Bowl projections: Sparty nabs playoff berth, but Rose smells sweet for Iowa

Let’s take one more stab at this before Saturday’s games.

First of all, my New Year’s Six lineup is based on the favorites holding serve this weekend and Iowa losing the Big Ten title game but remaining above Ohio State to land in Pasadena. (In this scenario, it finishes No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Iowa, No. 7 OSU). If Michigan State blows out the Hawkeyes, they’ll fall below the Buckeyes and head to the Fiesta instead. If Iowa wins Saturday, Ohio State likely finishes above two-loss Sparty despite the head-to-head result.

Of the 12 spots in those six bowls, at least three will go to teams currently ranked outside of the Top 10 — No. 12 Baylor (as the Big 12’s rep) and either No. 13 Ole Miss or No. 18 Florida in the Sugar Bowl and either No. 19 Houston or No. 22 Temple as the Group of Five champ. So No. 8 Notre Dame and No. 9 Florida State are currently just on the right side of the bubble.

As for the rest of the lineup, the most intriguing potential matchup I now have is a BYU-Utah Las Vegas Bowl. (BYU accepted its bid earlier this week.) The Holy War rivals have not met since 2013. If Stanford wins the Pac-12 championship, don’t be surprised if the Holiday Bowl takes 8-5 USC for a second straight year, in which case the Utes may slip all the way to the league’s No. 6 bowl. (The bowls ahead of it can take any team within one conference win of the 6-3 Utes.)


Elsewhere, the Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl is eyeing either LSU or Georgia; however, if it takes LSU, the 9-3 Dawgs may plummet now that Mark Richt is not coaching in the bowl. The SEC’s pool system is designed to avoid those situations and thus I’m assuming the league will step in and prevent it. The Texas Bowl in Houston covets LSU as well and is much closer to Baton Rouge.

In the ACC, I bucked the conference’s written rules in placing Duke (7-5, 4-4) in the "Tier 1" Pinstripe Bowl while relegating Pitt (8-4, 6-2) to the "Tier 2" Military Bowl. The New York game is pushing hard to get the Blue Devils, while the Panthers would actually land a better opponent, No. 23 Navy, in Annapolis.

Finally, my all-Mountain West Arizona Bowl matchup (Colorado State vs. San Jose State) is not an oversight. Someone’s going to get stuck with the 5-7 Spartans, and teams from other leagues won’t be flocking to a first-year bowl being televised on the American Sports Network. At least the two did not play during the regular season.

Teams in bold have accepted a bid


Dec. 31 Peach   Atlanta Florida State (at-large) vs. Houston (Group of 5)
Dec. 31    Cotton Arlington, Texas Alabama (CFP No. 2) vs. Oklahoma (CFP No. 3)
Dec. 31  Orange 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. Oklahoma St. (Big 12)


Dec. 19  Cure  Orlando, Fla. Tulsa (American) vs. Georgia St. (Sun Belt)
Dec. 19   New Mexico Albuquerque New Mexico (MWC) vs. Arizona* (C-USA)
Dec. 19 Las Vegas Las Vegas  BYU (BYU) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 6)
Dec. 19   Camellia  Montgomery, Ala. Appalachian State (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  USF (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  Cincinnati (American) vs. San Diego St. (MWC)

Dec. 26    St. Petersburg St. Petersburg, Fla. Temple (American) vs. Marshall (C-USA)
Dec. 26   Sun  El Paso, Texas Miami (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Washington St. (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 26   Heart of Dallas Dallas  Nevada* (Big 12) vs. Southern Miss (C-USA)
Dec. 26    Pinstripe Bronx, N.Y. Duke (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Indiana (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Dec. 26  Independence  Shreveport, La. N.C. State (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Arizona St.* (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. Pittsburgh (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 State (MWC) vs. San Jose St.*+ (C-USA)
Dec. 29    Armed Forces Fort Worth, Texas Air Force (MWC) vs. Washington* (B1G Nos. 8-9)
Dec. 29   Russell Athletic Orlando, Fla. North Carolina (ACC No. 2) vs. Baylor (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. Memphis (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  USC (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  Tempe, Ariz. West Virginia (Big 12 No. 6) vs. Cal (Pac-12 No. 7)

* 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