College Football Bowl Games 2017: Week 7 Projections for Every Matchup
Following a shocking home loss to Iowa State, Oklahoma is so far removed from the College Football Playoff picture that the Sooners aren't even currently projected for a New Year's Six bowl game.
Michigan also suffered a tough home loss to Michigan State, which helped open up the floodgates for teams like Miami, Auburn and Ohio State to jump one rung higher in the pecking order for bowl assignments.
It feels like the 2017 college football season just started yesterday, but if you can believe it, we've reached the midpoint of the campaign. There are still a lot of games left to be played, but there's now more than enough data for bowl projections to switch from preseason expectations to in-season results.
For instance, who in the world would have guessed seven weeks ago that Kentucky would be one win away from qualifying for a bowl game while Florida State would be sitting at 1-3 and in serious danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 1981?
The second half of the regular season will have plenty of equally surprising revelations, but here are the Bleacher Report projections for all 39 bowl games in advance of Week 7.
Group of Five Bowls
AutoNation Cure Bowl: SMU vs. Appalachian State
Las Vegas Bowl: UCLA vs. Colorado State
Gildan New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico vs. North Texas
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Troy
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana Monroe vs. Western Kentucky
Boca Raton Bowl: UCF vs. Florida Atlantic
Frisco Bowl: Houston vs. Akron
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: South Florida vs. Marshall
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Boise State vs. Western Michigan
Bahamas Bowl: Toledo vs. Southern Miss
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Indiana vs. Army
Dollar General Bowl: Ohio vs. Arkansas State
Birmingham Bowl: Memphis vs. Vanderbilt
Hawai'i Bowl: Tulane vs. Wyoming
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: UT San Antonio vs. Kansas State
Walk-On's Independence Bowl: Virginia vs. Louisiana Tech
Military Bowl: Navy vs. Wake Forest
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Fresno State vs. New Mexico State
Lower-Tier Power Five Bowls
Cactus Bowl: Texas vs. Arizona
Quick Lane Bowl: Nebraska vs. Duke
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
Texas Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State
Foster Farms Bowl: Minnesota vs. Oregon
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. LSU
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Louisville vs. Utah
Belk Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Tennessee
TaxSlayer Bowl: Purdue vs. Florida
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia vs. Kentucky
For the most part, these bowls will be the battles between Power Five teams that barely get to six wins. There's more than enough name-brand strength to get casual fans with nothing better to do to tune in, but these aren't the games that will be earmarked as "Must Watch" on our calendars.
Well, maybe a couple of them will be. From these projections, North Carolina State vs. Tennessee in the Belk Bowl and Louisville vs. Utah in the Sun Bowl would be all sorts of fun to watch. And we'll likely get at least one other game between eight-win teams that will get a fair amount of national hype. It's tough to say which game that would be, though, as most of these teams are hovering in the .500 range with the much more difficult half of their schedules still to come.
Top Non-New Year's Six Bowls
Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. USC
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Iowa vs. Stanford
Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina
Citrus Bowl: Michigan State vs. Texas A&M
Because of the various conference tie-ins and the order in which the bowls get to select teams from those conferences, these are the five games outside of the New Year's Six bowls that are all but guaranteed to have the most compelling matchups.
The Alamo Bowl, for instance, gets the top Big 12 and Pac-12 teams that don't get selected for the NY6, and that would currently be an incredible battle between Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph and USC's Sam Darnold. The Citrus Bowl is in the same boat with the top Big Ten and SEC teams, though with three of each currently projected for the top six bowls, the projected pairing of Michigan State and Texas A&M leaves something to be desired.
However, the most intriguing game of this bunch would be the Camping World Bowl. Notre Dame's unstoppable rushing attack against Oklahoma's unstoppable passing attack would be a ton of fun to watch.
