Winners and Losers of College Football's Selection Sunday
We have our playoff. And not surprisingly, we have both happy and unhappy teams, coaches, players and fans.
Only four teams make the inaugural College Football Playoff, and that quartet was announced on Sunday as the first piece of the 39-game bowl schedule that will unfold between Dec. 20 and Jan. 12. The rest of the lineup was unveiled throughout the day, sending 76 schools (the 39th bowl is the championship game) to locales from the Bahamas to Hawaii and dozens of places in between.
While most teams are happy to be getting another game, they're not all excited about where they're going, who they'll face or what (if anything) is at stake. Maybe the bowl swag bags will help with some of that.
Check out our winners and losers from Sunday's bowl announcements.
Winner: Ohio State
Ohio State's absolute destruction of Wisconsin, its 11th straight victory, impressed the selection committee enough for the Buckeyes (12-1) to jump from fifth to fourth and earn a spot in the Sugar Bowl against No. 1 Alabama.
"In the championship game Ohio State demonstrated it's a total team," committee chairman Jeff Long said on ESPN, per Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports.
This sets up an epic Nick Saban/Urban Meyer showdown that harkens back to Meyer's SEC days, but it also means OSU fans don't have to travel to the West Coast for their game.
The Buckeyes faithful would have done so, since so many times in the past they've played out there in the Rose Bowl. Instead, it's the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, where they will be in hostile territory with so many Alabama fans there, but it's better than being left out, as it appeared would be the case for so many weeks.
OSU is playing as well, if not better, than any other team in the country, which explains how it rose so much in the rankings over the weeks. The Buckeyes were 16th in the initial poll released in late October. And the fact they were able to do so with a completely new quarterback, Cardale Jones, without skipping a beat, proved to be the difference.
Loser: Big 12
The concept of "One True Champion" in the Big 12 was a rallying cry before the season, but when the final standings came out, the conference chose to declare Baylor (11-1) and TCU (11-1) co-champions despite Baylor's 61-58 win over TCU earlier this year.
Who was more deserving of a playoff spot: the one who beat the other or the one with the better resume outside of that result? Turns out, it didn't matter.
The selection committee dropped TCU from third to sixth despite a 55-3 win against Iowa State on Saturday. That's a huge drop at this point in the season, but one that probably owes more to how impressive Ohio State looked compared to TCU and Baylor in the final week.
The Big 12's lack of a championship game also seems to have had a major impact. Though the contending teams played Saturday, it wasn't against each other. Ohio State got a big boost by beating Wisconsin in a 13th game to win a title, while Baylor and TCU played regular-season games to complete a 12-game schedule.
Without the title game, it came down to what the conference decided, and it appears they shifted from "One True Champion" to becoming noncommittal. This irked Baylor coach Art Briles, according to USA Today's George Schroeder, who tweeted that Briles and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had an argument over this on Saturday after the Bears beat Kansas State in Waco: "If you're gonna slogan around and say 'one true champion'…don't say 1 thing and do another.”
By being the No. 2 seed, Oregon (12-1) locked up a spot in the Rose Bowl and got to keep its fans as close to home as possible. A year after the Ducks didn't seem thrilled about playing in Pasadena—and ended up going to the Alamo Bowl instead after losing a second game—there's far more happiness at having a spot in the game that has traditionally been the pinnacle for Pac-12 teams.
The Ducks also get to play host, so to speak, to defending national champion Florida State (13-0), meaning they get first crack at dethroning the kings. And quarterback Marcus Mariota, the likely Heisman winner, will get to go toe-to-toe with reigning titleholder Jameis Winston.
Loser: Florida State
Being in is better than being out, right?
Florida State (13-0) had seen its ranking slide the past few weeks, despite winning each and every time. It was fourth in the penultimate rankings but improved to third after beating Georgia Tech in the ACC title game.
The Seminoles' reward? Instead of playing in New Orleans, they have to travel further than any other playoff team and face a very good Oregon team in Pasadena, which is almost like a home game for a Pac-12 team in Pac-12 country. So much for giving the defending national champions, winners of 29 straight, any slack.
