College football bowl projections: Welcome to the College Football Playoff, TCU

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with further reporting.

Welcome to the College Football Playoff, TCU.

The Horned Frogs went from tepidly splashing along the CFP’s edge to diving into the deep end of this week. TCU removed any doubt of its playoff contender status with a hard-fought win against Texas. In this week’s projections, the Horned Frogs entered the top four with Oregon’s exit and leaped past Tennessee into the No. 3 slots.

For the second consecutive week, Georgia remains No. 1, Michigan No. 2 and Tennessee No. 4. A few teams circling around the playoff wading pool like hungry sharks include potential Pac-12 champion USC, projected Big Ten runner-up Ohio State and SEC West champion LSU.

Penn State edged projected Pac-12 runner-up Oregon as the final New Year’s Six at-large spot in the Cotton Bowl. UCF replaced Tulane as the top Group of 5 champion.

A few other notes:

  • Should Penn State jump ahead of an SEC at-large team not headed to the playoff or Sugar Bowl, the Nittany Lions will play in the Orange Bowl. That would give the Big Ten’s ReliaQuest (formerly Outback) spot to the ACC.
  • 64 teams are bowl eligible for 82 spots. With two weeks left in the regular season, we project 83 eligible teams.

Reminders:

  • Most bowls do not have to select in strict order of conference standings. “Big 12 No. 3″ means third choice, not third place. The SEC office plays matchmaker with its bowls and schools.
  • Notre Dame can fill one of the ACC’s bowl spots.
  • ESPN Events owns and operates 16 of the 41 FBS bowls, most of them involving the Group of 5 conferences. They have latitude to move teams around to create interesting matchups. One we came up with: A Birmingham Bowl matchup of Tulane and Coastal Carolina.
  • Bowls’ priorities range from TV audience to maximizing attendance. A team like Texas could generate sizable ratings but a motivated fan base like Kansas could swarm to a location in droves and help boost ticket sales and the local economy.

All times Eastern.

New Year’s Six

BOWL DATE TEAM CITY VIEWING

orange

Dec 30

Clemson (ACC) vs. Alabama (SEC/B1G/ND)

Miami

8pm ESPN

Sugar

Dec 31

Kansas State (Big 12) vs. LSU (SEC)

New Orleans

Noon, ESPN

festival

Dec 31

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 TCU

Glendale, Ariz.

4pm/8pm ESPN

peach

Dec 31

No. 1Georgia vs No. 4 Tennessee

Atlanta

4pm/8pm ESPN

Cotton

Jan 2

Penn State (at-large) vs. UCF (at-large/G5)

Arlington, Texas

1pm ESPN

rose

Jan 2

Ohio State (B1G) vs. USC (Pac-12)

Pasadena, Calif.

5pm ESPN

Remaining bowls

BOWL DATE TEAMS LOCATION VIEWING

Bahamas

Dec 16

Eastern Michigan (MAC) vs Western Kentucky (C-USA)

Nassau, Bahamas

11:30 am ESPN

cure

Dec 16

South Alabama (ESPN) vs. Toledo (AAC)

Orlando, Fla.

3pm ESPN

Fenway

Dec 17

Syracuse (ACC No. 9) vs. Memphis* (AAC)

Boston

11 on ESPN

NewMexico

Dec 17

San Jose State (MWC) vs. BYU (ESPN)

Albuquerque, N.M

2:15pm ESPN

LA Bowl

Dec 17

Washington State (Pac-12 No. 6) vs. Boise State (MWC No. 1)

Inglewood, Calif.

3:30pm ABC

Lendingtree

Dec 17

Appalachian State (Sun Belt No. 5) vs. Wyoming* (C-USA/MAC)

Mobile, Ala.

