College Bowl Projections: An Early Look At The New Year's Six

Here’s a look at how the college bowl projections for the “New Year’s Six”, the two national semi-final playoff games and the four other major bowls that are a part of the system, look after two weeks. These projections are based exclusively on the AP’s national poll.

The top four teams in the country will go into the playoff, which will be played at the Rose and Sugar Bowls. The same committee that selects and places these four teams, will also slot the four other bowls. For the moment, let’s just assume the committee will take teams as they’re ranked in the AP. It’s obviously not precise, but gives us a feel for the landscape. These six games will played over the course of December 31 and January 1, hence their name of The New Year’s Six.
Rose: (1) Florida State vs. (4) Oklahoma
Sugar: (2) Oregon vs. (3) Alabama
Orange: Virginia Tech-Georgia
Cotton: Baylor-Texas A&M
Fiesta: USC-LSU
Peach: Marshall-Auburn
A few important notes…
College Football Bowls*The ACC is guaranteed a slot in the Orange Bowl regardless of rank. Assuming Florida State makes the playoff, that leaves the door open to anyone else to grab the ticket to South Beach.
*The committee must select one team from “The Little Five”, the conference group that includes the MAC, American, Conference USA, Mountain West and Sun Belt. None of these teams are in the Top 25 right now, but Marshall is the highest of those receiving votes.
*The Big Ten—and for that matter the Pac-12 and SEC—are *not” guaranteed anything. Their contract bowls are being used as national semifinals, and unlike the BCS era, it’s not required that those league champions be placed somewhere else.
This rule certainly won’t affect the SEC, it probably won’t affect the Pac-12, but it certainly will affect the Big Ten. The media reaction to Week 2 that has noted—correctly—that the league is all but out of the playoff chase—has overlooked something more embarrassing for the conference. They stand to be shut out of the New Year’s stage altogether.

*The rule from the BCS era limiting conferences to two teams is gone. Hence, there’s an SEC team in all four of the non-playoff bowls, even after putting Alabama into a national semi-final.
*With regard to the playoff itself, the committee has said its placement priority (after matchups are set) will be protecting the 1-seed. That’s why I would see a Florida State-Oklahoma game being moved west. The Sooner faithful would have a pretty easy trip to New Orleans if the game were in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama fans might feel Oregon has an unfair advantage in the Rose, but even if the Tide were #2, the committee’s statement is that protecting #1 trumps all else when it’s time to place the games.
In looking at these matchups—and we should note, that I’m just guessing at how the non-playoff bowls will actually be paired up—the SEC glut is obvious. I wonder if the committee will have an unstated limit on the number of teams from a conference. In this case, I hope not. I do support such a rule for the playoff itself—I want four conference champions (or Notre Dame/BYU). I also would like to see the league champions in the Power Five all be represented, even if the Big Ten is awful. But I don’t feel like anything is gained by putting mediocre runner-ups on a national stage. If the SEC is good enough to scoop up most of the bids, go for it.
*My matchups might be guesses, but if the teams really shake out this way, or something close to it, a few things seem pretty evident. The Fiesta Bowl will get the runner-up out of the Pac-12. The Cotton Bowl would be a dream spot for the second-place Big 12 team and somebody out of the SEC West. Baylor-Texas A&M would be the game of this group I’d most want to watch.