We’re mere minutes away from the CFP selection show, but what fun would it be not to try to take one last stab at bowl predictions? My bowl projections have proven to be very close to the mark each year (and two years ago, I somehow managed to predict every single Pac-12 team’s bowl game, and even predicted all but two opponents!). So, here I am ready to push my luck again!
Rose Bowl: Washington vs. Ohio State
We start with a near-certainty. Rose Bowl is obligated to take the Pac-12 Champion and the Big Ten Champion, unless either is in the semifinals. Unless Ohio State somehow manages to sneak past Oklahoma for the semifinals (unlikely), the Rose Bowl is Washington vs. Ohio State.
Alamo Bowl: WSU vs. West Virginia
The Pac-12 will not be getting a second NY6 bowl this year. WSU presently ranks #13 and will likely need to get up to #11 to get a NY6 bowl. Since WSU is almost certainly on the outside looking in for NY6 bowls, the Alamo Bowl is almost certainly the destination for 10-2 WSU (the only other choices available for Alamo would be 9-4 Utah or 8-4 Stanford). The only real question is WSU’s opponent. With Oklahoma likely in the semifinals and Texas in the Sugar Bowl, that means the Alamo Bowl comes down to West Virginia or Iowa State. Expect West Virginia to get the nod when they bring with them Heisman hopeful Will Grier.
Holiday Bowl: Oregon vs. Northwestern
This one was the trickiest for me, both for the Pac-12 team as well as the opponent. For the Pac-12 team, it should be between Utah and Oregon. It’s possible that Holiday takes Utah, but it seems likelier that they’ll take the national brand in Oregon, who brings more viewership (especially if Justin Herbert ends up playing). On the Big Ten side, it’s also murky. Ohio State and Michigan are off to NY6 bowls, so they’re out. Penn State is the next-best available team, as well as the most lucrative, so I’m reasonably confident that they’re going to the Citrus Bowl. Because of the Big Ten’s agreement to provide five teams in six years, Outback should be looking at Michigan State (their only other option is Purdue). If all of the above plays out, that means the Holiday Bowl is between Iowa and Northwestern, and I give the nod to the Big Ten runner-up.
Redbox Bowl: Stanford vs. Minnesota
If all of the above predictions play out, the Redbox Bowl’s decision is pretty straight forward (aside from Stanford, their only other choices would be ASU— who doesn’t have the resume—or Utah, and Redbox seems uninterested in bringing Utah back to Levi’s Stadium after Utah just played there to poor attendance in the Pac-12 Championship). The Big Ten side is a bit murkier, but if we continue to fill out the bowls after the Holiday Bowl, my guess is that Music City/Gator and Pinstripe take Wisconsin and Iowa. That leaves only Purdue and Minnesota, and because the Redbox Bowl must take five different Big Ten teams in six years, Purdue is out, leaving only Minnesota.
Sun Bowl: Utah vs. Pittsburgh
If everything above plays out, then the Pac-12 selection is easy: the Sun Bowl will be contractually obligated to take Utah (Utah has a better record than either ASU or Cal). The opponent, however, is trickier. My guess is that Camping World Bowl (who gets first choice of ACC teams after the Orange Bowl) will take NC State, which puts Syracuse in the New York-based Pinstripe Bowl, and leaves Pitt for the Sun Bowl. If, however, Camping World takes Syracuse, Pitt will likely be in the Pinstripe Bowl instead, and Boston College is the next-likeliest opponent for Utah.
Las Vegas Bowl: ASU vs. Fresno State
This match is guaranteed. The Vegas Bowl is contractually obligated to take the Mountain West Champion, Fresno State, and the Pac-12 team with the best record, which means 5-4 ASU over 4-5 Cal.
Cheez-It Bowl: Cal vs. Baylor
Again, Cal’s selection is guaranteed. The Big 12 opponent is a bit murkier, but Baylor is likely the last Big-12 team left over for the Cheez-It Bowl (after Texas Bowl opts for TCU over Baylor, and Liberty Bowl takes the more lucrative Oklahoma State).