SO WHAT if the inaugural college football playoff is at hand. When are they expanding it to eight teams? Or 16?
Let's all agree that no matter how large the field, there always will be a team that feels like it was jilted. Just look at college basketball, where Joe Lunardi has made debating "first four in" and "first four out" an annual March tradition nearly rivaling St. Patrick's Day.
TCU and Baylor carry the burden of being left out of the playoffs, there is a Heisman showdown for just the third time in history and the kid at Ohio State has recovered from an unfortunate social-media fumble. Pop the champagne corks, for this is the final installment of the bowl previews.
At Atlanta, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Mississippi (9-3) vs. TCU (11-1)
Line: TCU -3. Total: 56 1/2.
Trend: TCU is 10-2 against the spread this year. Ole Miss is a respectable 8-4.
Bowl bits: TCU was the big loser in the inaugural college football playoff system. The Horned Frogs were ranked third going into their season finale when they beat Iowa State, 55-3, and dropped to sixth . . . Gary Patterson picked up his second Walter Camp coach of the year award. He, Joe Paterno and Bob Stoops are the only multiple winners . . . TCU's Trevone Boykin was fourth in the Heisman voting, second among quarterbacks behind winner Marcus Mariota . . . Mississippi has won six consecutive bowl games dating to 2002 . . . Senquez Golson, second in the nation with nine interceptions, is the first Ole Miss consensus All-American since Michael Oher in 2008 . . . Mississippi senior quarterback Bo Wallace was the bowl game MVP as a sophomore (BBVA Compass) and junior (Music City).
At Glendale, Ariz., 4 p.m. (ESPN)
Boise St. (11-2) vs. Arizona (10-3)
Line: Arizona -3. Total: 69 1/2.
Trend: The over has come out in seven of Boise State's last eight.
Bowl bits: Boise State running back Jay Ajayi (uh-JYE-ee) came into bowl season fifth in the nation in rushing with 1,689 yards. His 25 rushing touchdowns were second only to Melvin Gordon's 26 and Ajayi needs 25 yards to break Ian Johnson's 2006 school record. Ajayi, a junior, already has declared for the NFL draft . . . BSU coach Bryan Harsin is in his first season at his alma mater. He was a reserve quarterback from 1995-99 and the school's offensive coordinator from 2006-10 . . . Arizona has won 10 games for the first time since 1998, when the Wildcats went 12-1 . . . Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III snacked up Pac-12 defensive player of the year. The sophomore had 14 sacks and finished ninth in Heisman voting. His name is Phil, but dad started calling him "Scooby" when he was young and the nickname stuck . . . Arizona is the only team to beat Oregon.
At Miami Gardens, Fla., 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Ga. Tech (10-3) vs. Mississippi St. (10-2)
Line: Mississippi St. -7. Total: 61 1/2.
Trend: Mississippi State has covered just two of its last six.
Bowl bits: Mississippi State spent five weeks at No. 1 (for the first time in school history) before losing to Alabama . . . Coach Dan Mullen played tight end for Ursinus in the 1990s. Check out who helped get him started in coaching and where his favorite cheesesteak place is by visiting philly.com/DanMullen . . . Georgia Tech had won five in a row before a two-point loss to Florida State in the ACC title game . . . The Yellow Jackets are 1-5 in bowl games under coach Paul Johnson . . . Georgia Tech wide receiver Corey Dennis has two catches this year. One was against North Carolina State, the other came when he became engaged to Urban Meyer's daughter, Nicki, a former Tech volleyball player.
At Tampa, Noon (ESPN2)
Wisconsin (10-3) vs. Auburn (8-4)
Line: Auburn -6 1/2. Total: 63 1/2.
Trend: Auburn is 1-6 against the spread in its last seven.
Bowl bits: Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates is skipping his senior season for a run at the NFL. Coates earned his degree in public administration. "I've got a diploma," he said simply. "That's what you come to college for." . . . Auburn will wear No. 31 decals on their helmets in honor of freshman tight end Jakell Mitchell, who was murdered on Dec. 14 . . . Wisconsin's last game was Dec. 6, when it was waxed by Ohio State, 59-0 . . . The Badgers will be coached by athletic director Barry Alvarez after Gary Andersen left for the Oregon State job. "Thanks for that 59-nothing," cheeseheads surely exclaimed. The Badgers hired Pitt's Paul Chryst to replace Andersen.
At Arlington, Texas, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Michigan St. (10-2) vs. Baylor (11-1)
Line: Baylor -2 1/2. Total: 70 1/2.
Trend: Sixteen of their combined 24 games went over.
