The College Football Playoff is simple. Oklahoma is a lock. The Iowa-Michigan State winner is as well.

After that, if Clemson and Alabama handle business, the four-team field is set.

It’s the bottom of the bowl field that’s a mess in 2015. The bowls collectively need 80 FBS programs to participate. Just 75 have reached the six-win plateau that marks eligibility.

South Alabama, Kansas State and Georgia State all have opportunities to secure a sixth win next week. But all three teams are underdogs, some of them big.

At least two 5-7 teams will need to play in bowl games, but more likely that number will be four or five. There is a rule in place that allows the top 5 teams ranked by APR (Academic Progress Rate) to participate in a bowl game if those teams are 5-7. Unfortunately for those administrating all this, all five teams at the top of the APR charts already are bowl eligible.

Some are speculating that the bowl committee simply will extend APR further than the top 5, which would mean likely invites for Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas State (win or lose) and Minnesota.

In a twist, it appears Mizzou will be unlikely to accept a bowl invitation. The team recently appointed Andy Hill as interim coach. The three weeks of extra practice will not help unless the team has a new head coach in place. Plus, lower-tier bowl games can cost schools hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses and unsold tickets.

The Tigers very likely will get a call from some bowl, but should be apt to decline. Kentucky, meanwhile, may not be among those teams getting a call.

Under the current scenario, thanks to Alabama’s projection as a College Football Playoff team, the SEC would fail to fill its bowl quota and the Independence Bowl would be left without an SEC dance partner. (Don’t you regret the fact that no fan base may spend their holidays in Shreveport, La.?)

Every team will be facing financial circumstances similar to Mizzou, so geography (hint: ticket sales) likely will be a major factor in determining which 5-7 teams get extended bowl invites. In other words, if you’re a Nebraska fan, no matter how the committee slices it, you feel good about your chances at a postseason game.

If you cheer for UK or Mizzou, not so much.

Finally, the Sugar Bowl gets the SEC champion — unless that champion makes the College Football Playoff. It appears the Tide are headed toward that distinction. That would leave the Sugar Bowl to pick between three-loss Florida, on a two-game losing streak, and three-loss Ole Miss, looking strong.

That’s an easy choice in my mind.

Reports already have surfaced that LSU and Michigan could play in the Citrus Bowl, which gets its pick of the remaining SEC teams after the Sugar Bowl.

In that scenario, the Florida Gators — ranked in the top 10 last week and winners of the SEC East division — could slide all the way to the Outback Bowl. There, coach Jim McElwain could meet another overlooked team that has stockpiled wins in Iowa (12-0).

The Hawkeyes could lose to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship and fall past Ohio State and Michigan in the bowl pecking order. That would be a heck of a bowl matchup in Tampa between conferences that have targeted those programs pretty hard for jokes this year.


  • College Football Playoff Semifinal (Cotton Bowl): Alabama vs. Oklahoma
  • New Year’s Six Sugar: Ole Miss vs. TCU
  • Citrus: LSU vs. Michigan
  • Outback: Florida vs. Iowa
  • Music City: Tennessee vs. Wisconsin
  • Belk: Mississippi State vs. Pittsburgh
  • Liberty: Arkansas vs. West Virginia
  • TaxSlayer: Georgia vs. N.C. State
  • Texas: Texas A&M vs. Texas Tech
  • Birmingham: Auburn vs. Cincinnati

On the outside looking in: Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Vanderbilt