5:45pm ESPN

Vegas

Dec 17

Oregon (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Arkansas (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Las Vegas

7:30pm ABC

Frico

Dec 17

Texas Tech (ESPN) vs Oregon State (ESPN)

Frisco, Texas

9:15 p.m. ESPN

Myrtle Beach

Dec 19

Rice (ESPN) vs Southern Miss (ESPN)

Myrtle Beach, SC

2:30pm ESPN

Idaho potato

Dec 20

Fresno State (MWC) vs Central Michigan (MAC)

Boise, Idaho

3:30pm ESPN

Boca Raton

Dec 20

FAU (ESPN) vs. Miami-Ohio (ESPN)

Boca Raton, Fla.

7:30 p.m. ESPN

New Orleans

Dec 21

Troy (Sun Belt No. 2) vs. Middle Tennessee (C-USA)

New Orleans

8pm ESPN

Armed Forces

Dec 22

Air Force (ESPN) vs. SMU (AAC)

Fort Worth, Texas

7:30 p.m. ESPN

independence

Dec 23

Louisiana* (Army) vs. Houston (AAC)

Shreveport, La.

3pm ESPN

gasparilla

Dec 23

Connecticut (ESPN) vs NC State (ESPN)

Tampa, Fla.

6:30pm ESPN

Hawaii

Dec 24

UNLV (MWC) vs. UAB (C-USA)

Honolulu

8pm ESPN

Quick Lane

Dec 26

Michigan State (Big Ten No. 8) vs. Buffalo (MAC)

Detroit

2:30pm ESPN

Camellia

Dec 27

North Texas (ESPN) vs Marshall (ESPN)

Montgomery, Ala.

Noon ESPN

first responders

Dec 27

Liberty (ESPN) vs UTSA (ESPN)

University Park, Texas

3:15pm/6:45pm ESPN

Birmingham

Dec 27

Tulane (AAC) vs. Coastal Carolina* (SEC No. 9)

Birmingham, Ala.

3:15pm/6:45pm ESPN

Guaranteed rate

Dec 27

Wisconsin (Big Ten No. 7) vs. Baylor (Big 12 No. 6)

Phoenix

10:15 p.m. ESPN

Military

Dec 28

East Carolina (AAC) vs. Louisville (ACC No. 8)

Annapolis, Md.

2pm ESPN

Liberty

Dec 28

Kansas (Big 12 No. 5) vs. Cincinnati* (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Memphis, Tenn.

5:30pm ESPN

Holiday

Dec 28

Notre Dame (ACC Nos. 2-4) vs. UCLA (Pac-12 No. 4)

San Diego

8pm Fox

Texas

Dec 28

Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 4) vs. Mississippi State (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Houston

9pm ESPN

pinstripe

Dec 29

Minnesota (Big Ten No. 5) vs. Pittsburgh (ACC Nos. 5-7)

Bronx, NY

2pm ESPN

Cheez It

Dec 29

Oklahoma State (Big 12 No. 3) vs. Florida State (ACC Nos. 2-4)

Orlando, Fla.

5:30pm ESPN

alamo

Dec 29

Texas (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Washington (Pac-12 No. 2)

San Antonio, Texas

9pm ESPN

Duke’s Mayo

Dec 30

Maryland (Big Ten No. 6) vs. Duke (ACC Nos. 5-7)

Charlotte, NC

Noon ESPN

Sun

Dec 30

Wake Forest (ACC Nos. 5-7) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 5)

El Paso, Texas

2pm CBS

gator

Dec 30

North Carolina (ACC Nos. 2-4) vs. Florida (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Jacksonville, Fla.

3:30pm ESPN

Arizona

Dec 30

San Diego State (MWC) vs Ohio (MAC)

Tucson, Ariz.

4:30 p.m. Barstool

music city

Dec 31

Illinois (Big Ten No. 4) vs. Kentucky (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Nashville

Noon ABC

ReliaQuest

Jan 2

Iowa (Big Ten No. 3) vs. South Carolina (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Tampa, Fla.

Noon ESPN2

citrus

Jan 2

Purdue (Big Ten No.2) vs. Ole Miss (SEC No.2)

Orlando, Fla.

1pm ABC

(Top photo of TCU QB Max Duggan: Ben Queen / USA Today)

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