2015-16 Preseason Bowl Projections: Who will make the playoff this year?
The first season of the College Football Playoff showed that just about anything can happen in this new postseason system. Ohio State made the top four in exactly one set of rankings from the selection committee—the last one—and went on to win the national championship. The Big 12 was the closest of any conference to landing two teams in the four-team bracket, but neither Baylor nor TCU made the field. The playoff committee’s ambiguous selection process and fluidity at the top of its rankings made predicting bowl destinations a crapshoot.
This season 40 bowls make up the 2015 postseason: the New Year’s Six Bowls, which include the two playoff semifinals, and 34 lower-tier bowls. Before moving forward, here’s a quick reminder on how this all works:
The selection committee fills the two semifinal bowls based on its final rankings. It then rounds out the four non-playoff New Year’s Six bowls while fulfilling certain contractual obligations, such as pitting the Big Ten against the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl. The committee is required to place the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion in a New Year’s Six bowl.
The remaining teams are then fed into each league’s contract bowls. If a league doesn’t produce enough bowl-eligible teams, bowls can invite replacement teams from other leagues.
Like last season, the ACC, Big Ten and SEC each pool a select number of bowls together and decide where to place teams. While the Big 12 and Pac-12 use a more straightforward method—the Pac-12’s No. 2 choice would go to the Alamo Bowl, the No. 3 to the Holiday Bowl, etc.—the process for the other three Power Five leagues is less structured. For instance, the ACC’s No. 2 choice will go to the Russell Athletic Bowl, but teams Nos. 3–6 can land anywhere among the Sun, Belk, Music City/Taxslayer or Pinstripe bowls.
Keep in mind, the Pac-12’s No. 2 bowl doesn't automatically take the conference’s second-place team. Fan travel, location and matchup considerations all factor into bowl selection as much as conference standings. Leagues aren't obligated to fill bowls based on records.
**Preseason bowl projections based on predicted finishes in SI.com’s conference primers.**
|Orange (semifinal)||Dec. 31||Miami||TBD vs. TBD||Auburn vs. Oregon|
|Cotton (semifinal)||Dec. 31||Arlington, Texas||TBD vs. TBD||Ohio State vs. Baylor|
|Peach||Dec. 31||Atlanta||TBD vs. TBD||Georgia vs. Clemson|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||Glendale, Ariz.||TBD vs. TBD||Notre Dame vs. Boise State|
|Rose||Jan. 1||Pasadena, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Michigan State vs. USC|
|Sugar||Jan. 1||New Orleans||SEC vs. Big 12||Alabama vs. TCU|
|New Orleans||Dec. 19||New Orleans||MWC vs. Sun Belt||Air Force vs. Georgia Southern|
|New Mexico||Dec. 19||Albuquerque, N.M.||C-USA vs. MWC||Middle Tennessee State vs. San Diego State|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 19||Las Vegas||MWC/BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. Utah|
|Cure||Dec. 19||Orlando, Fla.||AAC vs. Sun Belt||UCF vs. Arkansas State|
|Camellia||Dec. 19||Montgomery, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Bowling Green vs. Appalachian State|
|Miami Beach||Dec. 21||Miami||AAC vs. C-USA||Temple vs. Marshall|
|Idaho Potato||Dec. 22||Boise, Idaho||MAC vs. MWC||Akron vs. San Jose State|
|Boca Raton||Dec. 22||Boca Raton, Fla.||AAC vs. MAC||East Carolina vs. Northern Illinois|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 23||San Diego||MWC vs. Army||Fresno State vs. Washington*|
|GoDaddy||Dec. 23||Mobile, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Toledo vs. Louisiana Lafayette|
|Bahamas||Dec. 24||Nassau, Bahamas||C-USA vs. MAC||Rice vs. Western Michigan|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||Honolulu||AAC vs. MWC/BYU||Memphis vs. Utah State|
|Heart of Dallas||Dec. 26||Dallas||Big 12 vs. C-USA||Texas Tech vs. Western Kentucky|
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||St. Petersburg, Fla.||AAC vs. C-USA||Houston vs. Louisiana Tech|
|Sun||Dec. 26||El Paso, Texas||ACC vs. Pac-12||Georgia Tech vs. Arizona|
|Independence||Dec. 26||Shreveport, La.||ACC vs. SEC||Duke vs. Florida|
|Foster Farms||Dec. 26||Santa Clara, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Minnesota vs. UCLA|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 26||Bronx, N.Y.||ACC vs. Big Ten||Louisville vs. Maryland|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 28||Detroit||ACC vs. Big Ten||Miami vs. Kentucky*|
|Military||Dec. 28||Annapolis, Md.||AAC vs. ACC||Navy vs. NC State|
|Arizona||Dec. 29 (tentative)||Tucson, Ariz.||MWC vs. C-USA||Nevada vs. Southern Miss|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||Orlando, Fla.||ACC vs. Big 12||Florida State vs. Texas|
|Texas||Dec. 29||Houston||Big 12 vs. SEC||Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 29||Fort Worth, Texas||Big Ten vs. MWC||Iowa vs. Colorado State|
|Music City||Dec. 30||Nashville||ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC||Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||San Diego||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Wisconsin vs. Stanford|
|Belk||Dec. 30||Charlotte, N.C.||ACC vs. SEC||Pittsburgh vs. South Carolina|
|Birmingham||Dec. 30||Birmingham, Ala.||AAC vs. SEC||Cincinnati vs. Missouri|
|Outback||Jan. 1||Tampa, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Penn State vs. Tennessee|
|Citrus||Jan. 1||Orlando, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Nebraska vs. LSU|
|Liberty||Jan. 2||Memphis||Big 12 vs. SEC||Kansas State vs. Mississippi State|
|TaxSlayer||Jan. 2||Jacksonville, Fla.||ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC||Michigan vs. Ole Miss|
|Alamo||Jan. 2||San Antonio||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Oklahoma vs. Arizona State|
|Cactus||Jan. 2||Phoenix, Ariz.||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||West Virginia vs. Cal|