College football bowl projections: Are the Pac-12's playoff hopes toast?

Can USC come through for the Pac-12?

The Trojans are the only Pac-12 team with a shot of making the College Football Playoff after Oregon and UCLA lost in Week 11. And that shot is pretty good if USC keeps winning.

USC has games against No. 16 UCLA and No. 18 Notre Dame remaining in the regular season and a win against the Bruins on Saturday means USC will play for the Pac-12 title. USC would likely then play a top-15 team in the Pac-12 title game.

If the Trojans end the season at 12-1 with a Pac-12 title, it would be very hard for the committee to keep them out of the playoff. While USC hasn't beaten a ranked opponent through the first 11 weeks of the season, three top-20 wins would likely persuade the committee. Especially if those wins are convincing.

So we're going to continue to be optimistic about the Pac-12's chances of having a team in the playoff for the first time since 2016 and put the Trojans in the top four in our latest set of bowl projections. While USC would likely be a significant underdog to Georgia in a semifinal game, making the playoff would be a heck of an achievement for Lincoln Riley in his first season in Los Angeles.

Can USC and Caleb Williams make the College Football Playoff? We have them penciled into the top four in our latest edition of bowl projections. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
Can USC and Caleb Williams make the College Football Playoff? We have them penciled into the top four in our latest edition of bowl projections. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

We also took the opportunity to break down the bowl prospects of every team in college football ahead of the final two weeks of the season. With two weekends to go, there are 66 teams with six or more wins, 19 teams needing just one win to make a bowl game and 18 teams needing two wins. With 82 spots available in bowl games, the chances are very good that there won't be any 5-7 teams in bowls this season.

Our bowl projections are below. But before we show you our projections, here's a breakdown of the bowl eligibility picture across college football heading into Week 12.


Already qualified (6)

  • UCF (8-2), Cincinnati (8-2), Tulane (8-2), SMU (6-4), Houston (6-4), East Carolina (6-4)

One win away

  • Memphis (5-5)

The Tigers should get bowl eligible in Week 12 with a win over FCS North Alabama. The AAC title game should be between two of the three teams currently at 8-2 and the winner of that game will likely head to the Cotton Bowl.


Already qualified (9)

  • Clemson (9-1), North Carolina (9-1), Florida State (7-3), Duke (7-3), NC State (7-3), Syracuse (6-4), Pitt (6-4), Louisville (6-4), Wake Forest (6-4)

One win away

  • Miami (5-5)

Two wins away

  • Georgia Tech (4-6)

Miami has Clemson and Pitt over the final two weeks of the season while Georgia Tech’s bowl chances are basically zero with games against North Carolina and Georgia over the last two weekends.

Big 12

Already qualified (6)

  • TCU (10-0), Kansas State (7-3), Oklahoma State (7-3), Baylor (6-4), Texas (6-4), Kansas (6-4)

One win away

  • Texas Tech (5-5), Oklahoma (5-5)

Two wins away

  • Iowa State (4-6), West Virginia (4-6)

It’s not likely, but it’s possible that all 10 teams in the Big 12 could be bowl eligible by the end of the season. Iowa State would have to beat Texas Tech and TCU while West Virginia would have to beat Kansas State and Oklahoma State. If Texas Tech and Oklahoma both lose in Week 12, then they’ll play each other for bowl eligibility on the final weekend of the season.

Big Ten

Already qualified (8)

  • Michigan (10-0), Ohio State (10-0). Penn State (8-2), Illinois (7-3), Minnesota (7-3), Iowa (6-4), Maryland (6-4), Purdue (6-4)

Needs a win

  • Michigan State (5-5), Wisconsin (5-5)

Needs two wins

  • Rutgers (4-6)

The Scarlet Knights have games against Penn State and Maryland left. Michigan State could get to six wins on Saturday at home against Indiana while Wisconsin could do the same at Nebraska.

Conference USA

Already qualified (4)

  • UTSA (8-2), Western Kentucky (7-4), North Texas (6-5)

Needs a win

  • Florida Atlantic (5-5), Rice (5-5), UAB (5-5), Middle Tennessee State (5-5)

Needs two wins

  • Florida International (4-6), UTEP (4-6)

FIU and UTEP play a bowl elimination game on Saturday. Just one of these two teams will have a chance to go to a bowl game with a win in the final week of the season. FAU also plays MTSU in Week 12 while UAB takes on LSU. The Blazers will likely have to beat Louisiana Tech in the final week of the season to go to a bowl.


Already qualified (3)

  • Liberty (8-2), Notre Dame (7-3), UConn (6-5)

Needs a win

  • BYU (5-5)

Needs two wins

  • New Mexico State (4-5)

BYU will get to six wins on Saturday against Utah Tech. New Mexico State has Missouri and Liberty remaining on its schedule after its game against San Jose State was postponed earlier this season. NMSU isn’t going to a bowl game.


