• Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Florida State make the predicted College Football Playoff field in SI's preseason bowl projections.
By Colin Becht
August 30, 2016

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.

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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.

Bowl Date Location Matchup Pick
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

SI unveils preseason Top 25 rankings

bowl date location matchup pick
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

*Replacement team

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)