So you can't wait for the playoff? No worries, we're giving you a sneak peak.
CBSSports.com amalgamated the preseason top 25s from five publications/polls (coaches', Athlon, Sporting News, Phil Steele, Dave Campbell's Texas Football). What we got was one combined, unscientific template for the selection committee to consider.
Hey, it beats the heck out of waiting around for the real thing in the first week of August (bold teams qualify for playoff or selection committee bowls).
The top five …
5. Ohio State
First order of business/controversy: The Big Ten gets left out. The top four are repped by the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12. We've already referred to the math problem regarding the playoff. Five power conferences does not divide equally into four sports.
As for the top seed, FSU gets the geographical advantage of playing No. 4 Oregon in the Sugar Bowl in one semifinal. The leaves No. 2 Alabama against No. 3 Oklahoma in a rather incongruous Rose Bowl in the other semi.
While both schools have played in Pasadena in the past, the teams would be traveling a combined 2,300 miles this time for a national semifinal. Such is one of the vagaries of the playoff. The top seed gets top consideration playing closest to home.
In case you're counting, those top four accounted for five national championships in the BCS era. The only oh-fer, Oregon, lost the 2010 national championship at the gun to Auburn.
As for the other four New Year's Six bowls, first consider the next 15 in the poll …
10. Michigan State
15. Notre Dame
16. Ole Miss
17. Arizona State
19. Texas A&M
The Orange Bowl is the only remaining “contract” bowl (committed to conference/team partners). Clemson – 18th in the rankings – is in because it is the next highest ranked ACC team to replace FSU in the Orange. The opponent is supposed to be the highest-ranked team among remaining teams in the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame.
No. 5 Ohio State would be the natural opponent. However, since Clemson and OSU met in last year's Orange Bowl, the committee (in this space) wouldn't go for such a recent rematch. Enter No. 6 Auburn, the next highest-ranked among Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame.
(No. 8 South Carolina couldn't rematch with Clemson for obvious reasons.)
The final five …
21. North Carolina
24. Central Florida
UCF has to be accounted for because it is the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences (American, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West). That makes it easy to pair the Knights with Michigan State in Atlanta in the Peach. UCF played out west last season in the Fiesta.
The Fiesta Bowl is easy. UCLA is the only remaining western team, paired against No. 5 Ohio State. The Big Ten has a big fan base in the Phoenix area. The Buckeyes are more than familiar with the Valley of the Sun but haven't played out there since the 2008 season.
That leaves a tasty intersectional in the Cotton Bowl – Baylor vs. South Carolina. The Bears would be playing only a couple hours from home. (Baylor also plays Texas Tech in AT&T Stadium on Nov. 29. But that's not a rematch and is more than offset by the Gamecocks first-ever trip to the Cotton.)
Not surprisingly, the SEC is the big winner in the first playoff year getting three of the 12 spots – Alabama in a semifinal, South Carolina in the Cotton, Auburn in the Orange. The ACC (FSU, Clemson), Big Ten (Ohio State, Michigan State) and Pac-12 (Oregon, UCLA) each got two.
The biggest losers? The seven schools ranked higher than Clemson that didn't get in because of the Orange's ACC tie-in. (Arizona State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, USC, LSU, Stanford, Georgia). Also, the 12 schools not in New Year's Six bowls ranked higher than No. 24 UCF.
But everyone goes in with eyes wide open. To sum up, here are the dates and matchups of our first faux playoff.
National semifinal No. 1, Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, 2015, No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
National semifinal No. 2, Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, 2015, No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Oregon.
Cotton Bowl, Jan. 1, Baylor vs. South Carolina
Peach Bowl, Dec. 31, Atlanta, Michigan State vs. Central Florida
Orange Bowl, Dec. 31, Miami Gardens, Fla., Clemson vs. Auburn
Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1, UCLA vs. Ohio State
National championship game, two semifinal winners, Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas