Ohio State Out, Florida State In with One Week to Go
A handful of big results reverberated through the sport last weekend. Michigan handed Ohio State its first blemish of 2023, Kentucky guaranteed that Louisville won’t be in the College Football Playoff, and the rest of the favorites kept pace to set the stage for a monumental conference championship week.
Oregon and Washington have a rematch in Las Vegas that will serve as a de facto play-in for the playoff. One, both, or none of Alabama and Georgia will feature in the College Football Playoff based on their clash in Atlanta. Michigan and Florida State find themselves in win-and-in positions, while Texas must have a victory and could use a little bit of help to get into the top four. Even the race for the G5 invite to the New Year’s Six is on fire going into the final week before bowl season (excluding Army-Navy).
This is a snapshot of how the most noteworthy bowls might look if the season ended today. Some things are liable to change based on this week’s results, but the picture has never been clearer. Some teams are starting to lock themselves in place.
That means college football fans need to begin combing through the matchups and considering who they like and who they don’t. Splash commissioners can customize their own NCAAF Bowl Pick X contests, with everything from point values to selecting which bowls are included available to be tweaked.
If you want to play but don’t want to host your own competition, then Splash has multiple contests with guaranteed prizes available for you. In our biggest, you could corral a $7,500 payday this bowl season with a $10 entry in the Splash $50K CFB Bowl Pick X Bonanza. We will distribute $50,000 in prize money to the contest’s top 50 finishers, including at least $1,500 to everyone in the top 10. A Best Pick wrinkle in the Warm-Up and Holiday Slates adds some spice to the race.
To prepare yourself for these coming contests, you have to make evaluations of the teams, especially those that will be in the biggest bowls. Let’s help you get started.
Sugar Bowl (CFP Semifinal): No. 1 Georgia (SEC #1) vs. No. 4 Florida State (ACC #1)
Georgia Tech gave Georgia more of a challenge than most others have lately, but the Bulldogs still picked up their 12th triumph of the campaign, 31-23. Kirby Smart’s side is now one win away from extending its winning streak to 30, and it might need to reach that mark to see itself into the College Football Playoff. Georgia will meet Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta this weekend with the aim of righting the wrongs of its three previous engagements with the Tide in the conference’s ultimate contest. A victory would not only lock up a bid to the playoff but also the top seed. A defeat would leave the Bulldogs vulnerable to missing out.
Georgia’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 8 Alabama (SEC Championship Game)
The Seminoles secured the state of Florida’s crown by outlasting the Gators, 24-15. Tate Rodemaker completed 12 of his 25 passing attempts and threw for 134 yards in the victory, doing enough to see Florida State through to the other side but not enough to quell concern that he keep the team at the same level it was at with Jordan Travis receiving the snaps. Regardless, Florida State is 12-0 and should find itself in the playoff if it can grow to 13-0 this weekend in Charlotte. Louisville presents one of the most difficult challenges of the season for the Seminoles - reaching lucky number 13 will be easier said than done.
Florida State’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 14 Louisville (ACC Championship Game)
Rose Bowl (CFP Semifinal): No. 2 Michigan (Big Ten #1) vs. No. 3 Washington (Pac-12 #1)
For the third year in a row, Michigan dispatched of its arch rival Ohio State, 30-24, the program’s best run in the rivalry since 1995-1997. The win confirmed Michigan’s third-straight Big Ten East title, and now the team is in play for its third-straight Big Ten title. All that stands in its way is a 10-2 Iowa team with an elite-level defense and an offense that is anything but. If the Wolverines become 13-0 in Indianapolis, there is no question of their playoff future. If the Hawkeyes pull off the upset, things could get dicey. The Big Ten Championship Game will also mark the return of Jim Harbaugh following the coach’s three-game suspension for his alleged role in the team’s sign stealing fiasco.
