All for Tennessee SEC, New Year’s Six and College Football Playoff Bowl Projections Following Week 12 of the Season
Pre-New Year’s Day Bowl Projections Part I
Independence Bowl: Monday, Dec. 26 at 5 p.m.; Independence Stadium; Shreveport, La.
Ole Miss Rebels vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Well, with the Independence Bowl getting the final bid on bowl teams from the SEC this year, we had the South Carolina Gamecocks going here. But the Ole Miss Rebels had an embarrassing outing in a 38-17 loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores last week, dropping them to here. They still have to win a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs to get bowl eligible, but with that game at home we project it will happen.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are still the team that we have from the ACC going to this game, as they’ll be one of the last teams in. This will be an exciting bottom-feeder SEC-ACC match-up in our bowl projections, so pay attention to it. With Ole Miss close to Louisiana, expect lots of fans to fill the stadium there as well.
Texas Bowl: Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 9 p.m.; NRG Stadium; Houston, Texas
Arkansas Razorbacks vs Baylor Bears
The Arkansas Razorbacks are right in line with our projections, so we still have this team finishing the season at 8-4. After moving to 7-4, their final game is against a bad Missouri Tigers team. Doing that will put them in position for a top-tier pre-New Year’s Day bowl game, which is excatly what the Texas Bowl is. So they’ll go back here, a perfect spot for their fans to travel to and fill up the stadium.
Last week, we had the Kansas State Wildcats going here in our bowl projections, but with two Big 12 teams in the New Year’s Six, the fifth ranked team in the conference will go. That team will be the Baylor Bears at this point. It would be a thrilling match-up to see Arkansas’s physicality against Baylor’s high-scoring, spread the field system. Which one prevails?
Birmingham Bowl: Thursday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m.; Legion Field; Birmingham, Ala.
South Carolina Gamecocks vs South Florida Bulls
With the Ole Miss Rebels falling to the Vanderbilt Commodores, we’ve moved them to the bottom of the SEC bowl teams provided they win this week. That moves up the South Carolina Gamecocks, who reached bowl eligibility by beating the Western Carolina Catamounts over the weekend. They now get the second best bowl game in the bottom tier of SEC bowl tie-ins, and it might be a blessing in disguise.
That’s because it’s the Birmingham Bowl, where they’ll face the third best team from the American Athletic Conference in our bowl projections, the South Florida Bulls. South Carolina and Will Muschamp have a legitimate chance at a bowl win here to finish 7-6 after the Clemson Tigers destroy them this weekend. However, South Florida is a solid team, so they can’t take this game for granted.
Pre-New Year’s Day Bowl Projections Part II
Belk Bowl: Thursday, Dec. 29 at 5:30 p.m.; Bank of America Stadium; Charlotte, N.C.
Georgia Bulldogs vs Miami Hurricanes
The Georgia Bulldogs are in the same spot they were in last week. After beating the Auburn Tigers, we have them finishing 8-4 and third in the SEC East in our projections, so they’re back in a top tier pre-New Year’s Day bowl game. Getting to the Belk Bowl in Kirby Smart’s year is an accomplishment. But what changes this week is who they’ll face.
Last week, we projected the Virginia Tech Hokies to be here, but we’ve moved them up to a better bowl. Now, that puts the Miami Hurricanes here at 7-4 and likely to finish 8-4 provided they beat the Duke Blue Devils at home. now this would be epic. Mark Richt is in his first year at Miami after 15 years with the Dawgs. How epic would it be for him to go against his former team that first year? It’s ratings gold! Bowl committees, make this happen!
Liberty Bowl: Friday, Dec. 30 at Noon; Liberty Bowl; Memphis, Tenn.
Kentucky Wildcats vs Texas Longhorns
The Ole Miss Rebels falling to the bottom of the SEC has forced us to move everybody up, and part of that means that the Kentucky Wildcats are third from the worst among bowl-eligible SEC teams in our bowl projections. That puts them in the Liberty Bowl, which would be a solid location considering it’s right up the road in Memphis. But they may have gotten a terrible draw.
Upsets over the weekend have caused us to move a very talented Texas Longhorns team into this slot. We still project Charlie Strong’s unit to finish 6-6, and when that happens, they’ll be going here to face the Wildcats. That means Mark Stoops’s best chance to see his team finish with a winning record is pray. Even in a down year, Texas is way better than Kentucky.
Music City Bowl: Friday, Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m.; Nissan Stadium; Nashville, Tenn.
Texas A&M Aggies vs Iowa Hawkeyes
We initially had the Texas A&M Aggies in the TaxSlayer Bowl, but now our projections have them losing to the LSU Tigers. That loss will knock them to 8-4 and 4-4 in the conference for fourth place in the SEC West. Because of the other slots, it sends them to the Music City Bowl.
On the Big Ten side for our match-up in Nashville, the Iowa Hawkeyes remain our team. With the conference likely getting three teams into the New Year’s Six, Iowa is going to make its way into this bowl by finishing seventh in the Big Ten. So our bowl projections call for a match-up between two teams that had impressive runs this year but suffered sickening losses.
