• The projected College Football Playoff field remains unchanged while Auburn and Penn State capitalize on the losses of Texas A&M and Nebraska to move into the New Year's Six bowl lineup.
By Colin Becht
November 08, 2016

The postseason picture gained a lot more clarity with the debut of the College Football Playoff rankings last week. While it’s true that the first rankings aren’t all that predictive for determining who will actually make the playoff (Texas A&M can attest to that), they still offer a sense of how the hierarchy of teams might look at season’s end.

One of the biggest surprises in last week’s rankings was Penn State’s placement at No. 12. With the Nittany Lions’ manageable closing schedule of Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State, they have a solid chance to end the regular season 10–2. The high assessment from last week suggests that such a finish would put Penn State inside the top 10 of the final rankings. That makes James Franklin’s squad the big winners in this week’s bowl projections, sliding up into the New Year’s Six bowls with a spot in the Cotton Bowl.

Before we get to the full bowl projections, a reminder about how the college football postseason works. The playoff selection committee will choose the teams for the two playoff semifinals—the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl this year—and the 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 10 FBS 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.

• The one thing all College Football Playoff contenders must have

New Year's Six bowls

Bowl Date Location Matchup Pick
Peach (semifinal) Dec. 31 Atlanta TBD vs. TBD Alabama vs. Washington
Fiesta (semifinal) Dec. 31 Glendale, Ariz. TBD vs. TBD Michigan vs. Clemson
Orange Dec. 30 Miami ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND Louisville vs. Wisconsin
Cotton Jan. 2 Arlington, Texas TBD vs. TBD Western Michigan vs. Penn State
Rose Jan. 2 Pasadena, Calif. Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Ohio State vs. Colorado
Sugar Jan. 2 New Orleans SEC vs. Big 12 Auburn vs. Oklahoma
College Football
Ohio State moves into the top five of Power Rankings after Week 10
bowl date location matchup pick
New Mexico Dec. 17 Albuquerque, N.M. C-USA vs. MW Old Dominion vs. New Mexico
Las Vegas Dec. 17 Las Vegas MW vs. Pac-12 Boise State vs. Arizona State
Camellia Dec. 17 Montgomery, Ala. MAC vs. Sun Belt Eastern Michigan vs. Idaho
Cure Dec. 17 Orlando, Fla. AAC vs. Sun Belt UCF vs. Arkansas State
New Orleans Dec. 17 New Orleans Sun Belt vs. C-USA Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky
Miami Beach Dec. 19 Miami AAC vs. MAC Tulsa vs. Central Michigan
Boca Raton Dec. 20 Boca Raton, Fla. AAC vs. C-USA Memphis vs. Louisiana Tech
Poinsettia Dec. 21 San Diego BYU vs. MW BYU vs. San Diego State
Famous Idaho Potato Dec. 22 Boise, Idaho MAC vs. MW Ohio vs. Wyoming
Bahamas Dec. 23 Nassau, Bahamas AAC vs. MAC SMU vs. Akron
Armed Forces Dec. 23 Fort Worth, Texas Big 12 vs. Navy Kansas State vs. Navy
Dollar General Dec. 23 Mobile, Ala. MAC vs. Sun Belt Toledo vs. Troy
Hawaii Dec. 24 Honolulu C-USA vs. MW UTSA vs. Air Force
St. Petersburg Dec. 26 St. Petersburg, Fla. ACC vs. AAC Georgia Tech vs. South Florida
Quick Lane Dec. 26 Detroit ACC vs. Big Ten NC State vs. Southern Miss*
Independence Dec. 26 Shreveport, La. ACC vs. SEC Wake Forest vs. Kentucky
Heart of Dallas Dec. 27 Dallas Big Ten vs. C-USA Miami (OH)* vs. Middle Tennessee
Military Dec. 27 Annapolis, Md. ACC vs. AAC Army* vs. Temple
Holiday Dec. 27 San Diego Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Northwestern vs. Washington State
Cactus Dec. 27 Phoenix Big 12 vs. Pac-12 TCU vs. Cal
Pinstripe Dec. 28 New York ACC vs. Big Ten Miami vs. Maryland
Russell Athletic Dec. 28 Orlando, Fla. ACC vs. Big 12 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
Foster Farms Dec. 28 Santa Clara, Calif. Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Indiana vs. USC
Texas Dec. 28 Houston Big 12 vs. SEC Baylor vs. Ole Miss
Birmingham Dec. 29 Birmingham, Ala. AAC vs. SEC Houston vs. South Carolina
Belk Dec. 29 Charlotte, N.C. ACC vs. SEC North Carolina vs. Tennessee
Alamo Dec. 29 San Antonio Big 12 vs. Pac-12 West Virginia vs. Utah
Arizona Dec. 30 Tucson, Ariz. MW vs. Sun Belt Colorado State vs. South Alabama
Liberty Dec. 30 Memphis, Tenn. Big 12 vs. SEC Texas vs. Georgia
Sun Dec. 30 El Paso, Texas ACC vs. Pac-12 Pittsburgh vs. Stanford
Music City Dec. 30 Nashville, Tenn. ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC Iowa vs. Arkansas
TaxSlayer Dec. 31 Jacksonville, Fla. ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC Virginia Tech vs. Florida
Citrus Dec. 31 Orlando, Fla. Big Ten/ACC vs. SEC Nebraska vs. Texas A&M
Outback Jan. 2 Tampa, Fla. Big Ten vs. SEC Minnesota vs. LSU

*Replacement team