Winner: Boise State
Even with the change in bowl-selection formats, Boise State has retaken its spot as the top non-power football program in the country.
The Broncos were twice known as "BCS Busters" by getting into the Fiesta Bowl, after the 2006 and 2009 seasons. Those teams had to go unbeaten just to get a sniff at a big-time game, but under the new bowl process Boise simply had to be the highest-ranked team from outside the five power conferences.
Boise didn't look in line for that earlier this year, starting 3-2 with losses to Ole Miss and Air Force, but it won eight straight and claimed its first Mountain West title on Saturday night by beating Fresno State. That got the Broncos up to 20th in the final playoff rankings, with no other Group of Five schools ranked.
The reward is another trip to the Phoenix area, against Arizona (10-3) in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31. Boise (12-1) won those previous two trips, surprising Oklahoma (thanks to a Statue of Liberty Play) and outlasting fellow BCS Buster TCU.
The pain just kept on coming for TCU on Sunday. First the Horned Frogs (11-1) saw themselves fall out of the top four, despite a 52-point win, but that drop from third to sixth almost meant they finished behind Baylor in the final rankings.
This led to the Cotton Bowl taking Baylor, as the highest-ranked Big 12 team, and sending TCU to Atlanta to face No. 9 Ole Miss (9-3) in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. Instead of playing in their own backyard, the Horned Frogs must make a trip to play an SEC team in SEC territory.
"A letdown is certainly possible, but the Horned Frogs could also be highly motivated to put on a performance that shows they were worthy of being in the playoff," wrote Paul Newberry of the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo!).
As well-regarded as TCU had been all season, the co-Big 12 champions essentially got the rawest deal of any team to win or share a piece of a league title.
Beaten by 38 points on Friday night in the Pac-12 championship game, Arizona's chances of getting a major bowl bid looked in serious doubt. Losing that badly, albeit to Oregon, could have easily given the playoff committee the justification to knock the Wildcats far enough down in the rankings to push them out of the big-bowl discussion.
Instead, Arizona (10-3) only dropped from seventh to 10th, and with that came a bowl bid just up the road from its Tucson campus.
Arizona will face Boise State (11-2) in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31, playing smack dab in the middle of a large alumni base in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale. While the Wildcats' ultimate goal each year is to make the Rose Bowl—other than league newcomers Colorado and Utah, it's the only Pac-12 school never to have played in that game—this is the next best thing.
And in a touch of irony, it means that Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez will get to play in a bowl that he would have coached in seven years ago had he nod decided to make what ended up being an ill-advised career change. Rodriguez's 2007 West Virginia team played in the Fiesta Bowl, but by that time he'd already moved on to Michigan.
Loser: Kansas State
The Big 12 just couldn't catch a break on Sunday. Baylor and TCU got shut out of the playoffs, TCU got shipped out of state and Kansas State (9-3) was pushed from the top 10 despite only losing at Baylor by 11 points on Saturday.
The Wildcats were ninth in Tuesday's rankings, but after slipping to 11th on Sunday that meant they weren't ranked high enough to get into one of the six New Year's Eve/Day bowls. Instead, K-State ended up in the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2 against UCLA (9-3).
Two teams ranked below K-State did get into major games, but that was through loopholes. Georgia Tech, as the highest-ranked ACC team not chosen for the playoffs, was locked into the Orange Bowl, while Boise State got a bid because it was the highest-ranked conference champion from outside the power leagues.
Winners: Central Michigan and Western Kentucky
Both Central Michigan and Western Kentucky were bowl-eligible last season, going 6-6 and 8-4, respectively. But as members of the Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences, leagues that rarely have enough automatic bids to send all eligible teams to a game, they weren't invited to the bowl party.
Call it karma, but being left out in the cold in 2013 meant getting a warm holiday vacation this season. Central Michigan (7-5) will represent the MAC while Western Kentucky (7-5) represents its new league, Conference USA, in the first-ever Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 24 in Nassau.
"Playing in our sixth bowl game in the past nine seasons is a great accomplishment for this program," Central Michigan coach Dan Enos said in a statement, per Cory Butzin of MLive.com.
