Saturday, July 20, 2024

College football bowl projections: Oregon takes USC’s spot despite Washington loss, Air Force soars upward

It was coming eventually. We all knew it. There was going to be an opponent against which USC’s high-flying offense would not be able to keep up given its dreadful defense. That came Saturday night as the Trojans got hammered, 48-20 at Notre Dame. To be fair to the defense, it did not help that the offense turned the ball over five times.

That result creates a shakeup of sorts in the latest bowl projections after Week 7. USC is now out of the New Year’s Six with Oregon stepping into its place. The Ducks fell at Washington in a 36-33 thriller, but Oregon clearly came out of the game looking like one of the top two teams in the Pac-12.

As I believe Texas will win its rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game, I similarly project Oregon to win a rematch with Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game on a neutral field in Las Vegas. Still, both teams are projected for the New Year’s Six. Though I still have the Ducks projected higher than the Huskies at season’s end, it is not high enough for Oregon to supplant one of the projected College Football Playoff teams. It looks like the CFP Selection Committee could have some difficult decisions to make this season.

One other change in the New Year’s Six is that Air Force replaces Tulane in this week’s projection. The Falcons beat Wyoming Saturday night, 34-27. I am now expecting Air Force to run the table and represent the Group of Five in the Fiesta Bowl.

College Football Playoff

Date Game / Loc. Matchup Prediction

Jan. 8

National Championship

Title game Semifinal winners
Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl
New Orleans
Semifinal (1) Georgia  vs. (4) Texas

Jan. 1

Rose Bowl
Pasadena, Calif.


(2) Michigan vs. (3) Florida State

New Year’s Six bowl games

Date Bowl / Location Matchup Prediction

Jan. 1

Fiesta Bowl
Glendale, Ariz.

at-large vs. at-large

 Washington vs. Air Force

Dec. 30

Orange Bowl


North Carolina vs. Ohio State

Dec. 30

Peach Bowl

at-large vs. at-large

Alabama vs. Penn State

Dec. 29

Cotton Bowl
Arlington, Tex.

at-large vs. at-large

Oregon vs. Oklahoma

The Big Ten’s no-repeat rule could end up creating some difficulty filling its bowl matchups this season. Iowa is now on track to win the Big Ten West after beating Wisconsin. They Hawkeyes could finish 11-2 yet not likely qualify for a New Year’s Six game. Normally, they would be easy to slot into the Citrus Bowl, but Iowa just played there in 2021, so they cannot repeat.

Iowa would also be ineligible for the Music City Bowl amid the no-repeat rule, and the Big Ten’s spot in the Reliaquest Bowl goes to ACC in this projection because Ohio State is in the Orange Bowl, so that is not an option for Iowa, either. As a result, Iowa lands in the Las Vegas Bowl in these projections.

The next-best Big Ten team, Wisconsin, would end up in the Citrus Bowl. That leaves Maryland, Rutgers and Minnesota, which is projected into the field at 5-7, to fill the other spots. The Pinstripe Bowl has featured the Terrapins and Golden Gophers the last two seasons, so that puts Rutgers there. Minnesota has also already been in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, so Maryland has to go there with Minnesota bumped up to the Music City Bowl. That’s pretty high cotton for a 5-7 team.

Minnesota is one of nine teams in this week’s projection that would otherwise be ineligible for a bowl if there were enough eligible teams. Jacksonville State and James Madison filled two of those spots because they are 6-6 or better and in their second year of transition to FBS. The other fill-ins are all expected to be 5-7.

Don’t see your team? Check out Jerry Palm’s bowl projections after Week 7.

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