College Football Bowl Games 2017: Week 7 Projections for Every Matchup

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystOctober 10, 2017

College Football Bowl Games 2017: Week 7 Projections for Every Matchup

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    Baker Mayfield
    Baker MayfieldLM Otero/Associated Press

    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

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    After knocking off LSU, Troy is the Sun Belt team to beat.
    After knocking off LSU, Troy is the Sun Belt team to beat.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Dec. 16

    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


    Dec. 19

    Boca Raton Bowl: UCF vs. Florida Atlantic


    Dec. 20

    Frisco Bowl: Houston vs. Akron


    Dec. 21

    Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: South Florida vs. Marshall


    Dec. 22

    Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Boise State vs. Western Michigan
    Bahamas Bowl: Toledo vs. Southern Miss


    Dec. 23

    Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Indiana vs. Army
    Dollar General Bowl: Ohio vs. Arkansas State
    Birmingham Bowl: Memphis vs. Vanderbilt


    Dec. 24

    Hawai'i Bowl: Tulane vs. Wyoming


    Dec. 26

    Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: UT San Antonio vs. Kansas State


    Dec. 27

    Walk-On's Independence Bowl: Virginia vs. Louisiana Tech


    Dec. 28

    Military Bowl: Navy vs. Wake Forest


    Dec. 29

    NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Fresno State vs. New Mexico State

Lower-Tier Power Five Bowls

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    Is anybody not tuning in to see what Lamar Jackson does in what will likely be the final game of his college career?
    Is anybody not tuning in to see what Lamar Jackson does in what will likely be the final game of his college career?Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Dec. 26

    Cactus Bowl: Texas vs. Arizona
    Quick Lane Bowl: Nebraska vs. Duke


    Dec. 27

    New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
    Texas Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State
    Foster Farms Bowl: Minnesota vs. Oregon


    Dec. 29

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. LSU
    Hyundai Sun Bowl: Louisville vs. Utah
    Belk Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Tennessee


    Dec. 30

    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

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    USC and Sam Darnold aren't quite on pace for a New Year's Six bowl, but the Trojans still get a marquee game.
    USC and Sam Darnold aren't quite on pace for a New Year's Six bowl, but the Trojans still get a marquee game.Leon Bennett/Getty Images

    Dec. 28

    Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma
    Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. USC
    San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Iowa vs. Stanford


    Jan. 1

    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

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    Rashaad Penny and San Diego State are racing toward a New Year's Six bowl.
    Rashaad Penny and San Diego State are racing toward a New Year's Six bowl.Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Dec. 29

    Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: TCU vs. Washington State


    Dec. 30

    Capital One Orange Bowl: Miami (FL) vs. Auburn
    PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. San Diego State


    Jan. 1

    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

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    Clemson is tough to beat. Its resume is even tougher.
    Clemson is tough to beat. Its resume is even tougher.Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

    Jan. 1

    Sugar BowlNo. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Penn State

    Rose BowlNo. 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.