Well, now things are getting interesting.
Only championship Saturday remains in the college football regular season, and 75 teams have already reached bowl eligibility. But 80 teams are needed to fill the 40 bowl games this year, and only three five-win programs—Kansas State, Georgia State and South Alabama—have any games left. That means the NCAA will have to grant at least a couple of 5–7 teams the right to play in bowls.
So which five-win schools get to enjoy the postseason? The NCAA announced Monday that those extra bids will be filled based on highest Academic Progress Rates. The top five-win teams in APR score are Nebraska (985), Kansas State (976), Missouri (976), Minnesota (975), San Jose State (975), Illinois (973) and Rice (973). Missouri declined its bowl opportunity Monday, so we’ve included five-win Nebraska, Kansas State, Minnesota, San Jose State and Illinois in our latest bowl projections, accounting for conference tie-ins where possible.
However, the order with which the bowls select newly eligible teams remains unclear. And whether or not any more 5–7 schools will decline bowl opportunities is also unknown.
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 a Big Ten team against the Pac-12 squad 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.
|Orange Bowl (semifinal)||Dec. 31||Miami Gardens, Fla.||No. 1 vs. No. 4||Clemson vs. Oklahoma|
|Cotton Bowl (semifinal)||Dec. 31||Arlington, Texas||No. 2 vs. No. 3||Alabama vs. Michigan St.|
|Peach Bowl||Dec. 31||Atlanta, Ga.||At-large vs. Group of Five||Florida St. vs. Houston|
|Fiesta Bowl||Jan. 1||Glendale, Ariz.||At-large vs. At-large||Notre Dame vs. Iowa|
|Rose Bowl||Jan. 1||Pasadena, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Ohio State vs. Stanford|
|Sugar Bowl||Jan. 1||New Orleans, La.||SEC vs. Big 12||Ole Miss vs. Baylor|
|New Orleans Bowl||Dec. 19||New Orleans, La.||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||Ark. St. vs. La. Tech|
|New Mexico Bowl||Dec. 19||Albequerque, N.M.||CUSA vs. MW||C. Mich.* vs. New Mexico|
|Las Vegas Bowl||Dec. 19||Las Vegas||MW/BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. Wash. St.|
|Cure Bowl||Dec. 19||Orlando, Fla.||AAC vs. Sun Belt||UConn vs. Ga. South.|
|Camellia Bowl||Dec. 19||Montgomery, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Ohio vs. App. State|
|Miami Beach Bowl||Dec. 21||Miami, Fla.||AAC vs. CUSA||Cincinnati vs. So. Miss|
|Idaho Potato Bowl||Dec. 22||Boise, Idaho||MAC vs. MW||Akron vs. Boise St.|
|Boca Raton Bowl||Dec. 22||Boca Raton, Fla.||AAC vs. MAC||USF vs. Toledo|
|Poinsettia Bowl||Dec. 23||San Diego, Calif.||MW vs. Army||SDSU vs. N. Illinois|
|GoDaddy Bowl||Dec. 23||Mobile, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||BGSU vs. SJSU**|
|Bahamas Bowl||Dec. 24||Nassau, Bahamas||CUSA vs. MAC||Mid. Tenn. vs. W. Mich.|
|Hawaii Bowl||Dec. 24||Honolulu, Hawaii||AAC vs. MW/BYU||Tulsa vs. Co. State|
|Heart of Dallas Bowl||Dec. 26||Dallas, Texas||Big 12/Big Ten vs. CUSA||Nevada* vs. Western Ky.|
|St. Petersburg Bowl||Dec. 26||St. Petersburg, Fla.||AAC vs. CUSA||Temple vs. Marshall|
|Sun Bowl||Dec. 26||El Paso, Texas||ACC vs. Pac-12||NC State vs. Utah|
|Independence Bowl||Dec. 26||Shreveport, La.||ACC vs. SEC||Va. Tech vs. Illinois**|
|Foster Farms Bowl||Dec. 26||Santa Clara, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Indiana vs. UCLA|
|Pinstripe Bowl||Dec. 26||Bronx, N.Y.||ACC vs. Big Ten||Miami vs. Minnesota**|
|Quick Lane Bowl||Dec. 28||Detroit, Mich.||ACC vs. Big Ten||Cal* vs. Nebraska**|
|Military Bowl||Dec. 28||Annapolis, Md.||ACC vs. AAC||Louisville vs. Navy|
|Arizona Bowl||Dec. 29||Tucson, Ariz||MW vs. CUSA||Air Force vs. Arizona*|
|Russell Athletic Bowl||Dec. 29||Orlando, Fla.||ACC vs. Big 12||UNC vs. TCU|
|Texas Bowl||Dec. 29||Houston, Texas||Big 12 vs. SEC||Tex. Tech vs. Tex. A&M|
|Armed Forces Bowl||Dec. 29||Fort Worth, Texas||Big Ten/Big 12 vs. MW||Wash.* vs. Utah St.|
|Music City Bowl||Dec. 30||Nashville, Tenn.||ACC vs. SEC||Pitt vs. Arkansas|
|Holiday Bowl||Dec. 30||San Diego, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Penn St. vs. Oregon|
|Belk Bowl||Dec. 30||Charlotte, N.C.||ACC vs. SEC||Duke vs. Miss. St.|
|Birmingham Bowl||Dec. 30||Birmingham, Ala.||AAC vs. SEC||Memphis vs. Georgia|
|Outback Bowl||Jan. 1||Tampa, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Michigan vs. Tenn.|
|Citrus Bowl||Jan. 1||Orlando, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Wisconsin vs. Florida|
|Liberty Bowl||Jan. 2||Memphis, Tenn.||Big 12 vs. SEC||Kansas St.** vs. Auburn|
|TaxSlayer Bowl||Jan. 2||Jacksonville, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Northwestern vs. LSU|
|Alamo Bowl||Jan. 2||San Antonio, Texas||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Okla. State vs. USC|
|Cactus Bowl||Jan. 2||Phoenix, Ariz.||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||W. Virginia vs. Ariz. St.|