If you’re looking for official 2019-20 bowl matchups (along with a bunch of weird historical fun facts), those are over here. Below are predictions entering Selection Sunday.
Upperclassman readers might be familiar with seeing weekly bowl projections during the season. I’ve been doing them since 2012, with a few details that are hopefully of some value to you.
For one thing, I don’t just list matchups and hit publish. I always try to explain parts that might not make immediate sense to everyone.
Also, these also aren’t just slapped together based on eyeballing the standings. I only list teams that can get to six wins and that would then have a good chance of being invited. During the season, I base these on the results of full-season projections for all of FBS, with only one winner for each game. Each Sunday morning, I update my board based on that weekend, meaning one more step toward a (hopefully somewhat) accurate vision.
The starting point for that board was mostly based on Vegas preseason win projection totals. Now that updates are underway, I’m bolding text that changed due to the most recent weekend. This time of year, I’ll also update (if needed) each Tuesday night once Playoff rankings come out.
The College Football Playoff
- Fiesta semifinal (Glendale, AZ): #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Clemson
- Peach semifinal (Atlanta): #1 LSU vs. #4 Oklahoma
- Championship (New Orleans): LSU vs. Ohio State
This is your four, but we’ll wait to see who gets #1 and avoids Clemson. I’m guessing LSU beating the former #5 more authoritatively than Ohio State beat the former #8 makes the difference, since we know it was especially close already.
As for seeding, it’s simple: the committee gives the #1 seed the more advantageous geography. This year, the bigger benefit is likely getting to avoid Clemson.
The rest of the New Year’s Six
This year has the tricky part of the three-year NY6 rotation. All but one of these eight spots is spoken for, basically.
The Rose and Sugar take the next-ranked teams from their conferences (and/or league champs, if one missed the CFP). The Orange goes to the ACC’s best non-Clemson team and the top-ranked at-large from the Big Ten, SEC, or South Bend. This means one of the Cotton’s spots is booked for the top-ranking Group of 5 champion.
- Rose in Pasadena, CA: Wisconsin (Big Ten 1) vs. Oregon (Pac-12 1)
Wisconsin fared well enough against Ohio State to hang onto this spot, and the Rose also reserves the right to go slightly out of order in order to pick a team that’s been there less recently.
- Sugar in New Orleans: Baylor (Big 12 1) vs. Georgia (SEC 1)
Baylor’s locked here, and I don’t see how Georgia could fall below any other SEC teams.
- Orange in Miami: Virginia (ACC 1) vs. Florida (Big Ten/SEC/ND 1)
Assuming UVA’s unranked, the Orange could pick Wake Forest or Virginia Tech, but I don’t see a great reason to do that, and the ACC strongly prefers to reward its division champs. Also, Auburn being boosted (due to Oregon winning the Pac-12) likely helps keep Florida in this spot, since Florida beat Auburn.
- Cotton in Arlington, TX: Memphis (Top Group of 5 champ) vs. Penn State (Top at-large)
Memphis is booked, and now I think we’ll mainly wait to see whether Utah falls past Penn State or not (or whether Auburn moves up and steals it, due to that win over Oregon). I might revise this after a closer look.
Working-class bowl games
The main thing: bowls are designed to draw crowds and eyeballs. Ideally, they also reward the best teams. But this can mean a local team with a lot of fans getting a friendlier game than a team with a better record. I always try to keep this in mind when projecting.
Think of a bowl invite as a draft pick. These numbers refer to that bowl’s post-Playoff spot in its conference’s pecking order, not to conference standings.
- Alamo in San Antonio: Oklahoma State (Big 12 2) vs. Utah (Pac-12 2)
- Arizona in Tucson: Wyoming (MWC 2-6) vs. Georgia State (Sun Belt 2-5)
- Armed Forces in Fort Worth**: UAB (C-USA 1-6) vs. Air Force (MWC 2-6)
- Bahamas**: Charlotte (C-USA 1-6) vs. Buffalo (MAC 1-5)
- Belk in Charlotte: Virginia Tech (ACC 3-6) vs. Kentucky (SEC 3-8)
- Birmingham**: Cincinnati (AAC 1-7) vs. Boston College (SEC 9 (or ACC))
- Boca Raton**: SMU (AAC/C-USA/MAC) vs. FAU (AAC/C-USA/MAC)
- Camellia in Montgomery, AL: Ohio (MAC 1-5) vs. Georgia Southern (Sun Belt 2-5)
- Camping World in Orlando: Notre Dame (ACC 2) vs. Iowa State (Big 12 3)
- Cheez-It in Phoenix: San Diego State* (Big 12 6) vs. Washington State (Pac-12 7 (or MWC))
This really might be the biggest Styles Make Fights clash possible in all of FBS.
