In August, you didn’t think there was a chance in the world that Missouri would be 10-2, ranked No. 9 in the CFP poll and primed for an appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
That’s ok. I didn’t either. Such is the beauty of college football.
Following a roller coaster ride of a season that captured the eyes and hearts of Missourians everywhere, the Tigers now await their placement in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The announcement will occur Sunday afternoon, right after the conclusion of a two-day conference championship bender. Where Missouri will be traveling—be it Atlanta, Dallas, Miami or Phoenix—will be greatly impacted by the results of this weekend’s title games.
NY6 Conference Pairings
Orange Bowl (ACC vs. SEC/Big Ten)
Cotton Bowl (At-Large vs. At-Large)
Fiesta Bowl (At-Large vs. At-Large)
Peach Bowl (At-Large vs. At-Large)
Rose Bowl (CFP Semifinal)
Sugar Bowl (CFP Semifinal)
Gone are the days of extensive conference tie-ins, inspired by the BCS era.
Out of the New Year’s Six bowl games, only the Orange Bowl has an official conference affiliation. A representative from the ACC will take on a representative from either the Big Ten or SEC, dependent upon final rankings and committee discourse.
The Cotton Bowl no longer has to be a Big 12 vs. SEC matchup, and the Peach and Fiesta Bowls have no conference affiliation.
Thus, every door is open to Missouri, although some are far more likely than others. Regional (which trend Mizzou to the Peach or Cotton) and traditional biases (that trends towards the Cotton) will likely impact where the Tigers end up, but also certainly will the results of this weekend’s conference championship games.
No. 14 Louisville (10-2, 7-1) vs. No. 4 Florida State (12-0, 8-0)
Everything is laid out pretty simply here.
Louisville, because of its head-to-head victory over NC State, will be in the Orange Bowl if it loses or wins this game to represent the ACC.
Florida State, with a win, will likely end up in the College Football Playoff, although plenty of discussion could be had about the impact of Jordan Travis’ injury and if the Noles are one of the four best teams in the nation. The way in which they potentially win this weekend will likely go a long way in impacting that decision.
With a loss, the Noles will likely slide to one of the at-large spots in the New Year’s Six bowl games. The Peach Bowl would seem a solid fit at that point given the proximity.
How It Impacts Missouri: Tigers could potentially be set up with either of these teams, Louisville in the Orange or Florida State in the Peach. However, I wouldn’t consider either to be very probable, given that the Orange is probably the third-most likely for Mizzou overall and FSU should come out with a win over the Cards and thus avoid the Peach.
No. 18 Oklahoma State (9-3, 7-2) vs. No. 7 Texas (11-1, 8-1)
Here’s where things get a bit more interesting.
Texas sits on the edge of College Football Playoff qualification, and a myriad of scenarios could propel them into it. In the world that UT is in the playoff, and Oklahoma State loses this game, a heated debate between the Pokes and Sooners for a spot in the Cotton Bowl ensues. Oklahoma State won the head-to-head battle and appeared in the Big 12 title game. But, Oklahoma would have lost lost two fewer games and be ranked ahead of its rivals.
Yes, I know I said that the Cotton Bowl has no official alignment anymore, but it’s going to lean towards the geographical benefit of pitting the Big 12 vs. the SEC.
If Texas were to lose this game, things get trickier. Oklahoma State likely slides in the Cotton Bowl by default, Oklahoma gets booted to the Alamo Bowl and Texas is slotted into either the Fiesta or Peach Bowl.
How It Impacts Missouri: As of now, I’m considering the Cotton Bowl to be the most likely place for the Tigers to end up. If Texas wins, go ahead and get ready for a rematch from 2014 between Mizzou and Oklahoma State.
The only part of this that could create some shift is with a Texas loss. With the Longhorns likely heading to the Peach Bowl, does that tantalizing matchup with the Tigers sway the committee to place Mizzou in Atlanta? Or will another SEC power be a sexier option?
No. 16 Iowa (10-2, 7-2) vs. No. 2 Michigan (12-0, 9-0)
The Big Ten is a conference that finds itself with plenty of options.
A Michigan victory ensures its spot in the College Football Playoff. Iowa losing means that—in all likelihood—one of either Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa will be left out of the New Year’s Six. The Hawkeyes seem the obvious choice there, but they did not play Ohio State head-to-head and have the added résumé boost of having played in a conference championship game. Whichever two teams end up earning the spots should fill voids in the Fiesta and Orange Bowls.
Now, in the incredibly unlikely reality where Iowa takes down Michigan, that creates some chaos. I’d imagine that Iowa would end up in the Orange Bowl to take on Louisville, and Michigan would be sent to the Fiesta. That could also certainly be swapped; frankly it’s close to a toss-up. The only thing I’m sure about is that the Cotton is ruled out for either of these squads and the Peach is not likely.
