SEC bowl projections, Week 14 Version 2.0: After Alabama's fall
It was a foregone conclusion that Alabama would drop out of the College Football Playoff race after Saturday’s loss in the Iron Bowl to Auburn.
Sure enough, the CFP committee dropped the Crimson Tide down in the new rankings, released Tuesday.
Alabama dropped to No. 12, not only behind Utah, Oklahoma, Baylor and Florida (which we expected) but also behind Auburn (not projected but not a shock) and behind Penn State as well.
OK, that last part I did not see coming.
And it’s critical because that drop almost guarantees that Alabama won’t even be in a New Year’s 6 bowl.
Now, I can imagine some folks saying, “Wait, there are 12 teams in the New Year’s Day 6 bowls, what’s the deal?”
It’s nowhere near that simple.
To explain, we have to present our projected winners of the Power 5 conference championship games this Saturday, with their new CFP rankings:
SEC: No. 2 LSU over No. 4 Georgia; ACC: No. 3 Clemson over No. 23 Virginia; Big Ten: No. 1 Ohio State over No. 8 Wisconsin; Pac-12: No. 13 Oregon over No. 5 Utah; Big 12: No. 6 Oklahoma over No. 7 Baylor.
Now, here is where the problems set in not only for Bama but for No. 11 Auburn too.
First, the top-ranked Group of 5 team is guaranteed a spot in the NYD6. So is the ACC champion — or the ACC’s second-best choice, no matter how low that team is ranked, if the league champ is in the CFP semifinals. Since we project Clemson into the CFP, that puts Virginia in the Orange Bowl.
Now, if Oklahoma wins the Big 12 and goes to the CFP, as we project, then the Sugar Bowl is contracted to take the next Big 12 team, which would be Baylor. And the Rose Bowl takes the Pac-12 champion and the Big Ten champion — or the next best Big Ten team is its champ goes to the CFP, as we project Ohio State to do. We project Penn State to the Rose (we think Wisconsin will drop below the Nittany Lions and out of the NYD6).
See the problem?
We project LSU into the CFP, Georgia to the Sugar Bowl as the next-best SEC team, then Florida to the Orange Bowl, which is contracted to match an ACC team against the best remaining available SEC or Big Ten team or Notre Dame. And we also predict Utah to lose a close one in the Pac-12 title game and only drop a couple of spots in the final rankings, thus staying in the NYD6 while the Ducks go to the Rose Bowl.
That would mean Auburn and Alabama miss out on the New Year’s Day 6. The next bowl to pick after the NYD6 is the Citrus. Auburn is ranked 1 spot ahead of Alabama in the CFP but that doesn’t mean the Citrus has to go by the rankings. We’re guessing the Citrus will jump at the rare chance to invite Alabama over Auburn, though the Tigers have not been to that bowl since the 2005 season.
And the SEC will fill 1 more lower bowl slot than we had been projecting.
If, however, I’m wrong and Utah beats Oregon, that’s great news for the SEC. Either Utah makes the CFP, Oregon goes to the Rose, the Big 12 champ goes to the Sugar and the Big 12 loser is out … or the Big 12 winner makes the CFP, Utah goes to the Rose and Oregon is out. Either way, in that scenario, the math probably should work out for Auburn to get in the NYD6.
But for now, here are our post-CFP rankings bowl projections — or Week 14, Version 2.0: