Bowl projections: South Carolina gets boost with Georgia win

Life as a bowl prognosticator can be difficult. Consider the case of South Carolina as an example.

Before the season, the Gamecocks were considered the best team in the SEC East and given a legit chance to make it into one of the so-called "playoff bowls." Then comes Week 1, when the Gamecocks are blown out by visiting Texas A&M. In Week 2, the Gamecocks muddle past East Carolina. In Week 3, the Gamecocks were to face a Georgia team that blew out Clemson to open the season, and conventional wisdom seemed to be that the Gamecocks would lose to the Bulldogs and thus be destined for a middle-tier bowl. Instead, South Carolina wins -- and finds itself again favored to win the SEC East. In addition, ECU upset Virginia Tech, which was coming off a win at Ohio State, and South Carolina's win over the Pirates suddenly looked a lot better. As for Texas A&M, the Aggies' opening victory in Columbia took on extra meaning because of South Carolina's win over Georgia -- and, in a way, ECU's win at Virginia Tech.

What all this means, of course, is that it is tough to truly get a read on a team until it has played five or six games.

Still, bowl prognosticators must carry on. Here are this week's projections (a fancy way for prognosticators to say "guesses").

Remember that four bowls have been added this season, so when you include the two playoff semifinal games that will be played in bowls, there are 38 bowls. That means 76 teams will be in the postseason -- or 59 percent of the 128 teams in the FBS ranks.

This season, the playoff semifinals are in the Rose and Sugar bowls, meaning the committee also will pick the matchups in the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange and Peach bowls. While there are 12 teams involved in the six games, it's not necessarily the 12 highest-ranked teams by the committee; instead, the highest-ranked team from outside of the "Power Five" conferences is guaranteed a slot in one of the games, even if it falls outside the top 12. (Just don't expect a non-Power Five school to be in a four-team playoff.)

When looking over these bowl projections, remember that a bowl's tie-in with a league doesn't necessarily mean it will get the third- or fourth-, etc., place team from the league; instead, it means it gets the third or fourth, etc., selection from that league. You'll also notice that there is no clear-cut designation for some of the league tie-ins; that's because the leagues and bowl organizers want a lot of leeway to put together what they consider the best possible matchup.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF MATCHUPS

ROSE BOWL

Site: Pasadena, Calif.
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 5 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Semifinal game this season.
Projection: Oklahoma vs. Oregon

SUGAR BOWL

Site: New Orleans
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Semifinal game this season.
Projection: Alabama vs. Florida State

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Site: Arlington, Texas
Date: Jan. 12
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Semifinal winners.
Projection: Florida State vs. Oregon

THE OTHER BOWLS

NEW ORLEANS BOWL

Site: New Orleans
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 11 a.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mountain West #6 vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Fresno State vs. Arkansas State

ROYAL PURPLE BOWL

Site: Las Vegas
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 12:30 p.m., ABC
Matchup: Mountain West #1 vs. Pac-12 #6/7
Projection: Boise State vs. Oregon State

NEW MEXICO BOWL

Site: Albuquerque
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 2:20 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mountain West #3/4
Projection: North Texas vs. Nevada

IDAHO POTATO BOWL

Site: Boise, Idaho
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 5:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Mountain West #5
Projection: Ball State vs. Utah State

CAMELLIA BOWL

Site: Montgomery, Ala.
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Bowling Green vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

MIAMI BEACH BOWL

Site: Miami
Date: Dec. 22
Time/TV: 2 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC vs. BYU if bowl-eligible
Projection: Cincinnati vs. BYU

POINSETTIA BOWL

Site: San Diego
Date: Dec. 23
Time/TV: 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mountain West #2 vs. Navy if bowl-eligible
Projection: San Diego State vs. Navy
Note: If this matchup comes to fruition, SDSU would be playing in its home stadium.

BOCA RATON BOWL

Site: Boca Raton, Fla.
Date: Dec. 23
Time/TV: 6 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mid-American
Projection: Middle Tennessee vs. Northern Illinois

POPEYE'S BAHAMAS BOWL

Site: Nassau
Date: Dec. 24
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mid-American
Projection: Western Kentucky vs. Toledo

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HAWAII BOWL

Site: Honolulu
Date: Dec. 24
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mountain West #3/4
Projection: Rice vs. Colorado State
Note: One thing to remember about this game is that it makes sense to take a Mountain West team that did not play at Hawaii during the regular season. Colorado State does not. Other MWC teams that look to have a shot at a bowl bid that do play in Honolulu during the regular season are Nevada, Utah State and Wyoming.

