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August 12, 2014

LSU in the 2014 national landscape

The terminology connected with the FBS postseason will definitely change this season.

The acronym BCS is gone. It has been replaced by the College Football Playoff System. That term not only refers to the semifinals and championship game but also to the newly-named contract bowls and access bowls.

Then, there is a College Football Playoff Committee which will be in charge of determining the four teams who will advance to the semifinals as well as the matchups for the other four primary bowl games.

Twelve teams will be placed into the top six games with at least one coming from a non-Power 5 conference. It is possible for a team from a non-Power 5 conference to reach the Final Four, but that situation is highly unlikely.

So, there will be 11 teams from Power 5 conferences who will be a part of the bowl games determined by the College Football Playoff Committee. The total payoff for each of the two semifinals and the other four bowl games is $18 million.

LSU, like all of the other Power 5 conference teams, needs to finish in committee's top ten to guarantee itself a spot in one of the prestigious bowl games. It's possible that the Tigers could get a spot if they finished No. 11 as long as all of the automatic bids are filled by teams who are in the top ten.

Reaching these games will now be easier as a conference is no longer limited to two teams as was the case in the old BCS system. So, it would not be surprising if the Southeastern Conference had four teams in these six games.

What are LSU's chances of reaching this elite group?

In the 16 years of the BCS, the Tigers finished in the top ten of the final BCS standings just five times -2003, 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2012. LSU played in a BCS bowl in four of those years. The exception was 2012 when the Tigers participated in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Here's a prediction of what will happen for LSU in 2015.

One would expect a SEC team would have to have just one loss to be one of the four teams in the semifinals. Moreover, a two-loss SEC team would probably be placed in one of the other four bowl games.

In this writer's opinion, the Tigers will fall just outside of that group. So, pencil in LSU for a spot in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. Four SEC teams will finish in the committee's top ten - Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia.

Here is a prediction for how the SEC divisional races will turn out.

EASTERN DIVISION

South Carolina
Georgia
Florida
Missouri
Tennessee
Vanderbilt
Kentucky

WESTERN DIVISION
Alabama
Auburn
LSU
Ole Miss
Mississippi State
Arkansas
Texas A&M

Now, let's take a look at predicting the top 12 teams for the top six postseason games.

The top four teams will be, in this order, ACC champion Florida State, SEC champion Alabama, Big 12 champion Oklahoma and Pac-12 champion UCLA.

The Rose and Sugar Bowls will host the semifinals. The No. 1 seed plays at the site nearest its campus. So, it will be Florida State against UCLA at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. That leaves Alabama against Oklahoma at the Rose Bowl. The two winners play for the national title at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Since the Rose and Sugar Bowls are hosting semifinals, the only contract bowl will be the Orange Bowl which pairs an ACC team against the highest rated team among Notre Dame, a SEC team and a Big 10 team.

The prediction here is that the highest rated ACC team outside of Florida State will be league newcomer Louisville. Big 10 champion Ohio State will be a higher ranked team than Notre Dame or the available pool of SEC teams. So, the Buckeyes and Cardinals will meet in the Orange Bowl.

Six spots are left with one going to a team from a non-Power 5 conference. That team will be Conference-USA champion Marshall. The five at-large berths, as determined by the committee, will be given to Michigan State, Auburn, Oregon, South Carolina and Georgia.

Oregon will be placed in the Fiesta Bowl where it will take on Auburn in a matchup of up-tempo offenses. Michigan State will go to the Cotton Bowl where it will face Georgia. Finally, the Peach Bowl will pit Marshall against South Carolina.

The Capital One Bowl then has the pick of the remaining SEC teams. LSU will head to Orlando to square off against Michigan, coach Les Miles' alma mater.

So, here is the prediction of the bowl games for 2014.

Capital One Bowl - Jan. 1 at Orlando: LSU vs. Michigan



Orange Bowl - Dec. 31 at Miami: Louisville vs. Ohio State
Fiesta Bowl - Dec. 31 at Glendale: Oregon vs. Auburn
Peach Bowl - Dec. 31 at Atlanta: South Carolina vs. Marshall
Cotton Bowl - Jan. 1 at Arlington: Michigan State vs. Georgia


Semifinal at Sugar Bowl in New Orleans - Jan. 1: Florida State vs. UCLA
Semifinal at Rose Bowl in Pasadena - Jan. 1: Alabama vs. Oklahoma


Championship game at Arlington - Jan. 12: Florida State-UCLA winner vs. Alabama-Oklahoma winner


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