Bowl projections for the College Football Playoff semifinals & 38 more games

November 3, 2015

Yes, it’s that time of year. Every Tuesday the rest of the season I’ll get out my magic dartboard and predict the postseason destinations of 80 -- yes it’s now 80 -- FBS teams.

Speaking of which, after projecting out each conference, I consider it much more likely than not that there won’t be 80 bowl-eligible teams. I got to 79, and that was being overly optimistic on a few borderline teams’ prospects. Sadly, should that happen, the bowls would have to start plucking 5-7 teams. I tabbed Arizona, mostly because I’m being overly pessimistic about the 5-4 Wildcats and also because the new Arizona Bowl is being played in their own stadium.

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 Virginia Tech, which is just trying to get to 6-6, higher than I normally would because its fans are likely to turn out for revered coach Frank Beamer's finale (in Charlotte?)

Also, teams may get placed in a less prestigious bowl due to geography or to avoid repeat matchups. For example, I’ve slotted potentially 10-2 Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl because it’s played in a Florida game the past two seasons.


Note that I reversed course from my Forward Pass column Monday and tabbed Memphis, not Temple, as my projected AAC and thus Group of 5 champ. I think I got too caught up in that Notre Dame game.


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


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

* -- replacement for a conference without enough eligible teams

+ projected 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