New 40-bowl projections ahead of Thanksgiving Weekend, with a real battle for the No. 4 Playoff spot

With two weeks of college football until the Playoff committee and various orange blazers give us our actual postseason, we’re left with a No. 4 scenario that might give the committee its hardest CFP choice yet.

Each week, I update a board of picks and results for every game on the schedule, then see which postseason that’d give us. Below are this week’s updated projections for every bowl game, which might change slightly once new College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday. This is not an “if the season ended today” picture; these are predictions on how it’ll look at the end.

  • Championship (Atlanta): Oklahoma vs. Alabama
  • Sugar (New Orleans): No. 1 Miami vs. No. 4 Alabama
  • Rose (Pasadena, CA): No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Auburn

Let’s say one-loss/undefeated ACC, Big 12, and SEC champs are in. Say the Pac-12 champ is out. Say Wisconsin would’ve been in, but Wisconsin loses the Big Ten title game to Ohio State. That’s three spots, with the fight for No. 4 coming down to 11-1 Alabama vs. 11-2 Ohio State.

(Miami and Wisconsin would have one-loss cases, but Miami’s winning the ACC, and Wisconsin’s already down at No. 5 IRL; you can’t jump from No. 5 to No. 4 by losing the Big Ten. Two-loss USC’s already ranked behind the Buckeyes and can’t close its resume with anything close to a win over Wisconsin.)

Some advanced stats that tend to track well with the committee’s rankings — CPI, Strength of Record, and ESPN’s “Game Control” stat — comfortably prefer the Tide. So let’s say the committee would just say, “Bama’s better,” and leave it at that.

So has Bama already clinched the Playoff, then? Well, let’s say Bama loses to Auburn by 30 (I’m not necessarily predicting this part) and Ohio State beats Wisconsin 59-0 (nor this, though this part has happened before). Then what?

If the committee became deadlocked on Alabama vs. Ohio State, the Buckeyes would win the stated tiebreaker list. OSU’s conference title and stronger overall schedule would do it, since they haven’t played each other or any common opponents.

I’ve gone back and forth, but right now, I think the committee might just do the simple thing and not take the team that got blown out twice. Then again, that means letting one conference be the first two-bid league and be the first conference with a two-loss entrant. See? Going back and forth again.

Anyway, let’s say we get apologetic near-master heel Baker Mayfield vs. Nick Saban, an old man who yells at jeans, for the national title.

  • Peach (Atlanta): UCF vs. Penn State
  • Orange (Miami): Clemson vs. Ohio State
  • Fiesta (Glendale, AZ): USC vs. Georgia
  • Cotton (Arlington, TX): Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin

The Orange gets the top non-CFP teams from the ACC and the Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame. How about a 31-0 rematch?

The other three bowls here are committee pairings, based on the highest-ranked teams. The list of teams in the NY6 group are preeetty close to set (TCU, Washington State, and USF/Memphis obviously have shots), and now we’ll wait to see them shuffle amongst themselves.

  • Citrus (Orlando): Louisville vs. South Carolina
  • Outback (Tampa): Michigan State vs. LSU
  • Liberty (Memphis): Iowa State vs. Missouri
  • TaxSlayer (Jacksonville): Florida State vs. Texas AM
  • Arizona (Tucson): San Diego State vs. New Mexico State
  • Music City (Nashville): Northwestern vs. Kentucky
  • Sun (El Paso): Wake Forest vs. Arizona
  • Belk (Charlotte): NC State vs. Appalachian State*
  • Alamo (San Antonio): TCU vs. Washington
  • Camping World (Orlando): Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State
  • Military (Annapolis, MD): Virginia vs. Navy
  • Texas (Houston): Texas vs. Mississippi State
  • Pinstripe (New York City): Boston College vs. Iowa
  • Independence (Shreveport, LA): Southern Miss* vs. Arizona State*
  • Cactus (Tempe): Kansas State vs. Utah
  • Heart of Dallas: West Virginia vs. UCLA*
  • Quick Lane (Detroit): Utah State* vs. CMU*
  • Holiday (San Diego): Michigan vs. Washington State
  • Foster Farms (Santa Clara, CA): Purdue vs. Stanford
  • Hawaii: WKU* vs. Fresno State
  • Dollar General (Mobile): Toledo vs. Marshall*
  • Armed Forces (Fort Worth): Army vs. UTSA
  • Birmingham: Memphis vs. Arkansas State*
  • Potato (Boise): WMU vs. Wyoming
  • Bahamas: FIU vs. Ohio
  • Gasparilla (St. Pete, FL): SMU vs. UAB
  • Frisco (TX): Houston vs. UNLV*
  • Boca Raton: USF vs. FAU
  • Camellia (Montgomery, AL): NIU vs. Georgia State
  • New Mexico (Albuquerque): North Texas vs. Colorado State
  • Las Vegas: Boise State vs. Oregon
  • Cure (Orlando): Akron* vs. UL Lafayette
  • New Orleans: Troy vs. Louisiana Tech

* = Filling another conference’s unfilled bid.

The biggest thing to keep in mind: These are not based entirely on current or final standings. Each conference has its own bowl rules, but bowl games prefer matchups that will bring in fans and make money, not bowl games that reward teams that played well. Often, those two things are the same. Often, they’re not.

As always, I apologize for overrating and/or underrating your team.

Let’s also tune these up a little after the first Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday.

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