Already qualified (4)

  • Ohio (8-3), Toledo (7-4), Eastern Michigan (6-4), Bowling Green (6-5)

Needs a win

  • Buffalo (5-5), Ball State (5-6)

Needs two wins

  • Kent State (4-6), Miami (4-6), Central Michigan (4-6)

Midweek MACtion is why there are some teams in the conference with 11 games played already. Kent State plays Eastern Michigan and Buffalo over the final two weeks of the season while Miami has Northern Illinois and Ball State. Central Michigan plays its two rivals Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

Mountain West

Already qualified (6)

  • Boise State (7-3), Wyoming (7-3), Air Force (7-3), Fresno State (6-4), San Diego State (6-4), San Jose State (6-3)

Needs a win

  • Utah State (5-5)

Needs two wins

  • UNLV (4-6)

The Rebels are perhaps in the best bowl position of any 4-6 team as it has games against Nevada and Hawaii remaining. The Wolf Pack and Warriors have a combined record of 4-17. Utah State has to get a win against either San Jose State or Boise State.


Already qualified (7)

  • USC (9-1), Oregon (8-2), Utah (8-2), UCLA (8-2), Washington (8-2), Oregon State (7-3), Washington State (6-4)

Needs two wins

  • Arizona (4-6)

The Wildcats have home games against Washington State and Arizona State to end the season. It’s not out of the question they make a bowl game.


Already qualified (9)

  • Georgia (10-0), Tennessee (9-1), LSU (8-2), Alabama (8-2), Ole Miss (8-2), Kentucky (6-4), Florida (6-4), South Carolina (6-4), Mississippi State (6-4)

Needs a win

  • Arkansas (5-5)

Needs two wins

  • Missouri (4-6), Vanderbilt (4-6), Auburn (4-6)

Arkansas plays Ole Miss on Saturday. A win by the Rebels sets up a game between the Razorbacks and Mizzou to get to 6-6 on Black Friday assuming a Mizzou win over New Mexico State. Auburn has Alabama in the final week of the season and Vanderbilt has Tennessee. We’re pretty confident neither of those two teams is getting to 6-6.

Sun Belt

Already qualified (4)

  • Coastal Carolina (9-1), Troy (8-2), South Alabama (8-2), Marshall (6-4)

Needs a win

  • Georgia Southern (5-5), Appalachian State (5-5), Southern Miss (5-5), Louisiana (5-5)

Needs two wins

  • Georgia State (4-6), Louisiana-Monroe (4-6)

James Madison is 6-3 but unable to go to a bowl game as the school just moved up to the top level of college football. Georgia State plays JMU and Marshall over the final two weeks while ULM has Troy and Southern Miss. It’ll take four big upsets for those two teams to both be bowl eligible.

New Year's Six bowl games

Orange Bowl (Dec. 30)

Clemson vs. Penn State

Sugar Bowl (Dec. 31)

TCU vs. Alabama

Peach Bowl (Dec. 31) [CFP semifinal]

Georgia vs. USC

Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 31) [CFP semifinal]

Ohio State vs. Tennessee

Cotton Bowl (Jan. 2)

North Carolina vs. UCF

Rose Bowl (Jan. 2)

Michigan vs. Oregon

Other bowl games

Bahamas Bowl (Dec. 16)

Rice vs. Ball State

Cure Bowl (Dec. 16)

Liberty vs. South Alabama

Fenway Bowl (Dec. 17)

Syracuse vs. Cincinnati

New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 17)

Air Force vs. North Texas

LA Bowl (Dec. 17)

Boise State vs. Washington State

LendingTree Bowl (Dec. 17)

Toledo vs. Appalachian State

Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 17)

Utah vs. Ole Miss

Frisco Bowl (Dec. 17)

Middle Tennessee State vs. SMU

Myrtle Beach Bowl (Dec. 19)

UTSA vs. Coastal Carolina

Potato Bowl (Dec. 20)

San Diego State vs. Miami (Ohio)

Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 20)

Florida Atlantic vs. Houston

New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 21)

Western Kentucky vs. Southern Miss

Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 22)

East Carolina vs. Texas Tech

Gasparilla Bowl (Dec. 23)

Wisconsin vs. Georgia Southern

Independence Bowl (Dec. 23)

BYU vs. UConn

Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24)

San Jose State vs. UAB

Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26)

Michigan State vs. Buffalo

First Responder Bowl (Dec. 27)

Memphis vs. Kansas

Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 27)

Fresno State vs. Louisiana

Camellia Bowl (Dec. 27)

Ohio vs. Troy

Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Dec. 27)

Iowa vs. Oklahoma State

Military Bowl (Dec. 28)

Miami vs. Tulane

Liberty Bowl (Dec. 28)

Oklahoma vs. South Carolina

Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28)

Wake Forest vs. Washington

Texas Bowl (Dec. 28)

Texas vs. Arkansas

Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 29)

NC State vs. Minnesota

Cheez-It Bowl (Dec. 29)

Notre Dame vs. Baylor

Alamo Bowl (Dec. 29)

Kansas State vs. UCLA

Duke’s Mayo Bowl (Dec. 30)

Louisville vs. Maryland

Sun Bowl (Dec. 30)

Oregon State vs. Pitt

Gator Bowl (Dec. 30)

Duke vs. Kentucky

Arizona Bowl (Dec. 30)

Wyoming vs. Eastern Michigan

Music City Bowl (Dec. 31)

Purdue vs. Florida

ReliaQuest Bowl (Jan. 2)

Florida State vs. Mississippi State

Citrus Bowl (Jan. 2)

Illinois vs. LSU