Final bowl projections: ‘Bama, FSU, Oregon, TCU on track for playoff

TCU? Ohio State? Baylor? It’s anyone’s best guess which of those three teams the committee will hand the last of the four playoff bids to on Sunday, so I’m basically taking a cop-out and leaving my order the same as it was last week. Ohio State and Baylor miss the cut and go to the Peach and Cotton Bowls, respectively.

I’m also taking a gamble that Arizona remains high enough to land an at-large berth despite its lopsided Pac-12 title game loss. It helps the Wildcats, seventh last week, that the No. 9 (Kansas State) and No. 11 (Georgia Tech) teams lost too.

If the SEC does in fact place three teams in the New Year’s Six as I have projected here, it has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the conference’s bowls. And if the Big Ten only gets two — but if one of those is Michigan State in the Orange Bowl — it gives up its spot in the Citrus Bowl to the ACC and may wind up with one team left out.

Oklahoma State’s upset win Saturday over Oklahoma made for a final pool of 81 eligible teams competing for 76 spots. The unlucky ones left out: Ohio, Temple, Texas State, Middle Tennessee and, sadly, UAB.


Dec. 31 Peach Atlanta Ohio State (Big Ten champion) 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. Ole Miss (at-large)
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. Nevada (MWC)
Dec. 20 New Mexico Albuquerque, N.M. Utah State (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. Bowling Green (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 Western Michigan (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 Maryland (B1G Nos. 8-9) 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. Florida (SEC Nos. 9-10) 
Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bronx, N.Y. Duke (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Penn State (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Dec. 27 Holiday San Diego, Calif. UCLA (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Wisconsin (B1G Nos. 2-4)
Dec. 29 Liberty Memphis, Tenn. Tennessee (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. West Virginia (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 29 Russell Athletic Orlando, Fla. Oklahoma (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. Texas A&M (SEC Nos. 3-8) vsNotre 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 Nos. 5-7)
Jan. 1 Citrus Orlando, Fla. Missouri (SEC No. 2) vs. Clemson (ACC No. 2)
Jan. 1 Outback Tampa, Fla. Minnesota (B1G Nos. 2-4) vs. Auburn (SEC Nos. 3-8) 
Jan. 2 Armed Forces Fort Worth, Texas Houston (American) vs. Illinois* (Army/Big 12 No. 7)
Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Jacksonville, Fla. LSU (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Iowa (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Jan. 2 Alamo San Antonio, Texas Kansas State (Big 12 No. 2) vs. USC (Pac-12 No. 2)
Jan. 2 Cactus Tempe, Ariz. Oklahoma State (Big 12 No. 6) 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.

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