More projections: Every 2016 college football bowl predicted

This offseason's big story was the Big 12's continued overreaction to being left out of the first College Football Playoff.

After deciding to add a conference championship game in 2017, the league went a step further by announcing plans to expand by as many as four teams. That is, at least in part, because some consultant looked into a crystal ball and told the Big 12 it would have a much better chance of making the CFP if it watered down the league.

Despite all that, I'm not only putting a Big 12 team into the College Football Playoff again this year, I'm picking one -- Oklahoma -- as the No. 1 seed.

The Sooners have arguably the most difficult nonconference schedule of any Power Five school, with a game at Houston to start and a home matchup with Ohio State in Week 3. Oklahoma also gets Baylor and archrival Oklahoma State at home in conference play.

Last year's national runner up, Clemson, is projected at No. 2. The Tigers return most of one of last season's top offenses, including Heisman Trophy contender Deshaun Watson. The Tigers' biggest road block should come in ACC play at Florida State.

Defending champion Alabama is picked third, setting up a rematch of last season's title game. The Crimson Tide always has the best talent, if you like recruiting rankings and the game's best coach, so it seems silly pick against them. Alabama faces a challenging schedule, with arguably its five toughest opponents away from Tuscaloosa.

The final projected CFP spot goes to Notre Dame. Since the move to playing five ACC games every season, Notre Dame's schedule isn't quite as good as it used to be, but the Fighting Irish take on Michigan State, Stanford and Miami at home, plus USC on the road.

Bowl Date Location Prediction
Fiesta Bowl (Semifinal) Dec. 31 Glendale, Arizona No. 1 Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
Peach Bowl (Semifinal) Dec. 31 Atlanta, Georgia No. 2 Clemson (ACC) vs. No. 3 Alabama (SEC)

Who gets left out? The Big Ten and Pac-12. The only people happy about that prospect would be the folks at the Rose Bowl, which would get its traditional matchup of those two league champs. It would be the second straight miss for the Pac-12, which would then be told it should expand to 40 teams to help to prevent this from happening in the future.

Here are some other things to know about our the preseason bowl projections.

Finding 80 (!) teams for 40 (!) bowls: With the midseason addition of the Arizona Bowl last season, there are now 40 bowl games, not counting the CFP National Championship. That means 80 teams will have to become bowl-eligible to fill all those spots. That didn't happen last season, and three 5-7 teams ended up in the postseason. This summer, the NCAA's Football Issues Committee formalized the process to choose those teams should the situation happen again. Teams that finish 5-7 would be chosen in order of the most recent APR scores. My preseason projection has exactly 80 bowl-eligible teams, so there is little margin for error.

Shaking out the New Year's Six: The CFP semifinals are in the Peach and Fiesta bowls, so the other four matchups selected by the CFP Selection Committee are the Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange. The Rose projects to get the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs. The Sugar will get the highest-rated teams left from the SEC and Big 12. The Orange is a matchup of the highest-rated remaining ACC team vs. a team from the Big Ten/SEC or Notre Dame. The Cotton gets the highest-rated team from the Group of Five, unless that team is in the playoff, and the highest-rated team not already in one of the other games.

Below are projections for those four New Year's Six games.

For the entire set of bowl projections, please click here.

Bowl Location Matchup Prediction
Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2) New Orleans, Louisiana Big 12 vs. SEC Oklahoma State vs. LSU
Rose Bowl (Jan. 2) Pasadena, California Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Ohio State vs. Stanford
Cotton Bowl (Jan. 2) Arlington, Texas At-large vs. At-large Iowa vs. Houston
Orange Bowl (Dec. 30) Miami Gardens, Florida ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC Florida State vs. Georgia