Mock College Football Playoff, Week 14

Kevin C. Cox

There are obvious issues here, but the last two weeks will sort them out.

Continuing the rotation, the mock playoff this week will highlight the scenario where the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl host semifinals. It's a little different for each set of semifinal games, so that's why we keep changing it up around here. There is no way to make one master setup that applies to all three scenarios. We'll first see this one happen in real life in 2016.

As always, the BCS standings substitute for the selection committee's rankings, and the highest ranked team from each conference will be the assumed winner for this purpose.

Semifinal A

No. 1

No. 4

Peach Bowl

Alabama Auburn

This week has a couple of rematches dialed up, and this Iron Bowl redux is one of them. It's basically impossible for these two to end up like this at season's end in 2013, so it's just a quirk of this not actually being season's end yet. It really would be something to see these two go at it in the playoff, though.

Semifinal B

No. 2

No. 3

Fiesta Bowl

FSU Ohio State

The other semifinal remains the same as the past couple of weeks. The geography doesn't favor Florida State, obviously, but it doesn't really favor the Buckeyes either. That's the way it will go sometimes. For all the talk of it not mattering the order once you get into the playoff field, it really can matter a lot who is No. 1 and who is No. 2 given that these semifinal games won't be played on campus.

Contract Bowl

Pac-12 Champ

Big Ten

Rose Bowl

Stanford Michigan State

The Rose gets to have a Pac-12 and Big Ten matchup whenever it doesn't host a semifinal, so thanks to Arizona drilling Oregon, Stanford is back in line to go here. It would draw Michigan State, setting up a real boxing match between two heavy hitters.

This is a big week for MSU and the Big Ten, as the Spartans would make the playoff in all three possible configurations. This is the first week this season in which that has been the case. It also makes it the first week in which the same 12 teams appear in all three scenarios.

Contract Bowl

SEC

Big 12 Champ

Sugar Bowl

Missouri Oklahoma State

By contract, the Sugar Bowl gets an SEC-Big 12 matchup when it is not hosting a a semifinal game. Missouri is the first available SEC team, so the Tigers end up here. The presumptive Big 12 champ is now Oklahoma State after the Pokes smoked Baylor, so OSU fills out the other slot.

Contract Bowl

ACC

SEC/B1G/ND

Orange Bowl

Clemson South Carolina

And here we have the other rivalry rematch of the week. By contract, the Orange Bowl takes an ACC team and pits it against the highest ranked available team from the SEC, Big Ten, or Notre Dame. Clemson is the highest ranked available ACC team, and South Carolina is the highest ranked available team from the rest.

Given that there isn't a third ACC team anywhere close to the top two, that half of the bowl projection won't change unless somehow FSU loses one of its next two games. The Gamecocks are the most likely to leave this one even if they beat Clemson. They'll either move up the SEC pecking order with wins or the league will only end up with one semifinalist and therefore push the Gamecocks down out of this one.

The Orange Bowl does have the option to skip over the highest ranked out of the SEC, Big Ten, and Notre Dame to avoid a rematch, but I am not sure that it can do that in this situation. ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported it like this:

However, if the ACC's highest-ranked opponent would create a regular-season rematch, the Orange Bowl has the flexibility to avoid that rematch by taking the next highest-ranked team from Notre Dame, the SEC or Big Ten. The team that was "skipped" over would be placed in an access bowl as long as it meets the minimum ranking requirement.

Problem is, there's not really a place to put South Carolina if the Orange Bowl wanted to pass it over for Wisconsin, the next highest ranked team for the slot. Either the No. 10 Gamecocks get kicked out in favor of the No. 15 Badgers, or No. 9 Baylor ends up getting kicked out if South Carolina went to the only non-contracted spot available. I am not sure that the Orange Bowl has the power to usurp the rankings like that, so I am leaving the rematch in for now. We'll have to see how this gets handled in the future.

Host Bowl Central

Group of Five

At-Large

Cotton Bowl

Northern Illinois Baylor

The highest ranked team of the so-called "Group of Five" mid major conferences is guaranteed a spot somewhere to keep Congress and other lawyers off of the playoff's back, and it's now Northern Illinois after having been Fresno State for a few weeks. The lone at-large spot goes to Baylor, which remains in the top ten despite its loss. Getting to obliterate NIU in its home state is little consolation for the loss of the undefeated season, but that's all I've got to offer.

Rose-Sugar semifinal scenario

Full explanation of this scenario here.

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Auburn

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Ohio State

Orange Bowl: Clemson (ACC) vs. Missouri (SEC/B1G/ND)

Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State (Big 12 champ) vs. Northern Illinois (Group of Five)

Fiesta Bowl: Stanford (Pac-12 champ) vs. Baylor (at large)

Peach Bowl: South Carolina (at large) vs. Michigan State (at-large)

Let's go down the rankings to figure this one out. Oklahoma State is the highest ranked of the teams not in contract bowls, so it gets the nearby Cotton Bowl. Next comes Stanford, which gets to stay out west in the Fiesta. Baylor is after that, but I won't put the Bears in the Cotton in order to avoid the regular season rematch. The next most logical place is the Fiesta, given its past Big 12 tie. South Carolina is a natural for the Peach, so that's easy. Now it comes down to where to put NIU and Michigan State. I am not sure just how much it matters where each goes, but I gave the shorter trip to MSU.

Orange-Cotton semifinal scenario

Full explanation of this scenario here.

Cotton Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Auburn

Orange Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Ohio State

Rose Bowl: Stanford (Pac-12) vs. Michigan State (Big Ten)

Sugar Bowl: Missouri (SEC) vs. Oklahoma State (Big 12 champ)

Fiesta Bowl: Baylor (at-large) vs. South Carolina (at-large)

Peach Bowl: Clemson (at-large) vs. Northern Illinois (Group of Five)

With this setup, there actually is an opportunity to avoid the South Carolina-Clemson rematch. Clemson is the higher ranked team, so it gets the closer Peach Bowl with the Gamecocks taking the Fiesta. I put Baylor in the Fiesta for the same reasons as in the above scenario. That then puts the western NIU into the Peach. While I think this is a fairly likely outcome, I could also see the committee pairing Clemson and Baylor for the offensive fireworks and leaving NIU out west. It all depends on whether the committee will slot teams solely by geography or if they'll try to set up interesting matchups like what Baylor-Clemson would likely be.

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