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Revisiting PAC 12 Bowl Projections

Could UW squeeze into a NY6 bowl game?

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I posted my second set of bowl projections and asked the pertinent question: was there a scenario in which UW could still make it into a New Year’s Six bowl game?

I got ripped pretty hard by some of the commenters on the article, particularly those who did not actually read the piece and simply reacted to the headline. But following the bludgeoning that the Huskies laid on WSU at the 110th Apple Cup last night, a new sense of optimism has emerged. It now seems that everybody wants to know if this version of the Washington Huskies could still be one of those #NY6 teams.

The #NY6 Dream Scenario

I’m going to get to my bowl projections for the entire PAC 12 momentarily. But, before I do, let’s revisit what exactly it is that we are talking about.

The New Year’s Six bowls comprise the bowl games on the regular college football playoff rotation Those games are:

The Rose Bowl (PAC 12 vs B1G)

The Orange Bowl (ACC vs SEC or B1G or Notre Dame)

The Sugar Bowl (SEC vs Big 12)

The Fiesta Bowl

The Cotton Bowl

The Peach Bowl

The term “NY6” is now commonly used as a moniker for the four bowl games not involved in the current year’s playoff.

Of the bowl games noted above, only the first three - the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl - have arrangements to preserve their traditional matchups in years that they are not in the rotation for a college football playoff game. The rest of the bowl games are designated “at-large” and take their matchups based on the rules and rankings coming from the College Football Playoff selection committee.

The silver lining for this season is that three of the four bowls in the NY6 do not have any contractual requirements. That means that they are “open” to take whatever teams come up in the rankings.

All of this nets out as follows:

  • There are eight available NY6 bowl game spots this season.
  • A Group of Five champ is guaranteed one spot in one of the Peach, the Cotton, or the Fiesta.
  • Each conference champ in the Power 5 not in the playoffs is assured a NY6 slot no matter their ranking.

If you do the math on all of this, you’ll conclude that there will be 3 to 4 available slots for true “at-large” teams depending on how many conference champs from the Power 5 make the playoffs.

Assuming that four conference champs make the playoffs and the fifth (most likely the Pac 12 champ) claims one of those spots, the scenario looks something like this (just a projection):

Orange Bowl: ACC runner-up vs BEST AVAILABLE B1G or Notre Dame

Fiesta Bowl: PAC 12 champ vs OPEN

Peach Bowl: Group of Five rep vs OPEN

Cotton Bowl: OPEN vs OPEN

Let’s further assume that the CFP representatives for this year are Clemson (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), Ohio State (B1G), and Georgia (SEC). That would leave the following teams realistically vying for those five spots:




Penn State


Notre Dame



Eight teams for five spots.

The teams with asterisks (*) each have one more game left - their respective championship games - and could still get one more loss on their ledgers. For this scenario, we have to assume that each of them do take a loss given that I’ve projected their opponents to end up in the CFP.

For UW to make it into the NY6, they would essentially have to jump every single team that loses a conference championship and/or Notre Dame. It is really as simple as that.

Thus, the answer to the question is “yes,” UW could still make it to a NY6 game. However, the following has to be true:

  • There most certainly need to be four conferences represented in the CFP.
  • The losers of the B1G, Big 12, and SEC championships need to lose badly.
  • USC needs to beat Stanford.

If all that happens, UW to the Cotton Bowl seems possible. But it's a reach.

Updated PAC 12 Bowl Projections

Even if all of those breaks come UW’s way, I’m having a hard time seeing the CFP selection committee jumping UW over a team like Wisconsin (one loss) or the loser of the SEC championship. The most likely scenario remains that UW will be in one of the PAC 12 contracted bowls. As a reminder, here are those arrangements:

PAC 12 Bowl Tie-ins

Bowl Opponent Date TV
Bowl Opponent Date TV
Rose Bowl Big Ten #1 Jan 1 ESPN
Alamo Bowl Big 12 #2 Dec 28 ESPN
Holiday Bowl Big Ten #4 Dec 28 FS1
Foster Farms Bowl Big Ten Dec 27 FOX
Sun Bowl ACC Dec 29 CBS
Las Vegas Bowl MWC #1 Dec 16 ABC
Cactus Bowl Big 12 Dec 26 ESPN

Remember that these bowls pick in the order noted above and have to select either the best team available by conference record OR any team within one conference loss of the best available team.

Here is my updated projection:

PAC 12 Bowl Projections (after week 13)

Bowl Team Opponent
Bowl Team Opponent
Fiesta Bowl USC UCF
Alamo Bowl Washington TCU
Holiday Bowl Stanford Michigan State
Foster Farms Bowl Washington State Northwestern
Sun Bowl Arizona State Louisville
Las Vegas Bowl Oregon Boise State
Cactus Bowl Arizona Iowa State
Texas Bowl Utah Texas
Heart of Dallas UCLA Texas Tech

Starting at the top, I’m now projecting USC to take on the Group of Five champion - in this case Scott Frost and his UCF team - in the Fiesta Bowl. If the committee doesn’t put two SEC teams into the playoffs, this could easily become Alabama (as I would expect the loser of the SEC championship to end up in the Peach Bowl). Keep an eye on that.

UW is a no-brainer to the Alamo Bowl assuming USC wins the PAC. If they don’t, it’s a 50-50 kind of thing between USC and the Huskies.

Stanford falls to the Holiday Bowl ahead of WSU. I think that they take on Michigan State here. But that assumes that a B1G team gets into the CFP. If not, Wisconsin would end up here. Note that UW could well be going to the Holiday Bowl if Stanford wins the PAC. There is no chance that they would fall below this line.

WSU is heading to the Foster Farms bowl following their Apple Cup defeat. This could be one of Michigan State, Michigan, or Northwestern. I’m betting it’s Northwestern.

I’m still projecting Louisville to the Sun Bowl but I now have the PAC 12 representative as Arizona State instead of Arizona. Pity. Khalil Tate versus Lamar Jackson would have been an epic showdown.

I think that the appeal of Justin Herbert’s air show and the all-time touchdown king of the PAC, Royce Freeman, would prompt the Las Vegas Bowl to reach down a spot to pluck Oregon. I’m still anticipating Boise State as their opponent.

I also have not changed my projection for Iowa State in the Cactus Bowl. But they now get Arizona instead of Oregon as I had it before.

Finally, I’m just guessing on both UCLA and Utah both in terms of the landing spot and the opponent. However, the Texas bowls noted above do have openings and make a ton of sense.

I’ll take another look at these projections after championship weekend. Until then, leave your own projections in the comments below.