If you’ve followed college football over the years, you’ve probably come to know the basics of the bowl selection process. In order to be “bowl eligible” a team must win at least six games. Certain bowl games have contracts with certain conferences.
However, with 40-plus bowl games and the College Football Playoff rotating which of the New Year’s Six Bowls it uses as semi-finals, it can be tough to keep up with all of the craziness. So, I’ve taken the time to break down bowl-by-bowl tie-ins to give you a better understanding of how these decisions are made. That way, come December, you won’t be wondering why Team X is playing in the Bahamas Bowl while Team Y heads to the Birmingham Bowl. Plus, we’ll use the current landscape to project which teams will be in which bowls.
Now, keep in mind that each conference has several bowl games that they have tie-ins with. For the Power 5 conferences, the teams that are eligible for certain spots is dependent upon whether or not that conference’s top team is in the playoff. For instance, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have a contract with the Rose Bowl to send their respective conference champ. However, right now, the top two Big Ten teams, Ohio State and Michigan, are in the playoff. So, the Rose Bowl would then grab the next best team. Same goes for, say, the Sugar Bowl, which is supposed to get the SEC/Big 12 champ. Alabama, the presumptive SEC champ is in the playoff, so the Sugar Bowl grabs the next best team. So the process goes, until every bowl is filled out.
A couple of other things to keep in mind: If there aren’t enough bowl eligible, or, plausibly bowl eligible teams from a conference, then that bowl can reach out to another team to fill the spot. Also, for the Group of 5 conferences, a lot of the decision making is based on geography and which bowl is closest to the team that makes the most sense to fill it.
Note: I will be using the latest College Football Playoff committee rankings for these teams. They can be found here. There are also several bowl games that Notre Dame has a contract to. Currently at 4-6 with games against Virginia Tech and USC left, I’m doubting the Irish’s chances at bowl eligibility. Therefore, I’m not including them in the tie-ins. In fact, I’ve included only one team that’s currently 4-6 and that’s Duke. The main reason for that is the Blue Devils could conceivably still reach bowl eligibility and their road is easier that Notre Dame’s. That said, I’m not overly confident about Duke being in.
College Football Playoff Semifinals
Dec 31, 2016 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl- #1 Alabama vs. #4 Clemson
Dec 31, 2016 Playstation Fiesta Bowl– #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Michigan
New Year’s Six Bowls (Remaining Games)
Dec 30, 2016 Orange Bowl- ACC vs. SEC/Big Ten- #5 Louisville vs. #7 Wisconsin
Jan 2, 2017 Rose Bowl- Big Ten vs. Pac-12- #8 Penn State vs. #6 Washington
Jan 2, 2017 Sugar Bowl- SEC vs. Big 12- #9 Oklahoma vs. #15 Auburn
Jan 2, 2017 Cotton Bowl- At-Large vs. “Group of 5” highest ranked- #10 Colorado vs. #21 Western Michigan
Jan 2, 2017- Outback Bowl- Big Ten Nos. 3-4 vs. SEC Nos. 3-8- #18 Nebraska vs. #19 Tennessee
Dec 31, 2016- TaxSlayer Bowl- SEC Nos. 3-8 vs. ACC Nos. 4-7- #16 LSU vs. Miami
Dec 31, 2016- Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl- SEC No. 2 vs. ACC/Big Ten- 23 Florida vs. #17 Florida State
Dec 30, 2016- Capital One Orange Bowl- ACC vs. SEC/Big Ten- North Carolina vs.