Bowl bits: This is arguably the most attractive of the non-playoff bowls. Michigan State's strength is its defense while Baylor leads the nation in scoring at 48.8 per game . . . The Spartans' losses were to Oregon and Ohio State, two of the four playoff teams . . . Secondary coach Harlon Barnett and linebackers coach Mike Tressel were promoted to co-defensive coordinator when Pat Narduzzi took the head coaching job at Pitt . . . Baylor beat Texas Tech in this stadium in November. This will be the 100th game the Bears have played in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. They have won 46 . . . Quarterback Bryce Petty averaged 437 yards passing in Baylor's three games against ranked opponents - all wins. Baylor's only loss was at West Virginia, 41-27, when it scored a season-low in points.
At Orlando, 1 p.m. (ABC)
Minnesota (8-4) vs. Missouri (10-3)
Line: Missouri -4 1/2. Total: 48 1/2.
Trend: Minnesota covered its final five games this year as an underdog.
Bowl bits: This is Minnesota's first New Year's Day game since they won the Rose Bowl following the 1961 season . . . Minnesota's offensive line has combined to make 164 career starts. They are the primary reason running back David Cobb set the school record with 1,545 rushing yards. Laurence Maroney (1,464) held the record since 2005 . . . Jeremy Maclin will be inducted into Missouri's Hall of Fame on Feb. 6 . . . Missouri coach Gary Pinkel played in this game for Kent State in 1972 when it was known as the Tangerine Bowl . . . Defensive end Shane Ray led the SEC with 14 sacks and became the second consecutive Tiger to win the conference's defensive player of the year award. Michael Sam was last year's winner . . . Missouri's Jimmy Hunt, second on the team in receptions (40) and TD catches (7), will miss the game after having shoulder surgery.
Rose Bowl (playoff game)
At Pasadena, Calif., 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Oregon (12-1) vs. Florida St. (13-0)
Line: Oregon -8 1/2. Total: 71 1/2.
Trend: FSU was just 3-10 against the spread this year. This is the first time the Seminoles are underdogs, however.
Bowl bits: Defending champ Florida State needed six second-half comebacks to remain the nation's only undefeated team . . . Their last loss was to Florida in the regular-season finale in 2012 . . . FSU tailback Karlos Williams returns after missing the ACC championship win over Georgia Tech with a concussion . . . Oregon's Marcus Mariota is trying to do what FSU's Jameis Winston did last year: win the Heisman and the national championship in the same year. Mariota has 38 passing touchdowns, 14 rushing TDs and one receiving. Winston has 24-0-0 . . . This is the third time in history Heisman winners have played one another. Matt Leinart beat Jason White in the 2005 Orange Bowl and Tim Tebow beat Sam Bradford in the 2008 BCS title game . . . Oregon will be without Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, an All-America cornerback who suffered a knee injury in practice 2 weeks ago. He will be replaced by Chris Seisay, a redshirt freshman . . . The winner of this game plays the winner of Alabama/Ohio State in the championship game on Jan. 12.
Sugar Bowl (playoff game)
At New Orleans, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Alabama (12-1) vs. Ohio St. (12-1)
Line: Alabama -9. Total: 58 1/2.
Trend: Eleven of Ohio State's last 12 have gone over. Nine of those games exceeded 58 1/2 points.
Bowl bits: Alabama's Amari Cooper, a junior, almost surely will be the first wide receiver drafted if he opts for the NFL. Cooper broke Jordan Matthews' SEC record with 115 catches this season - in 13 games . . . The Tide is playing in its record 15th Sugar Bowl. Alabama also holds the mark with eight wins, though it lost this game last year to Oklahoma . . . Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest has been friends with injured Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller since childhood. Miller missed the season with a shoulder injury . . . The Buckeyes, in fact, are down to third-string QB Cardale Jones, who threw three touchdowns against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. Not bad for a kid whose career highlight was this infamous tweet 2 years ago: "Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS." . . . Ohio State coach Urban Meyer went 1-2 against Nick Saban when Meyer was coaching Florida . . . The winner of this game plays the winner of Oregon/Florda State in the championship game on Jan. 12.
Armed Forces Bowl
At Fort Worth, Texas, Noon (ESPN)
Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Houston (7-5)
Line: Pittsburgh -3. Total: 53 1/2.
Trend: Pitt has failed to cover four of the last five when it was favored.
Bowl bits: Houston fired coach Tony Levine despite the bowl bid. The Cougars moved into a $120 million stadium and 7-5 wasn't cutting it. The Cougars opened the stadium with a 20-point loss to Texas-San Antonio and also lost to 3-9 Tulane. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman was hired to replace Levine, though defensive coordinator David Gibbs will coach Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl . . . Houston got going after Greg Ward Jr., once a wide receiver, took over at quarterback. He averaged 291 total yards in his seven starts, winning five . . . Pitt running back James Conner (1,675 yards) was the ACC player of the year. Conner spoke last winter at a banquet, but declined to mention his two touchdowns against Notre Dame because Irish legend Paul Hornung was in the audience. "I didn't [want] to seem too cocky," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review . . . Pittsburgh also will use an interim after its coach, Paul Chryst, took the Wisconsin job. Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph will lead the Panthers. Rudolph leading the way? Shame this game wasn't played on Dec. 24 . . . Pitt used interim coaches in its bowl games in 2010 and 2011, going 1-1.