Non-CFP New Year's Six Bowls
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: TCU vs. Washington State
Capital One Orange Bowl: Miami (FL) vs. Auburn
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. San Diego State
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Washington
It's a testament to the current state of affairs in the Big 12 that it only has one team projected for the New Year's Six bowls.
Oklahoma's loss to Iowa State shook things up in a big way. Prior to that shocker, the Sooners were a strong No. 3 thanks to the convincing road win over Ohio State. But when you lose at home to a team that hasn't even won eight games in any of the past 16 seasons, you free-fall from No. 3 to something more in the No. 16 range.
The Big 12's other borderline candidate is Oklahoma State, but who the heck have the Cowboys beaten? Yes, they demolished their three nonconference opponents (Tulsa, South Alabama and Pittsburgh) by a combined margin of 162-52, but those teams have a combined record of 4-13. Even if Oklahoma State runs the table from here, it probably isn't sniffing the Top Four in the CFP rankings, and it isn't in the Top 12 at the moment.
TCU looks quite strong, but the lack of strength elsewhere in the Big 12 could be what keeps the Horned Frogs on the wrong side of the CFP cut line.
The toughest decision here was leaving USC out of the New Year's Six bowls. The Trojans have nice wins over Stanford and Texas, and their lone loss came on the road by a three-point margin against a legitimate candidate for the national championship. But that one loss puts them at No. 3 in the Pac-12 pecking order, and there's not enough room for three Pac-12 teams in the Top 12 once you factor in San Diego State (or South Florida, UCF or Navy, if you so choose) as the Group of Five's automatic qualifier.
We chose San Diego State, and we're intrigued to see how high the Aztecs can climb. Western Michigan never stood a chance of reaching the CFP last year because nonconference wins over Northwestern and Illinois did nothing to help buoy the SOS anchor of playing nine games against MAC opponents. But the Mountain West is a good bit stronger than the MAC, and SDSU won games at Arizona State and vs. Stanford. There's a lot of season left to be played, but a 13-0 Aztecs team with a Heisman candidate (Rashaad Penny) might at least be in the discussion for the No. 4 seed.
College Football Playoff
Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Penn State
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia
If you've been following any national CFB media talk over the past few weeks, you've likely heard that it's Alabama and Clemson and everyone else. However, not much time has been spent discussing which of those teams that is seeking a third consecutive appearance in the national championship would get the No. 1 seed, thus staying almost 2,000 miles closer to home.
Alabama is fairly well-cemented at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll, but only because it started the season there.
That Week 1 win over Florida State doesn't look anywhere near as impressive now as it felt at the time, and who knows where the CFP Selection Committee lands on the strength of that victory? If Deondre Francois hadn't suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Crimson Tide, the Seminoles would probably be 3-1 right now and ranked in the Top 10. Instead, they're 1-3, and it's time to start wondering if the preseason No. 3 team is even going to become bowl-eligible.
Alabama made mincemeat of its first two SEC opponents and picked up a nice road win over Texas A&M this week, but its resume does not stack up favorably against Clemson's, as the Tigers have a win over Auburn and road wins over Virginia Tech and Louisville. Perhaps the Crimson Tide could pull back ahead if both teams end up at 13-0, but Clemson's resume is the best.
Elsewhere, Georgia has road wins over Notre Dame, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, as well as a home shellacking of Mississippi State. Honestly, it's easier to make the case for Georgia to be seeded higher than Alabama than the case for Alabama to be ranked above Clemson. However, after the top three teams (Alabama, Georgia and Auburn), the SEC is a mess. Eight weeks from now, the Big Ten should have the best chance of double-dipping in the CFP. But as things currently stand, Georgia has a top-three resume.
No. 4 is the toughest call, per usual. Penn State, TCU and Washington State all have a compelling case, and Washington, Wisconsin and Miami aren't far behind. For now, the Horned Frogs and Cougars have more impressive top wins than the Nittany Lions, but there's no way the Big Ten champion is getting shut out of the CFP, right?
Kerry Miller covers college football and college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.