This is the biggest weekend of the season thus far -- and by far -- in terms of winnowing the possible playoff field.
There are three huge games in the SEC West (Alabama at Mississippi, LSU at Auburn and Texas A&M at Mississippi State), with all six teams in the top 15 of both media polls -- and the top 20 of the CFB 24/7 Power Rankings. There is one of the biggest regular-season games in the Big Ten (Nebraska at Michigan State). There's an important game in the Big 12 between two unbeatens (Oklahoma at TCU), with one team that appears legit and one that doesn't. And there's a big intersectional game featuring one of the preseason favorites in the Pac-12 and what looks to be the nation's best independent (Stanford at Notre Dame).
There also are a number of so-called "pecking order" games in the ACC (Miami at Georgia Tech, Pitt at Virginia, Clemson at N.C. State, Virginia Tech at North Carolina), SEC (Florida at Tennessee), Big Ten (Ohio state at Maryland, Michigan at Rutgers), Pac-12 (Arizona at Oregon, Arizona State at USC) and Big 12 (Texas Tech at Kansas State).
Obviously, this is a huge weekend, and one that will start to give everyone a better idea of who is going where for the postseason.
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 13-person playoff selection 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 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.
Note: Start times listed are ET.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF MATCHUPS
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
THE OTHER BOWLS
NEW ORLEANS BOWL
ROYAL PURPLE BOWL
NEW MEXICO BOWL
IDAHO POTATO BOWL
MIAMI BEACH BOWL
BOCA RATON BOWL
POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL
Date: Dec. 24
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mountain West #3/4
Projection: Middle Tennessee State vs. Air Force
Note: One thing to remember about this game is that it makes sense to take a Mountain West team that does not play at Hawaii during the regular season. Air Force does not.
HEART OF DALLAS BOWL
QUICK LANE BOWL
ST. PETERSBURG BOWL
RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL
MUSIC CITY BOWL
SAN FRANCISCO BOWL
ARMED FORCES BOWL
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.