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Site: Dallas
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #9 vs. Conference USA
Projection: Illinois vs. UT San Antonio

QUICK LANE BOWL

Site: Detroit
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #7 vs. Big Ten #8
Projection: North Carolina vs. Minnesota

ST. PETERSBURG BOWL

Site: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC vs. ACC #8
Projection: UCF vs. North Carolina State

MILITARY BOWL

Site: Annapolis, Md.
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: AAC vs. ACC #9
Projection: East Carolina vs. Boston College

SUN BOWL

Site: El Paso, Texas
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 2 p.m., CBS
Matchup: ACC #3/4/5/6 vs. Pac-12 #5
Projection: Louisville vs. Washington

INDEPENDENCE BOWL

Site: Shreveport, La.
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 4 p.m., ESPN2
Matchup: ACC #10 vs. SEC #10
Projection: Duke vs. Louisiana Tech
Note: Projection is the SEC won't be able to fill its slot; Conference USA has a secondary agreement with the bowl, which leads to the pick of Louisiana Tech.

PINSTRIPE BOWL

Site: New York
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 4:30, ESPN
Matchup: ACC #3/4/5/6 vs. Big Ten #7
Projection: Miami vs. Maryland

HOLIDAY BOWL

Site: San Diego
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #4 vs. Pac-12 #3
Projection: Penn State vs. USC

LIBERTY BOWL

Site: Memphis
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 2 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #5 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: West Virginia vs. Mississippi

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL

Site: Orlando
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #2 vs. Big 12 #3
Projection: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State

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TEXAS BOWL

Site: Houston
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #4 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: Texas vs. Mississippi State

MUSIC CITY BOWL

Site: Nashville
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 3 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #3/4/5/6 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: Pittsburgh vs. Missouri

BELK BOWL

Site: Charlotte, N.C.
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #3/4/5/6 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: Clemson vs. LSU

SAN FRANCISCO BOWL

Site: Santa Clara, Calif.
Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 10 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #6 vs. Pac-12 #4
Projection: Michigan vs. Arizona State

PEACH BOWL

Site: Atlanta
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: This is part of the "playoff" bowl group. The Peach will play host to a national semifinal in the 2016 season.
Projection: Auburn vs. Marshall

FIESTA BOWL

Site: Glendale, Ariz.
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 5 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: This is part of the "playoff" bowl group. The Fiesta will play host to a national semifinal in the 2016 season. (This site also will play host to the national title game after the 2015 season.)
Projection: Michigan State vs. UCLA

ORANGE BOWL

Site: Miami
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: This is part of the "playoff" bowl group. The Orange will play host to a national semifinal in the 2015 season.
Projection: Virginia Tech vs. Wisconsin

CAPITAL ONE BOWL

Site: Orlando
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 12:30 p.m., ABC
Matchup: Big Ten #2 vs. SEC #2
Projection: Ohio State vs. Georgia

OUTBACK BOWL

Site: Tampa
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #3 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: Nebraska vs. South Carolina

COTTON BOWL

Site: Arlington, Texas
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: This is part of the "playoff" bowl group. The Cotton will play host to a national semifinal in the 2016 season. (This site also is the site of the national title game this season.)
Projection: Baylor vs. Texas A&M

ARMED FORCES BOWL

Site: Fort Worth, Texas
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Matchup: AAC vs. Army if bowl-eligible
Projection: Houston at TCU
Note: The projection is that Army won't be eligible. That is an extreme long shot to begin with, and because the Big 12 has a secondary tie-in, TCU is the pick to play in its home stadium.

TAXSLAYER BOWL

Site: Jacksonville
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 3:20, ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #5 vs. SEC #3/4/5/6/7/8
Projection: Iowa vs. Florida

ALAMO BOWL

Site: San Antonio
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #2 vs. Pac-12 #2
Projection: Kansas State vs. Stanford

CACTUS BOWL

Site: Tempe, Ariz.
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 10:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #6 vs. Pac-12 #6/7
Projection: Texas Tech vs. Arizona

BIRMINGHAM BOWL

Site: Birmingham, Ala.
Date: Jan. 3
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Matchup: AAC vs. SEC #9
Projection: Memphis vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Note: The projection is that the SEC won't be able to fill its slot.

GODADDY.COM BOWL

Site: Mobile, Ala.
Date: Jan. 4
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American vs. Sun Belt
Projection: Ohio vs. Georgia Southern

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.