Bowl projections: Predicting the playoff, other bowls at midseason
It seems the Pac-12 could be headed for a similar fate as last season’s Big 12.
Just two teams—Stanford and Utah—remain unbeaten in Pac-12 play through seven weeks of football. In our projections, the Cardinal run the table and topple the Utes in the conference title game. But even with a Pac-12 championship in hand, Stanford might not have the résumé to reach the College Football Playoff. We project Baylor, Michigan State and Clemson to all finish as unbeaten conference champs. Meanwhile, SEC champ Alabama is projected to end the year with one loss, but that setback (a 43-37 loss to Ole Miss) will look better in the eyes of the committee committee than Stanford’s 16-6 loss to Northwestern.
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.
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 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.
Disclaimer: While our preseason bowl projections were based on predicted finishes in SI.com’s conference primers, midseason projections are based on the author’s personal assessment of current conference standings.
|Orange Bowl (semifinal)||Dec. 31||Miami Gardens, Fla.||No. 1 vs. No. 4||Alabama vs. Clemson|
|Cotton Bowl (semifinal)||Dec. 31||Arlington, Tex.||No. 2 vs. No. 3||Baylor vs. Mich. St.|
|Peach Bowl||Dec. 31||Atlanta, Ga.||at-large vs. at-large||Utah vs. Florida State|
|Fiesta Bowl||Jan. 1||Glendale, Ariz.||at-large vs. Group of Five||Notre Dame vs. Memphis|
|Rose Bowl||Jan. 1||Pasadena, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Ohio St. vs. Stanford|
|Sugar Bowl||Jan. 1||New Orleans, La.||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. TCU|
|New Orleans Bowl||Dec. 19||New Orleans, La.||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||Ga. Southern vs. La. Tech|
|New Mexico Bowl||Dec. 19||Albequerque, N.M.||CUSA vs. MW||MTSU vs. New Mex.|
|Las Vegas Bowl||Dec. 19||Las Vegas||MW/BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. Arizona|
|Cure Bowl||Dec. 19||Orlando, Fla.||AAC vs. Sun Belt||Tulsa vs. Ark. State|
|Camellia Bowl||Dec. 19||Montgomery, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Ohio vs. App. St.|
|Miami Beach Bowl||Dec. 21||Miami, Fla.||AAC vs. CUSA||Cincinnati vs. West. Ky.|
|Idaho Potato Bowl||Dec. 22||Boise, Idaho||MAC vs. MW||BGSU vs. Col. St.|
|Boca Raton Bowl||Dec. 22||Boca Raton, Fla.||AAC vs. MAC||USF vs. West. Mich.|
|Poinsettia Bowl||Dec. 23||San Diego, Calif.||MW vs. Army||SDSU vs. Central Mich.*|
|GoDaddy Bowl||Dec. 23||Mobile, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Toledo vs. South Ala.|
|Bahamas Bowl||Dec. 24||Nassau, Bahamas||CUSA vs. MAC||Old Dominion vs. North. Ill.|
|Hawaii Bowl||Dec. 24||Honolulu, Hawaii||AAC vs. MW/BYU||ECU vs. Boise St.|
|Heart of Dallas Bowl||Dec. 26||Dallas, Tex.||Big 12/Big Ten vs. CUSA||Indiana vs. So. Miss.|
|St. Petersburg Bowl||Dec. 26||St. Petersburg, Fla.||AAC vs. CUSA||Temple vs. Marshall|
|Sun Bowl||Dec. 26||El Paso, Tex.||ACC vs. Pac-12||Va. Tech vs. Oregon|
|Independence Bowl||Dec. 26||Shreveport, La.||ACC vs. SEC||Louisville vs. Missouri|
|Foster Farms Bowl||Dec. 26||Santa Clara, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Nebraska vs. USC|
|Pinstripe Bowl||Dec. 26||Bronx, N.Y.||ACC vs. Big Ten||Pitt vs. Northwestern|
|Quick Lane Bowl||Dec. 28||Detroit, Mich.||ACC vs. Big Ten||Air Force* vs. Illinois|
|Military Bowl||Dec. 28||Annapolis, Md.||ACC vs. AAC||NC State vs. Navy|
|Arizona Bowl||Dec. 29||Tucson, Ariz||MW vs. CUSA||Nevada vs. Rice|
|Russell Athletic Bowl||Dec. 29||Orlando, Fla.||ACC vs. Big 12||Duke vs. West Va.|
|Texas Bowl||Dec. 29||Houston, Tex.||Big 12 vs. SEC||Kan. St. vs. Tex. A&M|
|Armed Forces Bowl||Dec. 29||Fort Worth, Tex.||Big Ten/Big 12 vs. MW||Wash. St.* vs. Utah St.|
|Music City Bowl||Dec. 30||Nashville, Tenn.||ACC vs. SEC||Miami vs. Tennessee|
|Holiday Bowl||Dec. 30||San Diego, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Penn St. vs. UCLA|
|Belk Bowl||Dec. 30||Charlotte, N.C.||ACC vs. SEC||UNC vs. Auburn|
|Birmingham Bowl||Dec. 30||Birmingham, Ala.||AAC vs. SEC||Houston vs. Kentucky|
|Outback Bowl||Jan. 1||Tampa, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Michigan vs. Ole Miss|
|Citrus Bowl||Jan. 1||Orlando, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Iowa vs. Florida|
|Liberty Bowl||Jan. 2||Memphis, Tenn.||Big 12 vs. SEC||Okla. St. vs. Miss. St.|
|TaxSlayer Bowl||Jan. 2||Jacksonville, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Wisc. vs. Georgia|
|Alamo Bowl||Jan. 2||San Antonio, Tex.||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Okla. vs. Ariz. St.|
|Cactus Bowl||Jan. 2||Phoenix, Ariz.||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Tex. Tech vs. Cal|