College football 2015-16 bowl projections: Predicting the playoff, New Year's Six bowls after Week 13.

By Zac Ellis
December 01, 2015

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.

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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
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 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.

*Replacement team
**Five-win team

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