College football bowl projections: Big Ten return shakes up College Football Playoff, New Year’s Six games

Christel Deskins

It has been almost a month since my preseason bowl projections, and since then, a lot has changed. The biggest change is that we welcome the Big Ten back to the 2020 college football season.  The league canceled its football season back on Aug. 11 but then reversed course on […]

It has been almost a month since my preseason bowl projections, and since then, a lot has changed. The biggest change is that we welcome the Big Ten back to the 2020 college football season.  The league canceled its football season back on Aug. 11 but then reversed course on Sept. 17 and announced it will play an eight-game schedule plus a ninth game for each team on its championship Saturday, which will be Dec. 19.

From a bowl perspective, adding the Big Ten back in gives us 90 teams from which to choose.  It also means another Power Five conference in play for the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State, the preseason No. 2 team in the AP Top 25, is now projected to have that same seed in the College Football Playoff.  Alabama drops down to No. 3 and Oklahoma falls to No. 4.  Georgia is still in the New Year’s Six but no longer projected to be a playoff team.

Clemson is still projected as the No. 1 seed and would face the Sooners in the Sugar Bowl semifinal.  The Rose Bowl would feature the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 11

National Championship
Miami

Title game Semifinal winners

Jan. 1

Rose Bowl
Pasadena, Calif.

Semifinal

(2) Ohio State vs. (3) Alabama

Jan. 1

Sugar Bowl
New Orleans

Semifinal

(1) Clemson vs. (4) Oklahoma

Penn State is also projected into the New Year’s Six from the Big Ten with Wisconsin just missing out. Coming off of two strong performances to start the season including a 47-34 win at Louisville on Saturday, Miami also moves into the New Year’s Six projections in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes are projected to face the Bulldogs.

Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Memphis were in the preseason projections for New Year’s Six spots, but they all drop out to make room for Miami, Ohio State and the Penn State.

New Year’s Six bowl games

Jan. 2

Orange
Miami

ACC/ND vs. SEC/Big Ten

Miami vs. Georgia

Jan. 2

Fiesta
Glendale, Ariz.

At-large vs. At-large

Penn State vs. Auburn

Jan. 1

Peach
Atlanta

SEC vs. ACC

Florida vs. Cincinnati

Dec. 30

Cotton
Arlington, Tex.

At-large vs. At-large

Texas vs. North Carolina

Memphis had to postpone last Friday’s scheduled AAC game with Houston because of reasons related to COVID-19 issues. The Tigers also canceled this Friday’s scheduled game with UTSA but replaced it with a game against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 21.  The Roadrunners replaced the Tigers with Middle Tennessee State this week.

Through the first three weeks of the season, just over 20% of the scheduled games were postponed or canceled, including the Baylor-Houston game from this past Saturday that was only added to the schedule a week ago as a replacement for previously postponed games for each team.

In terms of bowl projections, I am assuming that postponed games that have not yet been rescheduled will not be. If they get added back to the schedule later or otherwise replaced, then I will include those games in the projections.

With 90 teams now scheduled to play, there are enough teams to fill all of the bowls, but I am not convinced they will all be played. I removed four bowls for the preseason projections so that there were enough teams for all the games. Those bowls were all contracted between two of the four conferences that had canceled their seasons. With the Big Ten coming back, I have added the Quick Lane Bowl back to the list.

That means I now have 76 spots to fill, so there are still several teams more than two games below .500 projected to bowls. The worst projected record is 2-8, so at least I do not have any more winless teams in games.

There are reports that the Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC are looking into coming back as well. I will adjust the bowl projections again if those conferences return.

Check out Jerry Palm’s complete 2020 bowl projections.

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