At Jacksonville, Fla., 3:20 p.m. (ESPN)
Iowa (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)
Line: Tennessee -3. Total: 51 1/2.
Trend: Just one of Iowa's last seven have landed under. One game pushed, the other five went over.
Bowl bits: Iowa played in the 1983 edition of this game when it was called the Gator Bowl. The Hawkeyes lost to Florida . . . Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff won the Outland Trophy and could be an NFL draft top 10 selection . . . Hawkeyes wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley needs three catches to set the Iowa career record currently held by Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who had 173 receptions from 2007-10. "I dropped my first pass . . . I will never forget that," Martin-Manley said . . . Tennessee ends a 3-year bowl drought with this bid. It had been the longest stretch without a bowl for the Vols since the 1970s . . . Tennessee's leading rusher was true freshman Jalen Hurd. He was cited earlier this month for underage drinking, but won't be suspended for this game . . . The Volunteers have lost four wide receivers to various season-ending injuries . . . Tennessee lost five of six in midseason, but finished winning three of four.
At San Antonio, Texas, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
UCLA (9-3) vs. Kansas St. (9-3)
Line: UCLA -1. Total: 59 1/2.
Trend: UCLA covered three of its final four games.
Bowl bits: UCLA's Eric Kendricks, younger brother of Eagles ILB Mychal Kendricks, won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. He was not, however, among the three linebackers chosen for All-Pac-12 first-team honors . . . Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley, a junior, is at the top of the second tier of quarterbacks behind Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Hundley is headed to the NFL after this game . . . Kansas State's Tyler Lockett is one of the nation's top wide receivers. He also averages 19 yards per punt return (two TDs) and was the Big 12's special teams player of the year . . . Fullback Glenn Gronkowski is the youngest of five brothers, which includes Patriots monster tight end Rob . . . K-State center B.J. Finney has been a team captain for the last 3 years and this season was named the Big 12's offensive lineman of the year. Pretty strong for a kid who started his career as a walk-on.
At Tempe, Ariz., 10:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Oklahoma St. (6-6) vs. Washington (8-5)
Line: Washington -6. Total: 56 1/2.
Trend: Nine of Washington's 13 games went under.
Bowl bits: The Cowboys will be without Tyreek Hill, who was tossed from the team after being arrested for domestic abuse after allegedly strangling his pregnant girlfriend. Hill is second on the team in rushing, third in receiving and the Cowboys' primary kickoff and punt returner . . . Oklahoma State had both a five-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak this season. The upset win over Oklahoma in the season finale clinched the bowl bid. Those five losses were by an average of 27 points . . . Washington had three first-team All-America selections for the first time in school history - Shaq Thompson, nose tackle Danny Shelton and linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha . . . Thompson is a top linebacker, who scored four defensive touchdowns. He was moved to tailback in November and had consecutive 100-yard games, including 174 in a win at Colorado. Thompson also was an 18th-round pick of the Red Sox in 2012. He earned this year's Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player. Ya think?
At Birmingham, Ala., 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
Florida (6-5) vs. East Carolina (8-4)
Line: Florida -7. Total: 57.
Trend: Florida is 4-1 against the spread in its last five. ECU is just 1-7 ATS since the end of September.
Bowl bits: There is a Miami Beach Bowl, a Boca Raton Bowl, a New Orleans Bowl and a Bahamas Bowl. But a Birmingham Bowl? Talk about a consolation prize . . . Florida will be coached by outgoing defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who was whacked along with head coach Will Muschamp . . . East Carolina has four victories over Power 5 conference schools in the last 2 years, including wins this year over Virginia Tech and North Carolina. The Pirates beat Carolina, 70-41 . . . ECU senior Justin Hardy is the all-time leading receiver in D-I history with 376 career catches. He recently picked up an award for being the nation's most outstanding player who started his career as a walk-on.
At Mobile, Ala., 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Toledo (8-4) vs. Arkansas St. (7-5)
Line: Toledo -4. Total: 66 1/2.
Trend: Arkansas State's last six games have gone over.
Bowl bits: Toledo center Greg Mancz was the team's MVP and was first-team All-MAC for the third consecutive season. The previous 2 years, however, he was playing guard . . . Rockets running back Kareem Hunt averages 7.86 yards per carry, second in the nation to Marshall's Devon Johnson (8.58) . . . Arkansas State running back Michael Gordon averages 7.14 per carry, so there could be plenty of explosive plays . . . This is Ark State's fourth consecutive GoDaddy Bowl appearance, and with its fourth different coach . . . Past MVPs of this game include Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and LaDainian Tomlinson.