexico Albuquerque, N.M. Nevada (MWC) vs. UTEP (C-USA)
Dec. 20 Las Vegas Las Vegas, Nev. Colorado State (MWC No. 1) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 6) 
Dec. 20 Idaho Potato Boise, Idaho Air Force (MWC) vs. Western Michigan (MAC)
Dec. 20 Camellia Montgomery, Ala. South Alabama (Sun Belt) vs. Central Michigan (MAC) 
Dec. 22 Miami Beach Miami, Fla. Memphis (American) vs. BYU (BYU)
Dec. 23 Boca Raton Boca Raton, Fla. Marshall (C-USA) vs. Toledo (MAC)
Dec. 23 Poinsettia San Diego, Calif. San Diego State (MWC) vs. Navy (Navy)
Dec. 24 Bahamas Nassau, Bahamas Bowling Green (MAC) vs. Western Kentucky (C-USA) 
Dec. 24 Hawaii Honolulu, Hawaii Fresno State (MWC) vs. Rice (C-USA)
Dec. 26 Heart of Dallas Dallas, Texas Illinois (B1G) vs. Louisiana Tech (C-USA)
Dec. 26 Quick Lane Detroit, Mich. Rutgers (B1G Nos. 8-9) vs. North Carolina (ACC Nos. 7-9)
Dec. 26 St. Petersburg St. Petersburg, Fla. UCF (American) vs. Miami (ACC No. 10)
Dec. 27 Military Annapolis, Md. Pittsburgh (ACC Nos. 8-10) vs. East Carolina (American)
Dec. 27 Sun El Paso, Texas Boston College (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Arizona St. (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 27 Independence Shreveport, La. Virginia Tech (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Texas A&M (SEC Nos. 9-10) 
Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bronx, N.Y. Duke (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Penn State (B1G)
Dec. 27 Holiday San Diego, Calif. USC (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Iowa (B1G)
Dec. 29 Liberty Memphis, Tenn. Tennessee (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. West Virginia (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 29 Russell Athletic Orlando, Fla. Kansas State (Big 12 No. 3) vs. Louisville (ACC No. 3)  
Dec. 29 Texas Houston, Texas Arkansas (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Texas (Big 12 No. 4)
Dec. 30 Music City Nashville, Tenn. LSU (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Notre Dame (ACC Nos. 4-7)
Dec. 30 Belk Charlotte, N.C. Georgia (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. NC State (ACC Nos. 4-7)
Dec. 30 Foster Farms Santa Clara, Calif. Stanford (Pac-12 No. 4) vs. Nebraska (B1G)
Jan. 1 Citrus Orlando, Fla. Ole Miss (SEC No. 2) vs. Clemson (ACC No. 2)
Jan. 1 Outback Tampa, Fla. Minnesota (B1G Nos. 2-4) vs. Missouri (SEC Nos. 3-8) 
Jan. 2 Armed Forces Fort Worth, Texas Houston (American) vs. Florida* (Army/Big 12 No. 7)
Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Jacksonville, Fla. Auburn (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Maryland (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Jan. 2 Alamo San Antonio, Texas Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 2) vs. UCLA (Pac-12 No. 2)
Jan. 2 Cactus Tempe, Ariz. Utah State vs. Washington (Pac-12 No. 7)
Jan. 3 Birmingham Birmingham, Alab. Cincinnati (American) vs. South Carolina (SEC Nos. 9-10)
Jan. 4 GoDaddy Mobile, Alab. Northern Illinois (MAC No. 1) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

Teams in bold have officially accepted a bid.

* — Replacement for a conference without enough eligible teams.

** — Notre Dame is eligible for any ACC bowl as long as it’s within one win of the highest available ACC team.

Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for 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