They said a playoff would kill off the bowl system. If these latest projections are any indication, the non-playoff bowls may actually produce more interesting matchups.
A few examples:
* UCLA-Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Obviously, Buckeyes fans are still hoping to make the top four, but if not, a Rose Bowl lite matchup with a possible 10-win Bruins team would be compelling New Year’s Eve television.
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* Auburn-Notre Dame in the Belk Bowl. You read that right. The Irish are eligible for all ACC bowls but can only play in the Russell Athletic Bowl if within one win of the highest available team. A likely scenario right now has Duke going 10-3 and the Irish 8-4 or 7-5, bumping them to Charlotte.
* Penn State-Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl. Hello, ’87 Fiesta Bowl. The Big Ten and ACC are both making a big push in New York City and would love nothing more than having two of its marquee programs square off at Yankee Stadium.
* Florida-Texas in the Liberty Bowl. It’s Will Muschamp’s current team against his former team, only he won’t be in the building. Note there’s a budding sentiment for the ‘Horns and rival Texas A&M to meet either here or in Texas Bowl. Don’t count on it.
Finally, I’m currently projecting 80 eligible teams for 78 spots. The unlucky two left out this week: Temple (a ripple effect of East Carolina falling out of my New Year’s Six lineup and taking up one of the American’s five berths) and Texas State.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF BOWLS
Mississippi State (at-large) vs. Marshall (Group of 5)
UCLA (at-large) vs. Ohio State (Big Ten champ)
Georgia Tech (ACC) vs. Ole Miss (SEC/B1G/ND)
Michigan State (at-large) vs. TCU (at-large)
Oregon (CFP No. 2) vs. Florida State (CFP No. 3)
Alabama (CFP No. 1) vs. Baylor (CFP No. 4)
New Orleans, La.
Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt) vs. Air Force (MWC)
Nevada (MWC) vs. UTEP (C-USA)
Las Vegas, Nev.
Boise State (MWC No. 1) vs. Stanford (Pac-12 No. 6)
San Diego State (MWC) vs. Western Michigan (MAC)
South Alabama (Sun Belt) vs. Toledo (MAC)
Memphis (American) vs. BYU (BYU)
Boca Raton, Fla.
Middle Tennessee (C-USA) vs. Northern Illinois (MAC)
San Diego, Calif.
Colorado State (MWC) vs. Navy (Navy)
Bowling Green (MAC) vs. Louisiana Tech (C-USA)
Utah State (MWC) vs. UAB (C-USA)
Heart of Dallas
Rutgers (B1G Nos. 8-9) vs. Rice (C-USA)
Michigan (B1G Nos. 8-9) vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Nos. 7-9)
St. Petersburg, Fla.
UCF (American) vs. NC State (ACC No. 10)
Boston College (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. East Carolina (American)
El Paso, Texas
Louisville (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 5)
North Carolina (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Arkansas (SEC Nos. 9-10)
Miami (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Penn State (B1G Nos. 5-7)
San Diego, Calif.
Arizona (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Iowa (B1G Nos. 2-4)
Florida (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Texas (Big 12 No. 5)
Kansas State (Big 12 No. 3) vs. Clemson (ACC No. 2)
Texas A&M (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. West Virginia (Big 12 No. 4)
LSU (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Duke (ACC Nos. 3-6)
Auburn (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Notre Dame (ACC Nos. 3-6)
Santa Clara, Calif.
USC (Pac-12 No. 4) vs. Maryland (B1G Nos. 5-7)
Georgia (SEC No. 2) vs. Wisconsin (B1G Nos. 2-4)
Nebraska (B1G Nos. 2-4) vs. Missouri (SEC Nos. 3-8)
Fort Worth, Texas
Houston (American) vs. Cal* (Army/Big 12 No. 7)
Tennessee (SEC Nos. 3-8) vs. Minnesota (B1G Nos. 5-7)
San Antonio, Texas
Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12 No. 2)
Northwestern* (Big 12 No. 6) vs. Washington (Pac-12 No. 7)
Cincinnati (American) vs. South Carolina (SEC No. 9-10)
Central Michigan (MAC) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)
Teams in bold have officially accepted a bid.
* — replacement for a conference without enough eligible teams
** — Notre Dame is eligible for any ACC bowl as long as it’s within one win of the highest available ACC team.
Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for FOXSports.com. 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 Stewart.Mandel@fox.com.