Bowl Projections 2015: Predicting Playoff Standings and Bowl Games Post-Week 12

Bryan Fischer@BryanDFischerNational College Football Columnist November 23, 2015

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 21: Michael Geiger #4 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates his game winning field goal against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

At the start of the season, many assumed Ohio State was all but a lock to reach the College Football Playoff in order to defend its crown.

Sure, an Alabama or a Clemson could still beat the talented Buckeyes in a close semifinal game, the reasoning went, but even with tough contests against Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa to end the season, Urban Meyer would get Ohio State to return to form and wind up with a top seed thanks to the sheer amount of talent in scarlet and gray.

Well, scratch that line of thinking after Week 12 thanks to Mark Dantonio's Spartans. A remarkable win, in Columbus no less, suddenly puts Michigan State in the driver's seat for one of the four spots in the playoff. Just as impressive, its resume suddenly looks like one of the best around with wins over surging Oregon in the nonconference slate and the number of Top 10 wins they can capture in November.

Combined with Iowa being one of only two undefeated teams left in the country, the Big Ten's outlook when it comes to the playoff hasn't changed at all, but the teams still in the mix has quite a bit. While Ohio State isn't completely dead (and neither is Michigan), a chance to defend their crown is suddenly very dim after Saturday despite it having just one close loss to a top team.

Elsewhere around the country, the only thing left for the committee to determine may be the impending Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma question (if each wins this weekend). Should that happen, the College Football Playoff picture will come into focus and the lobbying for the final spots will commence in both Norman and South Bend.

The thing is, there's plenty of college football left and rivalry week has a history of messing with the postseason in unforeseen ways. That's why we all love this sport, but it certainly makes projecting every bowl game a bit more difficult. 

Still, this postseason snapshot is as solid as they come…until next week, that is. For now, though, this is how the bowl picture looks. A hearty disclaimer that these are projecting the rest of the season and, as such, are not completely reflective of the state of college football at the moment.

Bleacher Report
  • Here are the full Top 25 rankings. The College Football Playoff selection committee will release its second set of rankings on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
  • Obviously the big news is Ohio State tumbling out of the projected No. 1 seed to out of the final four. But with that door closed, another is opened for Michigan State to return to the Cotton Bowl to face Alabama. In addition to pitting two similar style teams against each other in yet another Big Ten/SEC semifinal, the chance for former Nick Saban assistant Mark Dantonio to upset his old boss would be an enticing storyline.
  • On the opposite side of the bracket, we have a chance for Oklahoma to extract some revenge against Clemson for the beating the Tigers laid on the Sooners two years ago in their bowl game. That capped a miserable 8-5 season for Bob Stoops that prompted a number of wholesale staff changes, which in many ways is the reason they're in the playoff conversation to begin with. It's also good news for Tigers fans hoping for a trip to the Orange Bowl over a longer trek to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl semifinal.

Bleacher Report
  • We've long maintained that Houston was the pick to be the Group of Five selection for the New Year's Six, but that thinking changed thanks not because of the Cougars loss to UConn, but the fact that they're banged up and will now face a Navy team that is firing on all fronts. The game is in Houston, but that might not be enough to help against Keenan Reynolds and Co.
  • The Midshipmen's opponent in the postseason could be Florida State, a team that has been helped by a soft schedule but could certainly return to a big-time bowl game this year with a win over Florida this week. Beat the Gators and it may be tough for the committee to put anybody else in that spot but the Seminoles.
  • A scenario still exists where the Big 12 has three 10-2 teams fighting for a berth in the Sugar Bowl and the tiebreaker comes down to point differential. Yep. If TCU beats a beat-up Baylor team as revenge for last season, that very well may be what happens.
  • Ohio State's loss may present the opportunity for us to get a mega-matchup with Notre Dame in the Peach Bowl. The Irish, win or lose against Stanford on Saturday, seem pretty much set for one of the at-large spots in the New Year's Six.
  • The NCAA is deciding on Monday as to what the procedure will be if 5-7 teams are needed to fill bowl slots, but we're looking at exactly the right number of qualified teams should some upsets happen this week (Nebraska over Iowa, Minnesota over Wisconsin among them).
  • Keep an eye out for the ACC bowl picture to be quite fluid given the number of average 6-6/7-5 teams and the chance that some bowl quickly goes for the Frank Beamer retirement tour ahead of other conference teams with a better record. Right now the Hokies are slotted to the Military Bowl, but they could wind up anywhere, including some place like the Belk Bowl, depending on what the final records are for everybody.
  • Hard to imagine anything but cheers for the Russell Athletic Bowl selection committee. They will essentially get either Florida State or the very entertaining North Carolina offense against TCU/Oklahoma State/Baylor. Among the non-New Year's Six games, it's one to watch.
  • The Pac-12 will have more teams than slots and considering where some teams might finish record-wise, there are a ton of possibilities for everybody not named Stanford. 
  • Rich Rodriguez complained about playing 12 straight games this season and having to do so with many night games, so his reward this postseason can be to stay home and play at Arizona Stadium in the Arizona Bowl. 
  • Freshly bowl eligible UConn and soon-to-be-eligible Buffalo have to love the prospect at spending part of December in sunny Orlando for the Cure Bowl.

Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer


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