The first year of the College Football Playoff affects much more than the four teams that make it and the few that miss out, as the championship format influences the rest of the bowl schedule.
There still remains the chance for two teams from the Big 12—Baylor and TCU—to crack the Top Four, which would bump everyone else in the conference up a few spots. Other squads sitting around the Top 10 could sneak into one of the New Year's Six bowls with at-large bids, which would open things up for their bowl-eligible conference counterparts to make a more preferable bowl than expected.
With that said, most of the championship-caliber teams playing throughout Week 15 should take care of business despite eye-opening tests down the stretch. So where will that leave everyone else?
Take a look below to find out, as projections for every bowl game are made.
College Football Playoff Outlook
Diehards of every bowl-eligible fanbase in college football are on pins and needles entering Week 15 as they await news of where—or if—they'll be going bowling. But most of the teams playing on championship weekend have their sights set on a much larger prize.
That's because the first year of the CFP is finally here, and for the first time ever four teams will emerge from the ashes with their championship hopes intact.
But even with days to go until Selection Sunday, there's no telling just how things will shake out.
One thing is clear, however: The committee isn't impressed with Florida State's undefeated record, per ESPN's Joe Schad:
Anyone who has watched the Seminoles this year knows why, as they have looked lifeless in most of their games before doing just enough to win. In fact, seven of their 12 victories have come by six or fewer points.
Their most recent performance was a close win over in-state rivals Florida, which bumped the 'Noles down to fourth behind TCU, who slid up to No. 3. But it's awfully easy to craft a scenario that would see Florida State move back into the third spot.
With an ACC Championship Game showdown against No. 11 Georgia Tech, a win for Florida State would almost certainly bump them above TCU, which plays Iowa State, as Sports on Earth's Matt Brown noted:
But where does that leave the Baylor Bears, who beat TCU head-to-head earlier this season but have failed to move ahead of them into the Top Four?
Well, it would leave Art Briles' crew out of the CFP entirely. The Bears may have knocked off TCU when the two played but have since been topped by West Virginia and haven't posted the all-season resume that TCU boasts, as ESPN's Danny Kanell said (via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch):
Potentially falling back to No. 4, TCU would likely face top-ranked Alabama—which should dispose of 10-2 Missouri in the SEC title game. Blake Sims and Amari Cooper will simply be too much for the Tigers defense, despite first-round NFL draft picks Shane Ray and Markus Golden coming off the edge.
Ohio State, however, will be left on the outside looking in. Even if the Buckeyes take care of Wisconsin in Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game, it's easy to see them missing out with J.T. Barrett's absence still looming large, per Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde:
There may not be a CFP hopeful with a tougher play-in contest than the Oregon Ducks, who face No. 7 Arizona—the only team that beat them in the regular season—in Santa Clara, California, for the Pac-12 title. But while offensive line struggles doomed Oregon in that first matchup, the Ducks offense is at another level now and will take care of business.
After the Ducks stomp on the Wildcats' remote CFP chances, they will advance to face Florida State—a team that would likely rather remain at No. 4 to play in the more geographically friendly Sugar Bowl. But with a spot in the Top Four, the 'Noles won't have much to complain about.
However, with so many games that could go either way among the top teams, the only certainty coming down the stretch is that there will inevitably be disagreement as to how it all unfolds.
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In the matter of a few days, history will be made as the first ever College Football Playoff field of four will be set.
That doesn't mean that things are any closer to being figured out as Week 15 approaches, however. Just about every team in the running for a playoff spot will have to take care of business over the weekend, with many of them going up against top competition in conference championship games.
More chaos could be in store, which would certainly make for a fitting ending to a chaos-rich season. Either way, the disagreements and objections to whatever the CFP committee decides upon are inevitable.
With only one weekend separating us from those decisions, let's go ahead and make some predictions as to how everything will unfold.
Check here for the official College Football Playoff rankings.
College Football Playoff Predictions
Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State
National Championship: TBD (semifinal winners)
While no team enters Week 15 with its CFP spot wrapped up, the big focus over the final weekend remains centered around how the final few spots will shake out.
And there's no better debate than that surrounding the Florida State Seminoles, who have fallen all the way to No. 4 despite failing to lose a game. The culprit has been their ugly wins, with seven of their victories coming by six or fewer points.
But with everything on the line in the ACC Championship Game against No. 11 Georgia Tech, Jimbo Fisher's squad will do just as it always does—pull out the victory and remain (barely) alive for a quest to repeat as champions.
A win over the Yellow Jackets will catapult the Seminoles back up to No. 3 over TCU, as the Horned Frogs face a lowly Iowa State team.
Looking for as many style points as they can muster, the Horned Frogs won't have any problem stating their case as well.
As Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben noted, even an ugly win shouldn't be enough to knock TCU out of the picture:
TCU's playoff spot will come at the expense of Big 12 rivals Baylor, who topped the Horned Frogs head-to-head but have failed to post as impressive of a season overall. Without TCU blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead in Waco, Texas, this wouldn't even be a conversation.
The overall result might not be a favorable one for Florida State, which will have to travel to face Oregon in the Rose Bowl instead of a much friendlier geographic matchup against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. But the 'Noles won't have much to complain about by getting into the Top Four after such a questionable season.
As for the other two spots, they will go to the undoubted best two teams in the nation—Alabama and Oregon.
The entire SEC enters the weekend nervous, as an Alabama loss to Missouri would almost certainly end the conference's national title hopes. But that won't be in the cards, as the Tide offense will take it to a Missouri team that has beat just one team over .500 in SEC play over its last two division-winning seasons.
Oregon will have to go through No. 7 Arizona—the only team it has lost to this season. Unlike earlier in the season, however, the Ducks offense has no real weaknesses and should put up the points necessary.
Should both Alabama and Oregon then take care of business in the CFP semifinals, quite the championship game would be set, as NBC Sports' Josh Elliott noted:
No matter how things shake out, it's almost guaranteed that there will be those out there who disagree. The formula simply can't be perfect—not until a larger playoff system is implemented.
It will never be a unanimous decision, but it will be hard to say that the CFP committee didn't get it right if Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and TCU are left standing after Week 15.
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The close of every recruiting cycle usually brings with it a tendency for the unthinkable to occur.
Decommitments, flips, hat tricks and the use of live animals are just a few of the things we’ve seen recruits do in recent years.
The coaching carousel is also in full swing, with the new coaching staffs at Florida and Nebraska sure to pound the recruiting trail in hopes of infusing their programs with new energy.
The 2015 cycle has already produced its share of newsworthy moments, but there’s still plenty of room for more madness to occur in the weeks leading up to national signing day.
Which teams and recruits could produce some hysteria as the season winds down?
Conference championship weekend is finally here. For an entire season, we've watched, waited, debated and talked about the happenings of the 2014 college football season, and now that we're coming to its denouement, it is as intriguing as ever.
With the College Football Playoff selection committee watching, who’ll step forward in the chase for the final four spots? Will it be a "favorites" kind of weekend, or will it get wild like the 2007 season, one of the craziest in modern history? Who will emerge in the four-team bracket when the inaugural College Football Playoff is revealed Sunday afternoon?
You have questions. We might have answers, and we definitely have predictions. Take a look at our bold predictions for conference championship weekend.