40 preseason bowl projections: Where will your team play?

If you followed along with my recent conference preview predictions, you could have easily identified three of my projected playoff teams: Big Ten champ Ohio State (13-0), SEC champ Texas A&M (12-1) and Big 12 champ TCU (11-1). Figuring out who would get the No. 4 seed was decidedly more difficult.

The candidates would be an 11-1 Michigan State team that did not win its division; 11-2 ACC champ Virginia Tech sporting just two likely Top 25 wins; or a 10-2 Auburn team that did not win its division but would have beaten at least four teams I expect to finish in the Top 25 — including a 10-1 Alabama team in its last game before the selection.

I opted for the Tigers. Cue the "SEC BIAS" tweets.

But surely you clicked on this story not for my playoff picks but to see whom I have slated for this year’s Camellia Bowl! We’re now up to 40 bowls*, requiring 80 eligible teams, which is cutting it awfully close. It does help that recent FBS entrants Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, both of whom are expected to field good teams, have completed their transition process. But I still came up one short, opening the door for … 6-7 Colorado!

*– The new Arizona Bowl, announced last spring, brings the total to 40. However, as of this writing, organizer for the Mountain West-Conference USA game had not announced the date, location or title sponsor. Small details.

As a refresher, last year the ACC, Big Ten and SEC instituted pool systems for their bowl lineups in which they essentially slot their own teams, meaning there’s no longer a straightforward pecking order. For instance, I placed a predicted 7-5 Penn State team in the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl and a predicted 9-4 Wisconsin team in the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl mostly because the Badgers have played in a Florida bowl the past two seasons while the Nittany Lions haven’t been in five years.

One potentially juicy matchup you’ll find below: archrivals Utah and BYU, which haven’t played since 2013, meeting in the Las Vegas Bowl. Sam Boyd Stadium, which seats just 40,000, may have to install an upper deck for that one.


Dec. 31 Peach Atlanta Notre Dame (at-large) vs. Boise State (Group of 5)
Dec. 31   Cotton  Arlington, Texas Texas A&M (CFP No. 2) vs. TCU (CFP No. 3)
Dec. 31   Orange Miami  Ohio St. (CFP No. 1) vs. Auburn (CFP No. 4)
Jan. 1  Fiesta  Glendale, Ariz. Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Arizona State (at-large)
Jan. 1  Rose  Pasadena, Calif. Michigan St. (B1G) vs. Oregon (Pac-12)
Jan. 1    Sugar New Orleans Alabama (SEC) vs. Baylor (Big 12)


TBA Arizona TBA Colorado St. (MWC) vs. Ohio* (C-USA)
Dec. 19   Cure Orlando, Fla. UCF (American) vs. Arkansas St. (Sun Belt)
Dec. 19  New Mexico Albuquerque Nevada (MWC) vs. UTEP (C-USA)
Dec. 19 Las Vegas Las Vegas BYU (MWC No. 1 or BYU) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 6)
Dec. 19 Camellia Montgomery, Ala. Appalachian St. (Sun Belt) vs. Akron (MAC)
Dec. 19 New Orleans  New Orleans La.-Lafayette (Sun Belt) vs. Rice (C-USA)
Dec. 21 Miami Beach Miami Temple (American) vs. Marshall (C-USA)
Dec. 22 Idaho Potato Boise San Diego State (MWC) vs. Ball State (MAC)
Dec. 22 Boca Raton Boca Raton, Fla. Memphis (American) vs. Toledo (MAC)
Dec. 23 Poinsettia San Diego Utah State (MWC) vs. Northern Illinois* (Army)
Dec. 23  GoDaddy  Mobile, Ala. Bowling Green (MAC) vs. Ga. Southern (Sun Belt)
Dec. 24 Bahamas Nassau Western Mich. (MAC) vs. Middle Tennessee (C-USA)
Dec. 24 Hawaii Honolulu Texas State* (American) vs. Fresno St. (MWC or BYU)
Dec. 26 St. Petersburg  St. Petersburg Cincinnati (American) vs. La. Tech (C-USA)
Dec. 26  Sun El Paso, Texas Clemson (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Arizona (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 26 Heart of Dallas Dallas West Virginia (Big 12) vs. Western Kentucky (C-USA)
Dec. 26 Pinstripe Bronx, N.Y. Pittsburgh (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Michigan (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Dec. 26 Independence Shreveport, La. UNC (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Mississippi St. (SEC Nos. 9-10)
Dec. 26 Foster Farms Santa Clara, Calif. USC (Pac-12 No. 4) vs. Northwestern (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Dec. 28  Military Annapolis, Md. Duke (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Navy (American)
Dec. 28 Quick Lane Detroit Iowa (B1G Nos. 8-9) vs. NC State (ACC Nos. 7-9)
Dec. 29 Armed Forces Fort Worth, Texas  Air Force (MWC) vs. Rutgers (B1G Nos. 8-9)
Dec. 29 Russell Athletic Orlando, Fla. Florida St. (ACC No. 2) vs. Oklahoma St. (Big 12 No. 3)
Dec. 29 Texas Houston Ole Miss (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 No. 4)
Dec. 30 Birmingham Birmingham, Ala. Houston (American) vs. Colorado*+ (SEC No. 9-10)
Dec. 30 Belk Charlotte, N.C. Arkansas (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Georgia Tech (ACC Nos. 3-6)
Dec. 30 Music City Nashville, Tenn. Kentucky (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Nebraska (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Dec. 30 Holiday San Diego UCLA (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Wisconsin (B1G Nos. 2-4)
Jan. 1 Outback Tampa, Fla. Minnesota (B1G Nos. 2-4) vs. Georgia (SEC Nos. 3-8)
Jan. 1 Citrus Orlando, Fla. Tennessee (SEC No. 2) vs. Penn State (B1G Nos. 2-4)
Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Jacksonville, Fla. LSU (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Louisville (ACC Nos. 3-6)
Jan. 2 Liberty Memphis, Tenn. Missouri (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Texas (Big 12 No. 5)
Jan. 2 Alamo San Antonio Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Stanford (Pac-12 No. 2)
Jan. 2 Cactus Tempe, Ariz. Kansas State (Big 12 No. 6) vs. Cal (Pac-12 No. 7)

Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for FOXSports.com. He covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. His book “The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the College Football Playoff” is available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @slmandel. Send emails and Mailbag questions to Stewart.Mandel@fox.com.