College Football Playoff Standings 2017: Week 8 Rankings & Bowl Game Projections
Two weeks ago, the college football world was turned upside down when both Oklahoma and Michigan suffered losses. After five weeks without a single loss by a Top 10 team to an unranked opponent, two went down in one day. It was, by far, the biggest shakeup of the season as far as the top of the polls is concerned.
Then Week 7 happened.
Four AP Top 10 teams suffered losses, the most noteworthy of which was No. 2 Clemson's defeat to Syracuse on Friday night. Nos. 19, 24 and 25 also lost, meaning 28 percent of ranked teams took an L in a week that didn't have a single battle between ranked teams.
As a result, Alabama is the unanimous No. 1 team in the AP poll for the first time this season, followed by Penn State, Georgia and TCU.
Those are also the four teams Bleacher Report is currently projecting to reach the College Football Playoff, albeit not in that order.
Here is the full list of projected matchups for the 39 bowl games in advance of Week 8.
Group of Five Bowls
AutoNation Cure Bowl: Tulane vs. Louisiana Monroe
Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona vs. San Diego State
Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State vs. North Texas
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Georgia State vs. Southern Miss
Boca Raton Bowl: UAB vs. Memphis
Frisco Bowl: Houston vs. Akron
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Boston College vs. Florida Atlantic
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Boise State vs. Toledo
Bahamas Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Nebraska vs. Army
Dollar General Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Appalachian State
Birmingham Bowl: South Florida vs. Tennessee
Hawai'i Bowl: SMU vs. Wyoming
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: Marshall vs. Iowa State
Walk-On's Independence Bowl: Duke vs. Vanderbilt
Military Bowl: Navy vs. Wake Forest
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Fresno State vs. Arkansas State
Lower-Tier Power Five Bowls
Cactus Bowl: Texas vs. Oregon
Quick Lane Bowl: Indiana vs. Syracuse
Two iconic CFB programs in a rather obscure day-after-Christmas bowl would be wildly entertaining, provided Oregon can win two more games to become bowl-eligible. Since losing Justin Herbert to a broken collarbone, the Ducks have been outscored 82-17 and look positively helpless on offense.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Virginia vs. Maryland
Texas Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M
Foster Farms Bowl: Northwestern vs. Stanford
If at all possible, we will continue projecting the Texas Bowl to have two Texas teams in it. Texas A&M could mess that up by getting to 9-10 wins and qualifying for a higher-profile game, but take it to the bank that either Texas or Texas Tech will be the choice for the Big 12's representative.
As things currently stand, Stanford would appear to be worthy of better placement than this, but it does already have two losses and games remaining against Washington State, Washington and Notre Dame. Also, the Foster Farms Bowl is reserved for the third-best non-NY6 team from the Pac-12, and Stanford is getting screwed a little bit since both Washington schools slipped out of the NY6 picture.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Louisville vs. South Carolina
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Utah
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State
Dec. 29 is going to be an ACC bonanza, with three of the conference's four middle-tier teams destined for these games. As was the case with Stanford, Virginia Tech probably deserves better than this, but it was negatively impacted by Clemson's dropping out of the CFP Top Four. Ultimately, the Hokies are more likely to end up in the NY6 than one of these lower-tier bowls, but with only one respectable win on their resume to date, they're currently No. 5 in the ACC/Notre Dame pecking order.
TaxSlayer Bowl: Purdue vs. Florida
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Kansas State vs. Kentucky
Kentucky almost got enough votes to sneak into this week's Coaches Poll, but only because of the lack of better options. The Wildcats have yet to win a game by more than an 11-point margin, even though the best of their five wins (in terms of opponent strength) came against South Carolina on the night Deebo Samuel suffered a broken leg. They ought to be able to pick up at least one more win to become bowl-eligible, but this team isn't winning 10 games.
Top Non-New Year's Six Bowls
Camping World Bowl: North Carolina State vs. West Virginia
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Washington
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Iowa vs. Washington State
It's hard to believe both Washington and Washington State are so far removed from the CFP that they wouldn't even qualify for a New Year's Six bowl today, but these things happen when your pass-heavy offenses collectively refuse to show up against teams that ranked in the bottom four nationally in total defense last season.
The most intriguing team in this bunch, though, is N.C. State. The Wolfpack already have wins over Florida State and Louisville, and they will host Clemson on Nov. 4 in a game that will effectively determine who wins the ACC Atlantic Division. They're jostling with Virginia Tech for No. 4 in the ACC's pecking order right now—behind Clemson, Miami and Notre Dame, which counts as an ACC team as far as bowl affiliations are concerned—but they could jump to No. 1 and a possible spot in the CFP if they beat the Fighting Irish and Tigers in their next two games.
Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. Auburn
Citrus Bowl: Michigan State vs. LSU
An interesting pair of matchups here, insomuch as Michigan State and LSU recently defeated Michigan and Auburn, respectively, but it still feels like the losers of those games are the better overall teams. The two Big Ten schools could still reach the College Football Playoff if they win out. However, they both still play Penn State and Ohio State, and the Wolverines still have to play at Wisconsin. Meanwhile, both Auburn and LSU still have to face Alabama, and the Alabama-based Tigers also have a game remaining against Georgia.
All four of these teams seem destined for three or four total losses, but they are probably going to be the strongest squads that miss out on the NY6 bowls.
(It's pretty stupid that these two games are played on New Year's Day yet aren't considered NY6 bowls. Meanwhile, three of the four NY6 bowls are played in late December. However, in a world where the Big 12 has 10 teams and the Big Ten has 14 teams, I guess this makes perfect sense.)
Non-CFP New Year's Six Bowls
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: USC vs. UCF
Following San Diego State's loss to Boise State, UCF enters the driver's seat for the Group of Five's spot in the New Year's Six bowls. The Knights have won each of their five games by at least a 27-point margin. He may never come up in the Heisman conversation, but McKenzie Milton is having one heck of a sophomore year at quarterback, averaging 337.4 total yards and 3.2 touchdowns per game.
Capital One Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Wisconsin
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Miami vs. Oklahoma
It didn't take long for Oklahoma to get back into the playoff discussion. Four of the eight teams that were projected last week for a New Year's Six game—Auburn, SDSU, Washington and Washington State—suffered Week 7 losses, paving the way for the Sooners to jump right back into the Top 11. Their next four games (at Kansas State, vs. Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, vs. TCU) are brutal, but they're nowhere close to dead yet.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
Ohio State and Notre Dame have each been kind of forgotten since suffering Week 2 home losses to Oklahoma and Georgia, respectively, but they are very much in the race for the CFP with backloaded schedules still to come.
The Buckeyes have this coming week off, but they'll return to action on the 28th for three straight against Penn State, Iowa and Michigan State and then close the season at Michigan. The Fighting Irish have an even tougher road with four of six remaining games against ranked teams (USC, N.C. State, Miami and Stanford) and a fifth against a team that was ranked this past week (Navy). Trying to forecast either team's final W-L record is a fool's errand, but if they both win out, this matchup would likely be CFP No. 2 vs. No. 3 in the Rose Bowl.
College Football Playoff
Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Penn State
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 TCU
If everything goes according to plan, there will eventually be a head-to-head tiebreaker to settle the "Alabama or Georgia" dilemma.
For now, Georgia has a slight edge and gets our No. 1 projection, in large part because its road win over Notre Dame has proved to be more valuable than Alabama's neutral-site victory over Florida State. (Who could have possibly guessed two months ago that would be the case?) Georgia's second-best win (31-3 vs. Mississippi State) is also arguably better than Alabama's second-best win (27-19 at Texas A&M). But again, we're splitting hairs that should eventually be split in the SEC Championship Game.
Regardless of the order, if you don't have both the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs in your top three right now, you're putting way too much stock in the "SEC is down" narrative. TCU is the only other undefeated Power Five team whose strength of schedule can hold a candle to those of the SEC's front-runners—and the SOS for the Horned Frogs is about to take a major hit with games against Kansas and Iowa State in the next two weeks.
At this point, it's not a question of whether one conference will get two teams into the CFP, but rather which conference pulls off the double dip.
We're not ready to say the Pac-12 is dead and buried, but with Washington and Washington State's losses to Arizona State and California, respectively, that conference as a whole is a mess. Both the Huskies and Cougars played lackluster nonconference schedules and will have a hard time making a case for the playoff. USC is far and away the Pac-12's top candidate right now, and that could go up in flames on the road against Notre Dame this coming Saturday.
The ACC shot itself in the foot when Clemson lost to Syracuse. The Tigers have a drastically better one-loss profile than any of the aforementioned Pac-12 teams. However, it's still a one-loss profile, and there are six remaining undefeated Power Five teams—the four projected for the CFP, as well as Wisconsin and Miami. The Hurricanes arguably have the best case among ACC teams, but they have yet to face a ranked opponent and barely escaped with wins the past two weeks.
As a result, it's two SEC teams on top while a pair of Big Ten teams battles for the last spot, and Penn State edges out Wisconsin for No. 4.
Considering at least one projected CFP team has lost each of the past two weeks, though, maybe Miami and Wisconsin would prefer to be on the outside looking in.
Kerry Miller covers college football and college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.