Dec 30, 2016- NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl- MWC vs. Sun Belt- Wyoming vs. Idaho
Dec 30, 2016- Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl- SEC Nos. 3-8 vs. Big Ten Nos. 5-7- Georgia vs. Iowa
Dec 30, 2016- Hyundai Sun Bowl- ACC Nos. 4-7 vs. Pac-12 No. 5- Pittsburgh vs. #12 Utah
Dec 30, 2016- AutoZone Liberty Bowl- SEC Nos. 3-8 vs. Big 12 No. 5- Arkansas vs. Kansas State
Dec 29, 2016- Valero Alamo Bowl- Big 12 No. 2 vs. Pac-12 No. 2- #11 Oklahoma State vs. #13 USC
Dec 29, 2016- Belk Bowl- SEC Nos. 3-8 vs. ACC Nos. 4-7- Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky
Dec 29, 2016- Birmingham Bowl- American vs. SEC No. 9- Houston vs. South Carolina
Dec 28, 2016- AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl- SEC Nos. 3-8 vs. Big 12 No. 4- #25 Texas A&M vs. Baylor
Dec 28, 2016- Foster Farms Bowl- Pac-12 No. 4 vs. Big Ten Nos. 5-7- #24 Stanford vs. Northwestern
Dec 28, 2016- Russell Athletic Bowl- ACC No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 3- Virginia Tech vs. #14 West Virginia
Dec 28, 2016- New Era Pinstripe Bowl- ACC Nos. 4-7 vs. Big Ten Nos. 5-7- Wake Forest vs. Indiana
Dec 27, 2016- Motel 6 Cactus Bowl- Big 12 No. 6 vs. Pac-12 No. 7/at-large– TCU vs. Colorado State
Dec 27, 2016- Holiday Bowl- Pac-12 No. 3 vs. Big Ten Nos. 3-4- #22 Washington State vs. Minnesota
Dec 27, 2016- Military Bowl- ACC Nos. 8-10 vs. American- NC State vs. Temple
Dec 27, 2016- Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl- Big Ten Nos. 8-9 vs. C-USA- Maryland vs. Western Kentucky
Dec 26, 2016- Camping World Independence Bowl- ACC Nos. 8-10 vs. SEC No. 10- Duke* (4-6 currently) vs. Ole Miss
Dec 26, 2016- Quick Lane Bowl- Big Ten Nos. 8-9 vs. ACC Nos. 8-10- Southern Miss vs. Akron (we’ve reached the point where we’ve run out of plausible bowl eligible teams in both the Big Ten and ACC).
Dec 26, 2016- St. Petersburg Bowl- ACC vs. American- Army vs. SMU
Dec 24, 2016- Hawai’i Bowl- C-USA vs. MWC- Old Dominion vs. Hawai’i
Dec 23, 2016- Dollar General Bowl- MAC vs. Sun Belt- Toledo vs. South Alabama
Dec 23, 2016- Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl- Big 12 No. 7 vs. American/Navy- Texas vs. Navy
Dec 23, 2016- Popeyes Bahamas Bowl- American vs. MAC- Memphis vs. Miami (Ohio)
Dec 22, 2016- Famous Idaho Potato Bowl- MWC vs. MAC- Air Force vs. Eastern Michigan
Dec 21, 2016- San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl- MWC vs. BYU- San Diego State vs. BYU
Dec 20, 2016- Boca Raton Bowl- American vs. C-USA- South Florida vs. Middle Tennessee State
Dec 19, 2016- Miami Beach Bowl- American vs. MAC- Tulsa vs. Ohio
Dec 17, 2016- R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl- Sun Belt vs. C-USA- Troy vs. Louisiana Tech
Dec 17, 2016- Raycom Media Camellia Bowl- American vs. Sun Belt- UCF vs. Appalachian State
Dec 17, 2016- AutoNation Cure Bowl- Sun Belt vs. MAC- Arkansas State vs. Central Michigan
Dec 17, 2016- Las Vegas Bowl- MWC vs. Pac-12 No. 6- #20 Boise State vs. Arizona State
Dec 17, 2016- Gildan New Mexico Bowl- MWC vs. C-USA– New Mexico vs. UTSA
Now, these will obviously change over the next several weeks and we’ll update these projections as we go. This is just a starting point for what could play out in the next couple of weeks.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.