Bowl Projections: Can Baylor make a late College Football Playoff surge?
Baylor isn’t feeling much respect in the playoff system. Last week it ranked two spots behind TCU -- a team it beat 61-58 earlier this fall -- in the College Football Playoff rankings. But fans in Waco might need only to wait two weeks for their chance at redemption. If Baylor beats a top-15 Kansas State in its regular-season finale, Art Briles’ program could have it best case yet for a spot in the top four.
The playoff’s current top three teams -- Alabama, Oregon and Florida State -- are all near-locks for semifinal berths if they win out. But the No. 4 spot is less certain. Ohio State appeared to be a viable contender for that position last week, but its 35-21 nonconference loss to Virginia Tech looks even worse after the Hokies fell to Wake Forest 6-3 in double overtime last weekend. That’s why Baylor, if it tops Kansas State, might be more impressive to the selection committee than an Ohio State that beats Wisconsin or Minnesota in the Big Ten championship game.
Before moving forward, 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 an ACC team against an SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame team in the Orange 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.
This season the ACC, Big Ten and SEC have each pooled a select number of bowls together and will 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, “Pac-12 No. 2” doesn't mean the Pac-12’s second-place team. Fan travel and geographical location factor into bowl selection as much as conference standings. Thus, leagues aren't obligated to fill bowls based on records.
|Peach||Dec. 31||Atlanta||TBD vs. TBD||Georgia vs. Marshall|
|Fiesta||Dec. 31||Glendale, Ariz.||TBD vs. TBD||Ohio State vs. UCLA|
|Orange||Dec. 31||Miami||ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND||Ga. Tech vs. Miss. State|
|Cotton||Jan. 1||Arlington, Texas||TBD vs. TBD||TCU vs. Mich. State|
|Rose (semifinal)||Jan. 1||Pasadena, Calif.||TBD vs. TBD||Oregon vs. Florida State|
|Sugar (semifinal)||Jan. 1||New Orleans||TBD vs. TBD||Alabama vs. Baylor|
|New Orleans||Dec. 20||New Orleans||MWC vs. Sun Belt||Fresno State vs. Ark. State|
|New Mexico||Dec. 20||Albuquerque, N.M.||C-USA vs. MWC||La. Tech vs. Nevada|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 20||Las Vegas||MWC vs. Pac-12||Boise State vs. Stanford|
|Idaho Potato||Dec. 20||Boise, Idaho||MAC vs. MWC||BGSU vs. Utah State|
|Camellia||Dec. 20||Montgomery, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Toledo vs. So. Alabama|
|Miami Beach||Dec. 22||Miami||AAC vs. BYU||Memphis vs. BYU*|
|Boca Raton||Dec. 23||Boca Raton, Fla.||C-USA vs. MAC||WKU vs. W. Michigan|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 23||San Diego||MWC vs. Navy||Colo. State vs. Navy|
|Bahamas||Dec. 24||Nassau, Bahamas||C-USA vs. MAC||MTSU vs. C. Michigan|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||Honolulu||C-USA vs. MWC||UTEP vs. Air Force|
|Heart of Dallas||Dec. 26||Dallas||Big Ten vs. C-USA||Rutgers vs. Rice|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 26||Detroit||ACC vs. Big Ten||Virginia vs. Northwestern|
|Bitcoin||Dec. 26||St. Petersburg||AAC vs. ACC||Cincinnati vs. NC State|
|Military||Dec. 27||Annapolis, Md.||AAC vs. ACC||BC vs. UCF|
|Sun||Dec. 27||El Paso, Texas||ACC vs. Pac-12||Louisville vs. Utah|
|Independence||Dec. 27||Shreveport, La.||ACC vs. SEC||UNC vs. Arkansas|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 27||Bronx, N.Y.||ACC vs. Big Ten||Notre Dame vs. PSU|
|Holiday||Dec. 27||San Diego||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Minnesota vs. USC|
|Liberty||Dec. 29||Memphis||Big 12 vs. SEC||WVU vs. Tennessee|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||Orlando, Fla.||ACC vs. Big 12||Clemson vs. Oklahoma|
|Texas||Dec. 29||Houston||Big 12 vs. SEC||Texas vs. Auburn|
|Music City||Dec. 30||Nashville||ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC||Miami vs. Texas A&M|
|Belk||Dec. 30||Charlotte, N.C.||ACC vs. SEC||Duke vs. So. Carolina|
|Foster Farms||Dec. 30||Santa Clara, Calif.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Iowa vs. Arizona|
|Citrus||Jan. 1||Orlando, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Wisconsin vs. Missouri|
|Outback||Jan. 1||Tampa, Fla.||Big Ten vs. SEC||Nebraska vs. Ole Miss|
|Armed Forces||Jan. 2||Fort Worth, Texas||ACC vs. Army||Houston vs. Cal**|
|TaxSlayer||Jan. 2||Jacksonville, Fla.||ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC||Maryland vs. LSU|
|Alamo||Jan. 2||San Antonio||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||K-State vs. Ariz. State|
|Cactus||Jan. 2||Tempe, Ariz.||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Ohio** vs. Washington|
|Birmingham||Jan. 3||Birmingham, Ala.||AAC vs. SEC||Florida vs. E. Carolina|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 4||Mobile, Ala.||MAC vs. Sun Belt||NIU vs. UL-Lafayette|
* -- Accepted bowl bid
** -- Replacement team