We’re 109 days away from the start of bowl season, when the New Mexico Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, Camellia Bowl, Cure Bowl and New Orleans Bowl will kick off the 2016 postseason. In those 109 days, the 128 teams of the FBS will complete their regular seasons that—for everyone except Cal and Hawaii—commence this weekend.
So it’s safe to say there’s still a fair bit of uncertainty in how the bowl picture will shape up this season. Of course, some things are clearer: Only a dozen or so teams have a realistic shot at reaching the College Football Playoff. BYU will play in the Poinsettia Bowl as long as the Cougars are bowl-eligible (they should be) and don’t make the playoff (they won’t). The same goes for Navy and the Armed Forces Bowl.
But for the most part, the 40 bowl games plus the national championship that make up the 2016 season’s finale are largely a mystery. So consider this a best guess, one that we’ll continue to refine throughout the season.
But first, here’s a reminder about how all this works. The playoff selection committee will choose the teams for the two playoff semifinals and four other marquee bowls that are part of the New Year’s Six. The highest ranked Group of Five conference champion must play in one of those six games, and other games, such as the Rose Bowl, have conference tie-ins.
The remaining bowl games are also governed by agreements with the different conferences, though if a league doesn’t produce enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill all of its tie-ins, that bowl can select another conference’s representative. In some cases, leagues will pool together their bowl tie-ins to create more flexibility. The Music City Bowl, for example, can choose either an ACC or Big Ten team to face an SEC opponent.
And lastly, just because a bowl may be designated to have a particular order of selection among a conference’s teams doesn’t mean it has to adhere exactly to the standings. The Alamo Bowl’s second choice among Pac-12 teams, for example, does not require it to choose the No. 2 available team from the Pac-12 standings or from the playoff committee’s rankings. Other factors, such as location, the matchup, the size of a school’s fan base and the willingness of that fan base to travel, can influence bowls’ decisions. Some conferences group their bids together rather than follow a strict hierarchy to give them greater flexibility to create compelling matchups. This allows the SEC, for example, to choose between its third through eighth teams to send to the Texas, Belk, Liberty, Music City, TaxSlayer and Outback bowls depending on which bowls its teams have been to most recently, what matchups it wants to create and other considerations.
New Year's Six bowls
|Peach (semifinal)||Dec. 31||Atlanta||TBD vs. TBD||Alabama vs. Notre Dame|
|Fiesta (semifinal)||Dec. 31||Glendale, Ariz.||TBD vs. TBD||Ohio State vs. Florida State|
|Orange||Dec. 30||Miami||ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND||Clemson vs. Tennessee|
|Cotton||Jan. 2||Arlington, Texas||TBD vs. TBD||Boise State vs. TCU|
|Rose||Jan. 2||Pasadena, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Michigan vs. Stanford|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||New Orleans||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Oklahoma|
|New Mexico||Dec. 17||Albuquerque, N.M,||C-USA vs. MW||Florida Atlantic vs. Colorado State|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 17||Las Vegas||MW vs. Pac-12||San Diego State vs. Washington State|
|Camellia||Dec. 17||Montgomery, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Bowling Green vs. Arkansas State|
|Cure||Dec. 17||Orlando, Fla.||AAC vs. Sun Belt||East Carolina vs. Troy|
|New Orleans||Dec. 17||New Orleans||Sun Belt vs. C-USA||Appalachian State vs. Marshall|
|Miami Beach||Dec. 19||Miami||AAC vs. MAC||Houston vs. Northern Illinois|
|Boca Raton||Dec. 20||Boca Raton, Fla.||AAC vs. C-USA||UConn vs. Southern Miss|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 21||San Diego||BYU vs. MW||BYU vs. Air Force|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 22||Boise, Idaho||MAC vs. MW||Toledo vs. Nevada|
|Bahamas||Dec. 23||Nassau, Bahamas||AAC vs. MAC||Memphis vs. Ohio|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 23||Fort Worth, Texas||Big 12 vs. Navy||West Virginia vs. Navy|
|Dollar General||Dec. 23||Mobile, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Western Michigan vs. Georgia Southern|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||Honolulu||C-USA vs. MW||Louisiana Tech vs. Utah State|
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||St. Petersburg, Fla.||ACC vs. AAC||Central Michigan* vs. South Florida|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 26||Detroit||ACC vs. Big Ten||Georgia Tech vs. Wisconsin|
|Independence||Dec. 26||Shreveport, La.||ACC vs. SEC||Duke vs. Western Kentucky*|
|Heart of Dallas||Dec. 27||Dallas||Big Ten vs. C-USA||Indiana vs. Middle Tennessee|
|Military||Dec. 27||Annapolis, Md.||ACC vs. AAC||Temple vs. NC State|
|Holiday||Dec. 27||San Diego||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Michigan State vs. Oregon|
|Cactus||Dec. 27||Phoenix||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Kansas State vs. Utah|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||New York||ACC vs. Big Ten||Miami vs. Penn State|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||Orlando, Fla.||ACC vs. Big 12||Louisville vs. Texas|
|Foster Farms||Dec. 28||Santa Clara, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Northwestern vs. USC|
|Texas||Dec. 28||Houston||Big 12 vs. SEC||Baylor vs. Mississippi State|
|Birmingham||Dec. 29||Birmingham, Ala.||AAC vs. SEC||Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt|
|Belk||Dec. 29||Charlotte, N.C.||ACC vs. SEC||Pittsburgh vs. Arkansas|
|Alamo||Dec. 29||San Antonio||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Oklahoma State vs. Washington|
|Arizona||Dec. 30||Tucson, Ariz.||MW vs. Sun Belt||Fresno State vs. Arizona*|
|Liberty||Dec. 30||Memphis, Tenn.||Big 12 vs. SEC||Texas Tech vs. Auburn|
|Sun||Dec. 30||El Paso, Texas||ACC vs. Pac-12||Virginia Tech vs. UCLA|
|Music City||Dec. 30||Nashville, Ten..||ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC||Minnesota vs. Florida|
|TaxSlayer||Dec. 31||Jacksonville, Fla.||ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC||North Carolina vs. Texas A&M|
|Citrus||Dec. 31||Orlando, Fla.||Big Ten/ACC vs. SEC||Iowa vs. Georgia|
|Outback||Jan. 2||Tampa, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Nebraska vs. Ole Miss|