Michigan’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 16 Iowa (Big Ten Championship Game)
Washington became the first team to go 12-0 in the Pac-12 since the league introduced Utah and Colorado in 2011 by evading catastrophe in the Apple Cup. The Huskies needed a 42-yard field goal as time expired to hold off in-state rival Washington State 24-21, the two teams’ final foray as conference foes. Washington’s season has been about as dramatic as you could ask for, and it’s likely to continue that way this weekend. The Huskies now must endure a rematch with another major rival, Oregon, in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Las Vegas to earn their College Football Playoff invitation. Kalen DeBoer’s team beat the Ducks in its regular season matchup, but it’s another beast to beat the same team twice in one season. To win a national championship though, the Huskies will have to find a way.
Washington’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 5 Oregon (Pac-12 Championship Game)
Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 Missouri (SEC #3) vs. No. 22 Tulane (G5 #1/AAC #1)
Following Missouri’s demolition of Arkansas, 48-14, Eli Drinkwitz has officially provided Columbia with 10 wins in a season for the first time since 2014. The Tigers closed their campaign with three successes in a row and now appear poised for a New Year’s Six berth. That could change if Iowa beats Michigan and the committee gets cute with its rankings for no apparent reason, but at this point, Missouri should be in one of the sport’s most prestigious bowl games this winter.
Missouri’s remaining schedule: none
Tulane finalized an undefeated conference record last Saturday with a 29-16 victory over UTSA in what was a play-in contest for the AAC Championship Game. The Green Wave are now one win away from procuring their second conference championship in a row, something the program hasn’t done since 1931. Tulane must make that history in order to play in a New Year’s Six showdown - not only must it win the American Athletic, but undefeated Liberty is nipping at its heels in the College Football Playoff rankings. It’s possible that surpassing SMU this Saturday won’t be enough to return to the New Year’s Six, because the committee could leapfrog Liberty over the Green Wave, but there’s nothing that Willie Fritz and his team can do about that except control what happens at Yulman Stadium.
Tulane’s remaining schedule: vs. SMU (AAC Championship Game)
Orange Bowl: No. 10 Penn State (Big Ten #3) vs. No. 14 Louisville (ACC #2)
For the second season running, Penn State has beaten everyone on its schedule except Ohio State and Michigan. The Nittany Lions confirmed their fifth 10-win campaign since 2016 with a 42-0 shellacking of Michigan State, putting the Spartans out of their 2023 misery and setting Penn State up for another New Year’s Six trip. James Franklin’s team will be big Michigan fans this weekend - the easiest way for Penn State to miss out on a bid to one of the most prestigious bowls is via Iowa snatching the Big Ten’s third New Year’s Six invitation as the league’s champion. Otherwise, the committee has provided the Nittany Lions with a good shot at a NY6 spot.
Penn State’s remaining schedule: none
Louisville had an outside shot at the College Football Playoff until Kentucky ruined that. The Cardinals capitulated to the hated Wildcats, 38-31, to add a second loss to their season, taking themselves out of national championship contention. But Louisville is still well alive for ACC championship contention - all it has to do is beat Florida State in Charlotte, and the program will have its inaugural ACC crown and first conference title since winning the Big East in 2012. Given that the Orange Bowl has to have an ACC representative, Louisville is likely headed for Miami Gardens regardless of how the ACC Championship Game goes. Theoretically, North Carolina State could jump the Cardinals if they lose this Saturday, but that probably wouldn’t happen. Enjoy the Orange Bowl, Louisville!
Louisville’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 4 Florida State (ACC Championship Game)
Peach Bowl: No. 6 Ohio State (Big Ten #2) vs. No. 8 Alabama (SEC #2)
Ohio State likely lost its national title aspirations by suffering its first stain of the season 30-24, at Michigan last Saturday. As disappointing as that is for the fans in Columbus, the Buckeyes are still primed for a New Year’s Six bowl appearance for the 11th-straight season. With no other games remaining, no chance of falling out of the top 10, and little hope of backsliding into the College Football Playoff, Ohio State’s postseason future is essentially decided.
