• Losses by Clemson, Michigan and Washington in Week 11 create room for both Ohio State and Wisconsin in the predicted College Football Playoff field.
By Colin Becht
November 15, 2016

It’s a whole new postseason world now.

You can be forgiven if you thought the bowl projections were getting a bit stale in recent weeks. With so much stability in the College Football Playoff picture, there simply weren’t any sweeping changes to mix up the matchups from the Peach Bowl down to the Arizona Bowl.

All of that has of course changed after No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Washington all suffered their first losses of the season on Saturday. Only Clemson hung onto its playoff spot of those three, making room for two other Big Ten teams to leap into the projected national semifinal field.

As things stand, the Big Ten is well-positioned to be the first conference with multiple playoff teams. Assuming Penn State can beat Rutgers and Michigan State (likely), Wisconsin can beat Purdue and Minnesota (also likely) and Ohio State can beat Michigan (looking more likely after the Wolverines’ loss and quarterback Wilton Speight’s injury), the Nittany Lions will play the Badgers in the Big Ten title game. That creates an excellent opportunity for both the winner of that game and 11–1 Ohio State to finish in the top four.

Wisconsin’s rise into a playoff favorite and Washington’s ouster sets in motion a host of changes through the bowl projections. But before we get to the full projections, a reminder about how the college football postseason works. The College Football 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.


New Year's Six bowls

Bowl Date Location Matchup Pick
Peach (semifinal) Dec. 31 Atlanta TBD vs. TBD Alabama vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta (semifinal) Dec. 31 Glendale, Ariz. TBD vs. TBD Clemson vs. Ohio State
Orange Dec. 30 Miami ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND Louisville vs. Penn State
Cotton Jan. 2 Arlington, Texas TBD vs. TBD Western Michigan vs. Colorado
Rose Jan. 2 Pasadena, Calif. Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Michigan vs. Washington
Sugar Jan. 2 New Orleans SEC vs. Big 12 Florida vs. Oklahoma
College Football
Major shuffle at top of Power Rankings after chaotic Week 11
bowl date location matchup pick
New Mexico Dec. 17 Albuquerque, N.M. C-USA vs. MW Middle Tennessee 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. Louisiana-Lafayette
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. Miami (OH)
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 Southern Miss* vs. South Florida
Quick Lane Dec. 26 Detroit ACC vs. Big Ten NC State vs. Maryland
Independence Dec. 26 Shreveport, La. ACC vs. SEC Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky
Heart of Dallas Dec. 27 Dallas Big Ten vs. C-USA South Alabama* vs. Old Dominion
Military Dec. 27 Annapolis, Md. ACC vs. AAC Akron* vs. Temple
Holiday Dec. 27 San Diego Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Minnesota vs. Stanford
Cactus Dec. 27 Phoenix Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Texas vs. Army*
Pinstripe Dec. 28 New York ACC vs. Big Ten Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern
Russell Athletic Dec. 28 Orlando, Fla. ACC vs. Big 12 Virginia Tech 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 TCU vs. Texas A&M
Birmingham Dec. 29 Birmingham, Ala. AAC vs. SEC Houston vs. South Carolina
Belk Dec. 29 Charlotte, N.C. ACC vs. SEC North Carolina vs. LSU
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. Arkansas State
Liberty Dec. 30 Memphis, Tenn. Big 12 vs. SEC Baylor vs. Ole Miss
Sun Dec. 30 El Paso, Texas ACC vs. Pac-12 Wake Forest vs. Washington State
Music City Dec. 30 Nashville, Tenn. ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC Iowa vs. Georgia
TaxSlayer Dec. 31 Jacksonville, Fla. ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC Miami vs. Auburn
Citrus Dec. 31 Orlando, Fla. Big Ten/ACC vs. SEC Florida State vs. Tennessee
Outback Jan. 2 Tampa, Fla. Big Ten vs. SEC Nebraska vs. Arkansas

*Replacement team

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