Mock College Football Playoff, Week 11

Kevin C. Cox

Another week, another spin of the playoff wheel.

Having already gone through the Rose-Sugar semifinal scenario and the Orange-Cotton semifinal scenario, it's time to keep on rolling with the Fiesta-Peach semifinal scenario. As we saw in last week's Orange-Cotton post, it really does make a material difference as to which games are hosting semifinals, as four different teams rotated in and out of the mock playoff depending on where the semifinals would be.

We will first see this particular setup with the semis in Atlanta and Glendale following the 2016 regular season. As with previous weeks, the BCS standings sub in for the selection committee's rankings, and the highest ranked team from each conference is the presumed league champion for the sake of this mock.

Semifinal A

No. 1

No. 4

Peach Bowl

Alabama Ohio State

New week, new venue, same matchup. With the top ranked team getting the top priority, Alabama will return to the scene of its hypothetical SEC Championship Game win to take on the Big Ten champion Buckeyes.

Semifinal B

No. 2

No. 3

Fiesta Bowl

FSU Oregon

This week we revisit the issue from two weeks ago. Suppose that these four teams are the top four, with Alabama the clear No. 1 and Ohio State the clear No. 4. The Crimson Tide is obviously going to get the Peach Bowl, so FSU and Oregon will head out to Arizona regardless. It's a more geographically advantageous site for Oregon, so I would be surprised if the committee announced FSU as the No. 2 team.

Who is No. 2 versus No. 3 would be contentious no matter what, but sending No. 2 thousands of miles from home to play close(r) to No. 3 would only add to the complaining. Maybe if they truly thought FSU was No. 2, committee members would own up to it and say that their hands are tied. Humans being what they are, though, I suspect they'd announce the Ducks as No. 2 even if they liked the Seminoles better.

Contract Bowl

Pac-12

Big Ten

Rose Bowl

Stanford Michigan State

By contract, the Rose gets its Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchup when it is not a semifinal. Stanford and Michigan State are the highest ranked available teams from each league, so that is who we would get. What we get, specifically, is a chance to get a repeat of the final score of the 2008 Sun Bowl.

Contract Bowl

SEC

Big 12 Champ

Sugar Bowl

Missouri Baylor

By contract, the Sugar Bowl gets to have an SEC-Big 12 matchup when it is not a semifinal. It takes the champion of each conference if available, so Big 12 champ Baylor goes here. The highest ranked available SEC team this week is Missouri, which edged out Auburn for the spot.

Contract Bowl

ACC

SEC/B1G/ND

Orange Bowl

Clemson Auburn

By contract, the Orange Bowl takes an ACC team and pairs it with the highest ranked team out of the SEC, the Big Ten, and Notre Dame. We get a tigerrific matchup with Clemson and Auburn fitting those bills. Both the Sugar Bowl and this game would be big stylistic contrasts when compared to that Rose Bowl. Also the ACC was the sole conference with three teams in the field last week, but the SEC takes that honor with three in this week.

Host Bowl Central

Group of Five

At-Large

Cotton Bowl

Fresno State Oklahoma

Each year, the highest ranked champion of the "Group of Five" mid major conferences gets a spot somewhere. In Fiesta-Peach semifinal years, that means it's going to the Cotton Bowl regardless. All of the spots in the Rose, Sugar, and Orange Bowls are taken up by contracted arrangements, hence their title as "Contract Bowls". As the top ranked team still on the board, Oklahoma slides in as the sole at large team.

That point makes the big lesson for this week. In Fiesta-Peach semifinal years, there is only room for one at-large team. All 11 other CFP bowl slots have prearranged participants thanks to either rank (the semifinals) or contract (the three Contract Bowls plus the Group of Five team). It just so happens that with this particular week's BCS standings, no one would complain much because all of the top ten teams found a home somewhere. Things might not always work out so nicely, which makes this semifinal arrangement the one most likely to lead to protests.

Rose-Sugar semifinal scenario

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

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

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

Cotton Bowl: Baylor (Big 12 champ) vs. Auburn (at large)

Fiesta Bowl: Stanford (at large) vs. Fresno State (Group of Five)

Peach Bowl: Oklahoma (at large) vs. Miami-FL (at large)

Stanford and Fresno staying out west makes sense, and Baylor, as the No. 6 Big 12 champ, gets priority for the Cotton Bowl. I didn't put Oklahoma in the Cotton to avoid a regular season rematch, so Auburn gets the spot. Miami (FL) slots in nicely for the Peach Bowl, and they get the Sooners there.

Orange-Cotton semifinal scenario

Cotton Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

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

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

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

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma (at large) vs. Fresno State (Group of Five)

Peach Bowl: Auburn (at large) vs. Miami-FL (at large)

Alabama is the indifferent semifinalist here again, so the team that ends up as No. 2 determines the semifinal arrangements.

As far as divvying up the at larges goes, the SEC has had a tie to the Peach for decades while the Big 12 has had a relationship with the Fiesta for a while. Putting the SEC team in the Peach and the Big 12 team in the Fiesta just feels right. From there, it's pretty easy to put Fresno out west and Miami in the east.

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