- Citrus in Orlando: Michigan (Big Ten 2-4) vs. Auburn (SEC 2)
Bama could fall here, and this would be a huge Helmet Game for the Citrus, but what if they’d rather have the happy winner of the Iron Bowl, not the mad loser? Let’s see what that looks like.
- Cure in Orlando: Central Michigan* (AAC 1-7) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt 2-5)
- First Responder in Dallas**: Eastern Michigan* (Big 12) vs. Liberty* (Big Ten 8-9)
This is likely our 2019 Oddball Bowl, since both spots should be up for at-large bids.
- Tropical Smoothie in Frisco, TX**: Tulane (AAC 1-7) vs. Western Kentucky* (At-large)
- Gasparilla in Tampa**: UCF (AAC 1-7) vs. Marshall (C-USA 1-6)
- Gator in Jacksonville: Indiana (ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7) vs. Tennessee (SEC 3-8)
The Gator and Music City have shared ACC/Big Ten bids, and this is technically supposed to be the B1G’s year here. I still think they could swing a trade, but we’ll see.
- Hawaii**: BYU* (AAC 1-7/BYU) vs. Hawaii (MWC 2-6/BYU)
- Holiday in San Diego: Iowa (Big Ten 2-4) vs. USC (Pac-12 3)
- Independence in Shreveport, LA: Miami (ACC 7-9 (or C-USA)) vs. Southern Miss* (SEC 10 (or C-USA))
- Las Vegas**: Boise State (MWC 1) vs. Washington (Pac-12 6)
This would be a cool way for Chris Petersen to go out, and ... it might be really easy to arrange.
- Liberty in Memphis: Kansas State (Big 12 5) vs. Navy* (SEC 3-8 (AAC))
- Military in Annapolis, MD: Temple (AAC 1-7) vs. North Carolina (ACC 7-9)
- Mobile: Miami (Ohio) (MAC 1-5) vs. UL Lafayette (Sun Belt 2-5)
- Music City in Nashville: Louisville (ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7) vs. Texas A&M (SEC 3-8)
- New Mexico in Albuquerque**: FIU (C-USA 1-6) vs. Utah State (MWC 2-6)
What a beautiful Banner Society New Mexico Bowl this will be.
- New Orleans: Louisiana Tech (C-USA 1-6) vs. Appalachian State (Sun Belt 1)
- Outback in Tampa: Minnesota (Big Ten 2-4) vs. Alabama??? (SEC 3-8)
What is happening! If the Citrus were to pass on Bama, they could wind up anywhere in the SEC 3-8 club.
- Pinstripe in New York City: Wake Forest (ACC 3-6) vs. Michigan State (Big Ten 5-7)
- Potato in Boise**: Kent State (MAC 1-5) vs. Nevada (MWC 2-6)
- Quick Lane in Detroit: Pitt (ACC 7-9) vs. Western Michigan* (Big Ten 8-9)
- Redbox in Santa Clara, CA: Illinois (Big Ten 5-7) vs. Cal (Pac-12 4)
- Sun in El Paso: Florida State (ACC 3-6) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12 5)
- Texas in Houston**: Texas (Big 12 4) vs. Mississippi State (SEC 3-8)
* = Filling another conference’s unused spot.
** = ESPN owns all these games, so these conference ties can end up being quite fluid on Selection Sunday as teams are mixed and matched for TV.
Unfortunately, one bowl-eligible team is gonna miss. I have Toledo not finding a spot, but they could make it somewhere, perhaps in place of a team like EMU or FIU. It’ll likely be a team from Conference USA or the MAC.
Comments are turned off here because this article-like thing is being updated each week, and we don’t want August comments still sitting there in December. You can tweet me with questions and feedback if you want, though.