Bowl projections: No playoff but Buckeye fans still win with Fiesta matchup vs. Irish

OK, folks, this is no longer a fire drill. With most teams’ regular seasons complete, these projections are no longer completely guesswork. This week’s are based on actual intel from many figures involved in the actual selections — with the caveat that all of this is fluid until they know Sunday’s final College Football Playoff rankings.

I feel fairly confident about the Big Ten’s pecking order, provided the Iowa-Michigan State loser remains ranked high enough for a New Year’s Six bowl berth. (Ohio State is a given.) The SEC’s is also coming into focus, with Georgia coach Mark Richt’s sendoff likely coming in the Outback or TaxSlayer bowls. The Big 12’s is pretty straightforward, especially given Kanas State is now likely going whether or not it gets to six wins Saturday. The ACC’s are the most in flux since we don’t know whether Florida State and/or North Carolina will move up.

Finally, the Pac-12’s will be particularly interesting to watch, especially if Stanford beats USC this week but does not make the playoff. If the Alamo Bowl does not take the 8-5 Trojans, they could, as I project, fall all the way to Las Vegas due to having played in San Diego last season and in Santa Clara just a few weeks earlier as well as forever alienating El Paso during Lane Kiffin’s 2012 trip there.

The Group of Five bowls are much harder to project because those leagues for the most part do not employ pecking orders. One key piece impacting the Mountain West bowls is that it appears likely the Las Vegas Bowl will take 9-3 BYU rather than an MWC team. The league will go to Hawaii instead.

Finally, there will be at least two and as many as five bowl participants with 5-7 records. The NCAA on Monday confirmed that the bowls must pick those teams in order of their most recent APR scores. The Big Ten has three of the teams on that list — Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois — and will likely have three spots to fill.


Dec. 31 Peach Atlanta Florida State (at-large) vs. Houston (Group of 5)
Dec. 31   Cotton (semifinal) Arlington, Texas Alabama (CFP No. 2) vs. Oklahoma (CFP No. 3) 
Dec. 31   Orange (semifinal) Miami  Clemson (CFP No. 1) vs. Michigan St. (CFP No. 4)
Jan. 1  Fiesta  Glendale, Ariz. Notre Dame (at-large) vs. Ohio State (at-large)
Jan. 1  Rose  Pasadena, Calif. Iowa (B1G) vs. Stanford (Pac-12)
Jan. 1    Sugar New Orleans Ole Miss (SEC) vs. Baylor (Big 12)


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

Teams in bolded italics have accepted a bid

* replacement for a conference without enough eligible teams

+ 5-7 team

Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for He covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @slmandel and Facebook. Send emails and Mailbag questions to