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 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

December 30

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

Miami

8 p.m. ESPN

Sugar

December 31

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

New Orleans

Noon, ESPN

Fiesta

December 31

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 TCU

Glendale, Ariz.

4 pm/8 pm ESPN

Peach

December 31

No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Tennessee

Atlanta

4 pm/8 pm ESPN

Cotton

Jan. 2

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

Arlington, Texas

1 p.m. ESPN

Rose

Jan. 2

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

Pasadena, Calif.

5 p.m. ESPN

Remaining Bowls

BOWL DATE TEAMS LOCATION VIEWING

Bahamas

December 16

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

Nassau, Bahamas

11:30 a.m. ESPN

Cure

December 16

South Alabama (ESPN) vs. Toledo (AAC)

Orlando, Fla.

3 p.m. ESPN

Fenway

December 17

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

Boston

11 a.m. ESPN

New Mexico

December 17

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

Albuquerque, NM

2:15 p.m. ESPN

LA Bowl

December 17

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

Inglewood, Calif.

3:30 pm ABC

Lendingtree

December 17

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

Mobile, Ala.

5:45 p.m. ESPN

Vegas

December 17

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

Las Vegas

7:30 pm ABC

Frisco

December 17

Texas Tech (ESPN) vs. Oregon State (ESPN)

Frisco, Texas

9:15 p.m. ESPN

Myrtle Beach

December 19

Rice (ESPN) vs. Southern Miss (ESPN)

Myrtle Beach, SC

2:30 p.m. ESPN

Idaho Potato

December 20

Fresno State (MWC) vs. Central Michigan (MAC)

Boise, Idaho

3:30 p.m. ESPN

Boca Raton

December 20

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

Boca Raton, Fla.

7:30 p.m. ESPN

New Orleans

December 21

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

New Orleans

8 p.m. ESPN

Armed Forces

December 22

Air Force (ESPN) vs. SMU (AAC)

Fort Worth, Texas

7:30 p.m. ESPN

Independence

December 23

Louisiana* (Army) vs. Houston (AAC)

Shreveport, La.

3 p.m. ESPN

Gasparilla

December 23

Connecticut (ESPN) vs. NC State (ESPN)

Tampa, Fla.

6:30 p.m. ESPN

Hawaii

December 24

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

Honolulu

8 p.m. ESPN

Quick Lane

December 26

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

Detroit

2:30 p.m. ESPN

Camellia

December 27

North Texas (ESPN) vs. Marshall (ESPN)

Montgomery, Ala.

Noon ESPN

First Responder

December 27

Liberty (ESPN) vs. UTSA (ESPN)

University Park, Texas

3:15 pm/6:45 pm ESPN

Birmingham

December 27

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

Birmingham, Ala.

3:15 pm/6:45 pm ESPN

Guaranteed Rate

December 27

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

Phoenix

10:15 p.m. ESPN

Military

December 28

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

Annapolis, Md.

2 p.m. ESPN

Liberty

December 28

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

Memphis, Tenn.

5:30 p.m. ESPN

Holiday

December 28

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

San Diego

8 pm Fox

Texas

December 28

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

Houston

9 p.m. ESPN

Pinstripe

December 29

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

Bronx, NY

2 p.m. ESPN

Cheez-It

December 29

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

Orlando, Fla.

5:30 p.m. ESPN

Alamo

December 29

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

San Antonio, Texas

9 p.m. ESPN

Duke’s Mayo

December 30

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

Charlotte, NC

Noon ESPN

Sun

December 30

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

El Paso, Texas

2 p.m. CBS

Gator

December 30

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

Jacksonville, Fla.

3:30 p.m. ESPN

Arizona

December 30

San Diego State (MWC) vs. Ohio (MAC)

Tucson, Ariz.

4:30 p.m. Barstool

Music City

December 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.

1 p.m. ABC

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

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