While everyone will be focused on the top four teams when the College Football Playoff selection committee releases its first top 25 of the season Tuesday night, remember that the committee also has been tasked with picking the matchups in the four playoff-affiliated bowls.
This season, the playoff semifinals are in the Rose and Sugar bowls, meaning the 12-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 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. We're still high on Marshall for that spot; the Herd should finish unbeaten. While East Carolina (and maybe Colorado State, too) appears to be better than Marshall, the thought here is that the Pirates' defense is going to cost them a game. The question then becomes does a two-loss ECU team trump an unbeaten Marshall squad?
One other thing to follow the rest of the way is whether the selection committee ranks SEC teams as highly as the media polls. Will there be three or four SEC teams among the top-tier bowls (including the playoff)? Will Notre Dame be there? Can the Big Ten or Big 12 get two teams in the top tier?
Also remember that there are six more weeks of games, so it's important not to be fixated on this week's rankings. A lot is going to happen in those six weeks. For instance, last season at this time, Auburn was No. 11 in the BCS standings -- and the Tigers ended up in the national championship game.
One thing that deserves attention is that as we move into November, bowl eligibility becomes more and more important to track.
Thus far, 31 teams have reached bowl eligibility -- seven in the SEC, five in the ACC and Pac-12, four in the Big Ten and Big 12, two in the Mountain West and one each in the AAC, Conference USA, MAC and independent ranks. There are 24 teams with five wins, so expect another dozen or so to reach the needed six wins this week. Still, there will be a few bowl organizers -- not to mention coaches, players and fans -- sweating out bowl eligibility in mid- to late November.
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.
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. For instance, Georgia and Nebraska have met in the past two postseasons; it's hard to imagine bowl organizers would match them for a third consecutive season.
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 No. 3/4
Projection: Western Kentucky vs. Boise State
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. Boise State 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.