AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football isn’t going to be in the College Football Playoff, but the Tigers will get a New Year’s Six bowl berth for the second straight season.
College Football Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt sealed that Sunday when he said Auburn would finish No. 7 in the committee’s final rankings. The rest of the Top 25 will be unveiled at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT, with the New Year’s Six bowl pairings coming out an hour later.
With Auburn’s spot at No. 7, this is what we know for sure in the College Football Playoff rankings:
- Ohio State
That is identical to the top seven that came out earlier Sunday in the Associated Press Top 25. So, using that as a guide, here is the pool of potential opponents in the New Year’s Six:
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Washington or TCU (only separated by 4 points in AP poll for No. 12 and No. 13)
Because the two bowls with permanent conference tie-ins — the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl — are playoff semifinals this season, it’s basically a free-for-all for the rest of the New Year’s Six. If UCF takes a top-12 spot in the rankings, that means teams ranked No. 5 through No. 12 will go into the Six.
The Orange Bowl will take an ACC representative, which should be Miami. The other side of that bowl has to be from either the Big Ten or the SEC. (Notre Dame is another team with a tie-in, but the Irish will most likely be on the outside.)
What does that mean for Auburn? Its most likely bowl destination, according to most of the projections that came out late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, is the Peach Bowl vs. UCF.
The AAC-winning Knights have been locked into the Peach with most bowl projections for a while, and Auburn would be the closest geographically, which plays into the committee’s bowl assignments.
However, if Auburn gets placed in the Peach Bowl, it will play three straight games in Atlanta — the SEC Championship Game, the Peach Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in 2018 against Washington. Perhaps the committee will want to avoid that and put the Tigers somewhere else.
If that’s the case, a lot of possibilities open up for the Tigers. Auburn could go to either the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Orange Bowl in Miami, or the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona.
If it’s the Cotton Bowl for Auburn, TCU would be the most likely opponent if it gets into the New Year’s Six over Washington. If TCU is out, a Big Ten opponent — Ohio State, Wisconsin or Penn State — is on the cards. The Fiesta Bowl would probably mean a pairing with Pac-12 champion USC, while the Orange Bowl would definitely mean a Miami matchup.
Judging by the projections and the scenarios elsewhere, here is this writer’s ranking of Auburn’s likely bowl pairings and matchups:
- Peach vs. UCF
- Orange vs. Miami
- Cotton vs. TCU or a Big Ten opponent
- Fiesta vs. USC
Auburn will learn where it’s officially headed in less than two hours. Keep it locked here at SEC Country for the latest news on the Tigers’ bowl destination.