How It Impacts Missouri: I’m just going to go ahead and take the possibility of Michigan losing out of this scenario. If I just jinxed them, so be it.
At this point, with the amount of quality Big Ten teams that will be searching for a spot in the NY6, I’m pitting the Orange Bowl as the third most likely spot for Mizzou. I’m just going off the assumption that the Big Ten will be well-suited to fit its conference affiliation in that game and the SEC won’t be burning to fight them on it. So, the only way the Tigers see a Big Ten team in the NY6 is one of either PSU or OSU in the Peach/Fiesta Bowl.
No. 5 Oregon (11-1, 8-1) vs. No. 3 Washington (12-0, 9-0)
The Pac-12 is facing a pretty direct path.
The winner of this game will qualify for the College Football Playoff.
The loser will appear in the Fiesta Bowl.
There’s nothing more to it than that.
How It Impacts Missouri: The Tigers are pretty far off playing in the Fiesta Bowl, in the sense that it’d take some odd behind-closed-doors preference from both sides to want the black and gold in Phoenix. Therefore, the result of the Pac-12 Championship Game does little to impact Mizzou’s placement.
No. 8 Alabama (11-1, 8-0) vs. No. 1 Georgia (12-0, 8-0)
Shocker! This is the one Missouri fans will want to pay attention to.
Let’s get this out scenario out of the way. If Georgia wins, they are in the College Football Playoff. With a loss, Alabama will either travel to the Cotton or Peach Bowl, and I’d imagine it would be the latter. Ole Miss, given its lower ranking than Mizzou, would head to one of the Florida bowl games (Citrus or ReliaQuest).
Now, if Alabama were to win, the Crimson Tide would be in the playoff. The issue would lie with Georgia. Do the two-time defending champs still make the CFP? If so, Missouri is unaffected, and Ole Miss possibly backdoors its way into a NY6 bowl (likely Peach).
But, if the likes of Michigan, FSU, Oregon or Texas nudge UGA out of the CFP, then they will take up a New Year’s Six spot. And, the Bulldogs would almost certainly end up in the Peach Bowl, ensuring Mizzou a spot in the Cotton Bowl.
How It Impacts Missouri: I already went through it for the most part, but I’ll lay it out in plain terms.
Georgia wins=Mizzou in Cotton, Alabama in Peach* (see below)
Alabama wins=Mizzou in Cotton, Georgia in CFP/Peach, Ole Miss in Peach/Other
Group of Five Outlook
With all of that being said, there’s also another player (or five) in this mix.
The Group of Five, which has a 4-5 record in premiere bowl games as an unofficial entity, will place one representative in the New Year’s Six this season. That team will not play in the Orange Bowl. All three other options are possible based on proximity and what the rest of the country does this weekend.
Tulane, sitting at No. 22, currently holds the best odds to be that team. The Green Wave took down USC last year in the Cotton Bowl, and with Michael Pratt back behind center, Makhi Hughes totting the rock and a defense that has improved mightily this season, they have a team that is capable of taking down another P5 foe.
Liberty is the main contender for Tulane to deal with right now, although they sit two spots back of them in the rankings. Therefore, Jamey Chadwell’s nation-leading ground attack will need to lead the Flames to a win over New Mexico State while also cheering for a Green Wave loss in the American title game.
The SMU Mustangs will be Tulane’s opponent in that game, and they have their own plans on sneaking into the New Year’s Six. If SMU manages to take down Tulane and Liberty falls to the Aggies, then SMU seems primed to rise from the ashes. The Ponies will have to do all of that without star quarterback Preston Stone, who was injured in last week’s win over Navy.
How It Impacts Missouri: Whoever emerges from this 3-team race cannot be in the Orange Bowl. If it’s the Green Wave, I’d imagine that the committee places them in Atlanta so as to not put them in the same game two years in a row. If it’s Liberty, the Flames would almost certainly end up in the Peach based on proximity. If it’s SMU, the Mustangs would almost certainly end up in the Cotton.
As of now, the Peach Bowl is what the committee is likely running with for the GO5. That pits Tulane/Liberty against Alabama/Missouri/Ole Miss/Georgia.
Let’s say that Georgia beats Alabama, getting Ole Miss out of the mix. Then, let’s say that the committee places Alabama in the Cotton Bowl because heaven forbid the Crimson Tide play a non-Power Five team in a bowl game.*
Atlanta—in this scenario—is the only way in which Mizzou takes on the GO5 representative in my eyes.
If SMU manages to squeeze its way into the Cotton Bowl, that does create some intrigue. Does Missouri get the nod to play the Ponies over Oklahoma State? Or is Mizzou slid to the Peach or even the Fiesta Bowl?
We know so much...and simultaneously know so little.