Ohio State’s remaining schedule: none
The Crimson Tide are very much alive to get back to the College Football Playoff. A win against Georgia in Atlanta would provide Alabama with its ninth SEC championship since 2009 and would give the 12-1 Tide the head-to-head nod over the Bulldogs. There are more complications that may have to work themselves out depending on how the other conference championship games play - the Big 12 Championship Game in particular is of importance - but none of it mean anything without a victory this Saturday. There is a good chance that Alabama will be in a New Year’s Six position no matter what, though.
Alabama’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 1 Georgia (SEC Championship Game)
Cotton Bowl: No. 5 Oregon (Pac-12 #2) vs. No. 7 Texas (Big 12 #1)
Oregon obliterated Oregon State, 31-7, in the final Civil War with both teams in the Pac-12. The victory stamps Oregon’s ticket to the Pac-12 Championship Game this weekend: a second opportunity versus border rival Washington. The Huskies won a dramatic affair in Seattle in October, but this rematch in Las Vegas will have a larger impact on both teams’ seasons. The Ducks should be in the College Football Playoff if they come out ahead this Friday. If they don’t, a New Year’s Six showing is still probable. There is also a Heisman race on the periphery - Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. both have their eyes on the prize, but they can’t both strike the pose.
Oregon’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 3 Washington (Pac-12 Championship Game)
The Longhorns cemented a finish atop the Big 12 regular season standings in their final go-around in the league with a 57-7 destruction of Texas Tech last week. Their reward is a date with Oklahoma State at Jerry World for the best prize the conference can offer. If Texas wins, it will lock itself into a New Year’s Six appearance at worst. At best, the team will grab one of the four spots available in the CFP. The Longhorns need some help around the country for that to happen, but none of it matters without a victory. If Steve Sarkisian’s team can’t overcome the Cowboys, then a New Year’s Six bid will be in question. That would be a matter of other results and the committee’s rankings.
Texas’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 18 Oklahoma State (Big 12 Championship Game)
In the Hunt
No. 11 Ole Miss: The Rebels won’t be featuring in Atlanta this weekend, and with three other SEC teams ahead of them in the current CFP rankings, a New Year’s Six bowl is not likely in their future this season. Maybe the committee does something weird, but I wouldn't bet on it.
No. 12 Oklahoma: The Sooners could sneak into the New Year’s Six if several results go their way, but with no game this weekend to impress the committee with, they are more likely to be on the outside looking in. Shouldn’t have lost to Kansas.
No. 16 Iowa: If the Hawkeyes shock Michigan in Indianapolis they will own the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the New Year’s Six. Anything less than that, and the ReliaQuest Bowl is the best they can do.
No. 18 Oklahoma State: It’s the same story for Oklahoma State as it is for Iowa. If the Cowboys spoil Texas’s last chance at a Big 12 title, then a New Year’s Six bowl game will call. Otherwise, Oklahoma State will spend its postseason elsewhere.
No. 24 Liberty: The Flames are one of five 12-0 teams in the FBS, but they need to topple New Mexico State in the C-USA Championship Game to have a realistic shot at a New Year’s Six bid. That wouldn’t be enough though, because they also need to be the highest-ranked G5 side in the committee’s poll to get the invite. Maybe Tulane losing to SMU would do the trick, or maybe the committee will close the two-spot gap between the Flames and Green Wave for them regardless. There is also the danger of the Mustangs overtaking Liberty in the rankings if they become the American Athletic champions. There’s a lot to think about in Lynchburg this weekend.
SMU: The first step for reaching the New Year’s Six is claiming the AAC title in New Orleans this Saturday. The second step is entrusting the committee to put SMU above Liberty, assuming the Flames win Conference USA. Without both of those, the Mustangs will be far from the NY6.
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