College football 2015-16 bowl projections: Predicting the playoff, New Year's Six bowls after week 11.

By Zac Ellis
November 16, 2015

Three teams in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s current top four feel like near-locks for the bracket if they win out. The No. 4 spot, however, is less certain.

Our latest bowl projections keep Oklahoma State at No. 4 as an undefeated Big 12 champion. Now that Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU each have one loss, the Cowboys likely stand as the Big 12’s most realistic playoff contender. Whether or not they deserve the No. 4 spot over, say, a one-loss Iowa or Notre Dame is a legitimate debate. But projects the committee would favor Oklahoma State with a conference title and an undefeated record to its name, two factors the Hawkeyes and Fighting Irish wouldn’t be able to claim.

This year 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 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. Okla. St.
Cotton Bowl (semifinal) Dec. 31 Arlington, Tex. No. 2 vs. No. 3 Alabama vs. Ohio State
Peach Bowl Dec. 31 Atlanta, Ga. At-large vs. Group of Five Florida vs. Houston
Fiesta Bowl Jan. 1 Glendale, Ariz. At-large vs. At-large Notre Dame vs. Mich. St.
Rose Bowl Jan. 1 Pasadena, Calif. Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Iowa vs. Stanford
Sugar Bowl Jan. 1 New Orleans, La. SEC vs. Big 12 LSU vs. Oklahoma
bowl date location matchup pick
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 MTSU vs. New Mexico
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. Ga. South.
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. So. Miss
Idaho Potato Bowl Dec. 22 Boise, Idaho MAC vs. MW BGSU vs. Boise 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. Cent. Mich.
GoDaddy Bowl Dec. 23 Mobile, Ala. MAC vs. Sun Belt Toledo vs. South Ala.
Bahamas Bowl Dec. 24 Nassau, Bahamas CUSA vs. MAC ODU vs. NIU
Hawaii Bowl Dec. 24 Honolulu, Hawaii AAC vs. MW/BYU ECU vs. Utah State
Heart of Dallas Bowl Dec. 26 Dallas, Tex. Big 12/Big Ten vs. CUSA Cal* vs. Western Ky.
St. Petersburg Bowl Dec. 26 St. Petersburg, Fla. AAC vs. CUSA Memphis vs. Marshall
Sun Bowl Dec. 26 El Paso, Tex. ACC vs. Pac-12 NC State vs. UCLA
Independence Bowl Dec. 26 Shreveport, La. ACC vs. SEC Va. Tech vs. Nevada*
Foster Farms Bowl Dec. 26 Santa Clara, Calif. Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Indiana vs. Oregon
Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 26 Bronx, N.Y. ACC vs. Big Ten Duke vs. Minnesota
Quick Lane Bowl Dec. 28 Detroit, Mich. ACC vs. Big Ten Louisville vs. Akron*
Military Bowl Dec. 28 Annapolis, Md. ACC vs. AAC Miami vs. Navy
Arizona Bowl Dec. 29 Tucson, Ariz MW vs. CUSA Air Force vs. Rice
Russell Athletic Bowl Dec. 29 Orlando, Fla. ACC vs. Big 12 UNC vs. TCU
Texas Bowl Dec. 29 Houston, Tex. Big 12 vs. SEC W. Virginia vs. Georgia
Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 29 Fort Worth, Tex. Big Ten/Big 12 vs. MW Ariz. St. vs. Colo. 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. Utah
Belk Bowl Dec. 30 Charlotte, N.C. ACC vs. SEC FSU vs. Texas A&M
Birmingham Bowl Dec. 30 Birmingham, Ala. AAC vs. SEC Temple vs. Buffalo*
Outback Bowl Jan. 1 Tampa, Fla. Big Ten vs. SEC Michigan vs. Tenn.
Citrus Bowl Jan. 1 Orlando, Fla. Big Ten vs. SEC Wisc. vs. Ole Miss
Liberty Bowl Jan. 2 Memphis, Tenn. Big 12 vs. SEC Tex. Tech vs. Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl Jan. 2 Jacksonville, Fla. Big Ten vs. SEC N'Western vs. Miss. St.
Alamo Bowl Jan. 2 San Antonio, Tex. Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Baylor vs. USC
Cactus Bowl Jan. 2 Phoenix, Ariz. Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Kan. St. vs. Wash. St.

*Replacement team

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