• Washington moves back into the projected College Football Playoff field while 5–7 teams fill the bottom tier in the post-Week 12 Bowl Projections.
By Colin Becht
November 21, 2016

It’s around this time that bowl projections start to get a little strange. With 40 bowl games, college football needs 80 teams to hit the normal bowl-eligibility threshold (six wins in 12 games) to avoid having to stretch its limits of what qualifies a team for the postseason.

That’s not likely to happen this year, as was the case last year, too. Barring a rash of upsets to close out the season, there won’t be 80 teams this season who meet the regular standard of bowl eligibility. I’m projecting that 75 teams will.

So who gets those other five spots? If Hawaii beats UMass on Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors will finish with six wins in 13 games, making them the first alternate in the bowl picture. Even if Army loses to Navy, the Black Knights will have six wins, but two of those came against FCS foes, one more than typically allowed for bowl eligibility. That won’t matter much this year, so Army’s victory over Morgan State this week should secure its berth in the postseason.

As for the other three spots, it comes down to which 5–7 teams score the highest in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate. That sends Vanderbilt, Boston College and UCLA to bowl games (assuming the Bruins beat Cal on Saturday).  So congrats, Commodores, Eagles and Bruins, your losing records won’t deny you bowl berths this year.

•​ Coaching Carousel Update: Who will replace Charlie Strong at Texas?

Before we get to the full projections, a reminder about how the college football bowl selection 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. Washington
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. Michigan
Cotton Jan. 2 Arlington, Texas TBD vs. TBD Western Michigan vs. USC
Rose Jan. 2 Pasadena, Calif. Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Wisconsin vs. Colorado
Sugar Jan. 2 New Orleans SEC vs. Big 12 Tennessee vs. Oklahoma
College Football
Colorado rises in Power Rankings after Week 12
bowl date location matchup pick
New Mexico Dec. 17 Albuquerque, N.M. C-USA vs. MW UTSA vs. Wyoming
Las Vegas Dec. 17 Las Vegas MW vs. Pac-12 San Diego State vs. UCLA
Camellia Dec. 17 Montgomery, Ala. MAC vs. Sun Belt Eastern Michigan vs. Arkansas State
Cure Dec. 17 Orlando, Fla. AAC vs. Sun Belt UCF vs. South Alabama
New Orleans Dec. 17 New Orleans Sun Belt vs. C-USA Appalachian State vs. Louisiana Tech
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. Old Dominion
Poinsettia Dec. 21 San Diego BYU vs. MW BYU vs. Air Force
Famous Idaho Potato Dec. 22 Boise, Idaho MAC vs. MW Ohio vs. Boise State
Bahamas Dec. 23 Nassau, Bahamas AAC vs. MAC SMU vs. Miami (OH)
Armed Forces Dec. 23 Fort Worth, Texas Big 12 vs. Navy North Texas* vs. Navy
Dollar General Dec. 23 Mobile, Ala. MAC vs. Sun Belt Toledo vs. Troy
Hawaii Dec. 24 Honolulu C-USA vs. MW Middle Tennessee vs. New Mexico
St. Petersburg Dec. 26 St. Petersburg, Fla. ACC vs. AAC Vanderbilt* vs. Houston
Quick Lane Dec. 26 Detroit ACC vs. Big Ten Hawaii* vs. Indiana
Independence Dec. 26 Shreveport, La. ACC vs. SEC Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky
Heart of Dallas Dec. 27 Dallas Big Ten vs. C-USA Maryland vs. Western Kentucky
Military Dec. 27 Annapolis, Md. ACC vs. AAC Boston College vs. Temple
Holiday Dec. 27 San Diego Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Penn State vs. Stanford
Cactus Dec. 27 Phoenix Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Kansas State 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 Minnesota vs. Washington State
Texas Dec. 28 Houston Big 12 vs. SEC TCU vs. Texas A&M
Birmingham Dec. 29 Birmingham, Ala. AAC vs. SEC South Florida 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. Idaho
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. Arizona 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. Arkansas
Citrus Dec. 31 Orlando, Fla. Big Ten/ACC vs. SEC Florida State vs. Auburn
Outback Jan. 2 Tampa, Fla. Big Ten vs. SEC Nebraska vs. Florida

*Replacement team