New Year’s Day Bowl Projections
TaxSlayer Bowl: Saturday, Dec. 31 at 11 a.m.; EverBank Field; Jacksonville, Fla.
LSU Tigers vs Virginia Tech Hokies
The LSU Tigers blew their chances at the Sugar Bowl with an embarrassing loss to the Florida Gators at home last week. Now, our projections have them finishing 7-4 and 4-4 in the SEC. Still, that’s enough for third in the SEC West and fifth in the SEC overall, which will send them to Jacksonville for the TaxSlayer Bowl.
We initially had them facing the Florida State Seminoles, but Jimbo Fisher’s team is going to get a better bid in the Russell Athletic Bowl since two ACC teams are still going to New Year’s Six bowl games and they are now the top team out. That moves the Virginia Tech Hokies, who will likely be ACC Champion runner-ups, to here. LSU-Virginia Tech would be a solid match-up between a physical, defensive-based team and a team based on scoring a lot with a first year head coach. It would be exciting to see.
Citrus Bowl: Saturday, Dec. 31 at 11 a.m.; Camping World Stadium; Orlando, Fla.
Florida Gators vs Wisconsin Badgers
The Tennessee Vols were initially projected to be here, but now we’ve replaced them with the Florida Gators. Because Jim McElwain’s team has locked up the SEC East, they have an extra loss coming in the SEC Championship to the Alabama Crimson Tide. We also have them losing to the Florida State Seminoles, meaning they’ll finish 8-4. That will knock them out of a chance at the Sugar Bowl as well.
As a result, Florida will go to the Citrus Bowl as the top SEC team out of the New Year’s Six. They’ll at least stay in-state, and they will get to face the Wisconsin Badgers in what should be a thrilling game between two second-year head coaches. Wisconsin will also be the runner-up in its championship game, but all three teams in the Big Ten East are going to New Year’s Six bowls, leaving the Badgers as the one team out.
Outback Bowl: Monday, Jan. 2 at 1 p.m.; Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla.
Auburn Tigers vs Nebraska Cornhuskers
Right now, the Auburn Tigers are the No. 2 team in the SEC. But once Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers lose to the Alabama Crimson Tide, they’ll fall behind the Tennessee Vols and Florida Gators. As a result, we are putting them here in the Outback Bowl for our bowl projections as the fourth best SEC team.
In the process, they will face the fifth best team from the Big Ten, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who our projections have finishing fifth in that conference. The game would come 21 years after the Huskers blew out Steve Spurrier’s Gators for the national championship. But Jim McElwain vs Mike Riley would be interesting to watch.
New Year’s Six Bowl Projections Part I
Orange Bowl: Friday, Dec. 30 at 8 p.m.; Hard Rock Stadium; Miami Gardens, Fla.
Louisville Cardinals vs Ohio State Buckeyes
Even though the Louisville Cardinals suffered a shock against the Houston Cougars, they still are going to be a Top 8 team when it’s all said and done. And with another ACC team getting to the College Football Playoff, they’ll get the Orange Bowl lock that the ACC gets.
Meanwhile, all of our projections have the Ohio State Buckeyes losing to the Michigan Wolverines this week. When that happens, they’ll fall to third in the Big Ten East. Urban Meyer’s team will still be great enough to get a New Year’s Six bid, but they will fall to the Orange Bowl. A loss knocks them out of the Rose Bowl.
Cotton Bowl: Monday, Jan. 2 at 1 p.m.; AT&T Stadium; Arlington, Texas
West Virginia Mountaineers vs Boise State Broncos
Even in a loss, the West Virginia Mountaineers still have a great chance at a New Year’s Six Bowl. We have them finishing the season 10-2 and second in the Big 12, so our Bowl Projections place them in Texas to face the at-large team coming out of the Group of Five. Congratulations to Dana Holgorsen and his bunch.
That at-large team should be the Houston Cougars, but since they won’t win their own conference, they can’t be put in. That leaves the Boise State Broncos. Our projections have them winning out, and although the Western Michigan Broncos are undefeated, Boise State has a more impressive resume. As a result, they’ll face West Virginia in what should be an epic match-up in our bowl projections.
New Year’s Six Bowl Projections Part II
Rose Bowl: Monday, Jan. 2 at 5 p.m.; Rose Bowl; Pasadena, Calif.
Penn State Nittany Lions vs Colorado Buffaloes
Since we have the Ohio State Buckeyes losing this week and falling to third, and since we have the top Big Ten team going to the College Football Playoff, the Penn State Nittany Lions will finish second in the conference and get the automatic bid to the Rose Bowl in our bowl projections. We have them finishing 10-2, and the Rose Bowl will have no choice with their contract. James Franklin’s team is really arriving with that happening.
Meanwhile, the No. 2 team in the Pac-12 is looking like it will clearly be the Colorado Buffaloes now. Mike MacIntyre’s team is projected to finish 10-3, which will make them the second best team in the conference, and yes, we have the best team going to the College Football Playoff still. So showing they’ve arrived, Penn State and Colorado are set for an epic showdown in our bowl projections.
Sugar Bowl: Monday, Jan. 2 at 8 p.m.; Mercedez-Benz Superdome; New Orleans, La.
Tennessee Volunteers vs Oklahoma Sooners
LSU losing to Florida changed everything. Now, Butch Jones and the Tennessee Vols only have to beat the Vanderbilt Commodores to finish 9-3. They won’t play the SEC Title game. However, our projections have Florida losing the next two games to finish 8-4, LSU beating Texas A&M, and Alabama dominating Auburn. As a result, the Vols will be the highest ranked SEC team not in the College Football Playoff, and by default, it gets them a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
On the other side, the Big 12 champion will not reach the College Football Playoff, meaning the automatic bid goes to the Sugar Bowl. Bob Stoops’s Oklahoma Sooners are going to finish 10-2 with the Big 12 title, and in the process they will face the Vols for a rematch of 2014 and 2015. This will be a great showdown.
College Football Playoff Semifinal Part I
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Saturday, Dec. 31 at 3 or 7 p.m.; Georgia Dome; Atlanta, Ga.
College Football Playoff Semifinal
Alabama Crimson Tide vs Washington Huskies
Nothing changes here. The Washington Huskies are still 10-1, and our projections have them finishing as one of four teams with one loss or less in the Power Five once all the dust settles.
As a result, we still have them making it into the College Football Playoff.
Finishing 12-1 and winning the Pac-12 Championship will resonate with the committee, as it should, and since they value conference champions in the Power Five, Washington is heading to the playoff.
However, Chris Petersen’s team will have earned the No. 4 seed. In the process, the goal of the playoff committee will work to perfection.
That’s because they want to have No. 1 face No. 4 and try to have the No. 1 seed to play closest to home and get somewhat of a home-field advantage when they set the bowl games.
Well, that’s definitely happening here. Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide are the clear-cut No. 1 seed in our bowl projections as they’ll be the only undefeated Power Five team left while also dominating everybody. Nobody will dispute that No. 1 ranking.
And in the process, they’ll be able to go to the Peach Bowl. Alabama playing Washington in Atlanta gives a clear home field advantage to the Tide.
Just imagine what that could turn into!
This will be the right match-up, but it’ll be a hideous game from the start with the Tide winning an easy blowout.
College Football Playoff Semifinal Part II
Fiesta Bowl: Saturday, Dec. 31 at 3 or 7 p.m.; University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, Ariz.
College Football Playoff Semifinal
Clemson Tigers vs Michigan Wolverines
Just like the last game, nothing changed from last week to this week here. About the only thing that may have changed is the Clemson Tigers are further ahead of the Louisville Cardinals with Bobby Petrino’s team losing last week to the Houston Cougars.
Because of that loss, the fate of the ACC getting into the College Football Playoff basically rests with Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers. That may not be as easy as you think with the South Carolina Gamecocks and likely the Virginia Tech Hokies up next.
However, the Michigan Wolverines have even a tougher road ahead. They have to beat the Ohio State Buckeyes on the road and then win the Big Ten Championship game.
Our projections have both teams making it through, but it will be extremely tough.
While Swinney’s high-powered offense carries him, Harbaugh’s physical defense will do it for him.
And when the two teams meet in the Fiesta Bowl, it will be a clash of styles.
That will make for a much more exciting game than the other game we have in our bowl projections for the College Football Playoff at this point. Both genius coaches will have to adjust to completely different teams than they are used to seeing.
And on a completely neutral field, anything could happen there. So who goes to the national title game?
National Title Game Projection
College Football Playoff National Championship
Monday, Jan. 9; Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs Michigan Wolverines
Even after the Michigan Wolverines lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes, we did not back down on this national championship game for our bowl projections.
And two weeks later, despite being an underdog against the Ohio State Buckeyes, this still is our national title pick.
All of our metrics have the Wolverines as a clearly better team than Ohio State, so those same metrics have Jim Harbaugh’s team winning the Big Ten and winning its first game in the College Football Playoff against the Clemson Tigers. After all, defense prevails, and Michigan has it.
On the other end, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide could be the greatest team of all time, and every metric has them far and away the best team in college football this year.
So as we’ve already said, the Tide will blow out the Washington Huskies. And our bowl projections conclude with this being the national championship game.
Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide
Our metrics switched from Michigan to Alabama winning this game after the Wolverines lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes. It stays that way this week. Again, this is not our prediction. It is our projection based on where we have the teams.
And right now, there is no projection that should not have Alabama running over everybody the rest of the way.
The Tide are just that great and have looked that great all year. As a result, we have to project them repeating as national champions, finishing 15-0, and establishing Nick Saban’s legacy beyond anything it has ever been.
They are so dominant right now it’s getting boring. But that’s the way it is.
And as a result, we still have to have them winning it all in our bowl projections.
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