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Bowl projections: Predicting the playoff, other bowls at midseason

College football 2015-16 bowl projections: Predicting the playoff, New Year's Six and at midseason

It seems the Pac-12 could be headed for a similar fate as last season’s Big 12.

Just two teams—Stanford and Utah—remain unbeaten in Pac-12 play through seven weeks of football. In our projections, the Cardinal run the table and topple the Utes in the conference title game. But even with a Pac-12 championship in hand, Stanford might not have the résumé to reach the College Football Playoff. We project Baylor, Michigan State and Clemson to all finish as unbeaten conference champs. Meanwhile, SEC champ Alabama is projected to end the year with one loss, but that setback (a 43-37 loss to Ole Miss) will look better in the eyes of the committee committee than Stanford’s 16-6 loss to Northwestern.

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This season 40 bowls make up the 2015 postseason: the New Year’s Six Bowls, which include the two playoff semifinals, and 34 lower-tier bowls. 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 the Big Ten against the Pac-12 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.

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 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.

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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.

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Disclaimer: While our preseason bowl projections were based on predicted finishes in’s conference primers, midseason projections are based on the author’s personal assessment of current conference standings.






Orange Bowl (semifinal)

Dec. 31

Miami Gardens, Fla.

No. 1 vs. No. 4

Alabama vs. Clemson

Cotton Bowl (semifinal)

Dec. 31

Arlington, Tex.

No. 2 vs. No. 3

Baylor vs. Mich. St.

Peach Bowl

Dec. 31

Atlanta, Ga.

at-large vs. at-large

Utah vs. Florida State

Fiesta Bowl

Jan. 1

Glendale, Ariz.

at-large vs. Group of Five

Notre Dame vs. Memphis

Rose Bowl

Jan. 1

Pasadena, Calif.

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Ohio St. vs. Stanford

Sugar Bowl

Jan. 1

New Orleans, La.

SEC vs. Big 12







New Orleans Bowl

Dec. 19

New Orleans, La.

Sun Belt vs. CUSA

Ga. Southern vs. La. Tech

New Mexico Bowl

Dec. 19

Albequerque, N.M.


MTSU vs. New Mex.

Las Vegas Bowl

Dec. 19

Las Vegas

MW/BYU vs. Pac-12

BYU vs. Arizona

Cure Bowl

Dec. 19

Orlando, Fla.

AAC vs. Sun Belt

Tulsa vs. Ark. State

Camellia Bowl

Dec. 19

Montgomery, Ala.

MAC vs. Sun Belt

Ohio vs. App. St.

Miami Beach Bowl

Dec. 21

Miami, Fla.


Cincinnati vs. West. Ky.

Idaho Potato Bowl

Dec. 22

Boise, Idaho

MAC vs. MW

BGSU vs. Col. St.

Boca Raton Bowl

Dec. 22

Boca Raton, Fla.


USF vs. West. Mich.

Poinsettia Bowl

Dec. 23

San Diego, Calif.

MW vs. Army

SDSU vs. Central Mich.*

GoDaddy Bowl

Dec. 23

Mobile, Ala.

MAC vs. Sun Belt

Toledo vs. South Ala.

Bahamas Bowl

Dec. 24

Nassau, Bahamas


Old Dominion vs. North. Ill.

Hawaii Bowl

Dec. 24

Honolulu, Hawaii


ECU vs. Boise St.

Heart of Dallas Bowl

Dec. 26

Dallas, Tex.

Big 12/Big Ten vs. CUSA

Indiana vs. So. Miss.

St. Petersburg Bowl

Dec. 26

St. Petersburg, Fla.


Temple vs. Marshall

Sun Bowl

Dec. 26

El Paso, Tex.

ACC vs. Pac-12

Va. Tech vs. Oregon

Independence Bowl

Dec. 26

Shreveport, La.


Louisville vs. Missouri

Foster Farms Bowl

Dec. 26

Santa Clara, Calif.

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Nebraska vs. USC

Pinstripe Bowl

Dec. 26

Bronx, N.Y.

ACC vs. Big Ten

Pitt vs. Northwestern

Quick Lane Bowl

Dec. 28

Detroit, Mich.

ACC vs. Big Ten

Air Force* vs. Illinois

Military Bowl

Dec. 28

Annapolis, Md.


NC State vs. Navy

Arizona Bowl

Dec. 29

Tucson, Ariz


Nevada vs. Rice

Russell Athletic Bowl

Dec. 29

Orlando, Fla.

ACC vs. Big 12

Duke vs. West Va.

Texas Bowl

Dec. 29

Houston, Tex.

Big 12 vs. SEC

Kan. St. vs. Tex. A&M

Armed Forces Bowl

Dec. 29

Fort Worth, Tex.

Big Ten/Big 12 vs. MW

Wash. St.* vs. Utah St.

Music City Bowl

Dec. 30

Nashville, Tenn.


Miami vs. Tennessee

Holiday Bowl

Dec. 30

San Diego, Calif.

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Penn St. vs. UCLA

Belk Bowl

Dec. 30

Charlotte, N.C.


UNC vs. Auburn

Birmingham Bowl

Dec. 30

Birmingham, Ala.


Houston vs. Kentucky

Outback Bowl

Jan. 1

Tampa, Fla.

Big Ten vs. SEC

Michigan vs. Ole Miss

Citrus Bowl

Jan. 1

Orlando, Fla.

Big Ten vs. SEC

Iowa vs. Florida

Liberty Bowl

Jan. 2

Memphis, Tenn.

Big 12 vs. SEC

Okla. St. vs. Miss. St.

TaxSlayer Bowl

Jan. 2

Jacksonville, Fla.

Big Ten vs. SEC

Wisc. vs. Georgia

Alamo Bowl

Jan. 2

San Antonio, Tex.

Big 12 vs. Pac-12

Okla. vs. Ariz. St.

Cactus Bowl

Jan. 2

Phoenix, Ariz.

Big 12 vs. Pac-12

Tex. Tech vs. Cal

*Replacement team