While each team didn't get a bid in 2013, they did in 2012, when the Chippewas beat Western Kentucky, 24-12, in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
After its last two bowl appearances were very close to home, at the Military Bowl in Annapolis (2013) and Washington, D.C. (2010), Maryland was hoping its move into the Big Ten would lead to some different destinations.
The Terrapins (7-5) got their wish, but that means having to travel to Santa Clara, California, to face Pac-12 team Stanford (7-5) in the Foster Farms Bowl in what will essentially be a home game for the Bay Area team.
This is the first season the Big Ten is affiliated with the Foster Farms Bowl, which was previously known as the Fight Hunger Bowl and played in San Francisco. Maryland was in the 2007 version (known then as the Emerald Bowl) and lost to Oregon State.
Winner: Music City Bowl
Last year this middle tier game got Georgia Tech against Ole Miss. This time, well, this Nashville-based game pretty much won the lottery for a bowl not affiliated with the College Football Playoff.
Records aside, pitting LSU (8-4) against Notre Dame (7-5) means bringing two of the largest, most willing-to-travel fan bases into the equation.
"Music City Bowl hit the ticket sales jackpot," tweeted Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports.
Neither team did as well as it would have liked, but that won't matter when it comes to the crowd that is likely to attend this one. The 2010 edition, between Tennessee and North Carolina, drew a sellout crowd of 69,143 fans to LP Field, but something tells us they might be able to squeeze a few more bodies into the stadium for this one.
Beyond that, think of the number of LSU and Notre Dame fans watching the Dec. 30 game that are going to end up becoming Franklin American Mortgage Company clients.
Loser: Quick Lane Bowl
Technically one of the new bowl games this season (along with ones in the Bahamas, Boca Raton and Montgomery), the Quick Lane Bowl replaced the Little Caesars' Pizza Bowl in Detroit and inherited that game's affiliation with the Big Ten.
So who did it end up with? None other than conference newcomer Rutgers.
No offense to the Scarlet Knights (7-5), but odds are there isn't going to be a brisk walk-up crowd from people in the Motor City wanting to watch a team from New Jersey against North Carolina (7-5), the ACC representative. Nor would it be expected that either fan base is particularly excited about spending Christmas—the game is Dec. 26—in Detroit.
Winners: The Last-Minute Qualifiers
Who says procrastinating doesn't pay off?
Six teams that got bowl invites Sunday didn't become eligible until their final regular-season game, getting to that necessary six-victory plateau. That included Virginia Tech, which beat Virginia on Nov. 30 to extend its streak to 22 consecutive seasons.
Illinois, Pittsburgh and Tennessee also got to six wins on Nov. 30, with all of them winning on the road.
Fresno State reached 6-6 that day as well, but by winning the Mountain West Conference's West Division the Bulldogs still had another game to play. However, the MWC had passed a resolution earlier in the year guaranteeing that division champs would get bowl bids, regardless of their overall records, and Fresno gets to play in the Hawaii Bowl even after losing Saturday at Boise State to drop to 6-7.
Also sneaking in Saturday: Oklahoma State, which used a 92-yard punt return touchdown late to force overtime, then won in overtime at rival Oklahoma in the annual Bedlam game.
Losers: The Uninvited
The bowl lineup swelled to 39 games this season, including the national championship game, meaning that 76 of the 128 teams in FBS would get an invite. Unfortunately, though, there still wasn't enough room at the inn for everybody eligible.
Eight schools that reached the six-win threshold will have to settle for watching all of the games on TV after not getting bids. This includes three schools (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Old Dominion) that are transitioning from FCS and needed to have waivers approved by the NCAA to be allowed to get into a bowl.
Georgia Southern, which went 9-3 and won the Sun Belt Conference with an 8-0 record, had its waiver request denied.
The other teams that were eligible, but didn't get a bid: Middle Tennessee (6-6), Ohio (6-6), Temple (6-6), Texas State (7-5) and UAB (6-6). For UAB, it was only the fourth time it had reached six wins, but the team only had one bowl appearance and has disbanded its program.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.