Sorting Through the Mess that is the New Year’s Bowls


Dec 30, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chick-fil-A Bowl CEO and president Gary Stokan speaks at a news conference to announce the 2013 Dodd Trophy winner at Sheraton Hotel. Today, the Chick-fil-A Bowl announced they will be taking over operations of the national coaching award. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

The College Football Playoff is new, but simple. The top four teams will play for the national championship. That’s all we wanted to know as State fans for a long time because we were #1 or #4…until this week. Now that we’ve been knocked down to some of the other bowls, I’m realizing this is a convoluted mess.

First off, I’ll say the setup of these games is tremendous. Triple-headers on back-to-back days! New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will be filled with great college football games. That’s awesome if you’re a fan of the sport (which you are if you’re reading this).

After that it gets confusing.

I was operating under the assumption that these “New Year’s Bowls” would encompass all of the power five conference champions, the best “group of five” conference champion and then fill in the rest with the highest ranked teams. That’s not exactly the case.

The prime is example is Georgia Tech, who is ranked #11 and playing #4 Florida State in the ACC Championship this weekend. The Orange Bowl is contracted to take the ACC champion – so if Tech wins they would go to Miami. But if they lose they would fall a few spots and not be under consideration for the New Year’s Bowls, right? Wrong. Here is the wording from the College Football Playoff website:

"If a conference champion qualifies for the playoff, then the bowl will choose a replacement from that conference."

There is no caveat about the replacement being ranked in the top 12 or 15 or 20. It just says they’ll take a replacement from that conference. It sounds like they are rewarding conferences for getting a playoff team by allowing them to have an additional team in the New Year’s Bowls regardless of their ranking. According to that statement, Georgia Tech is guaranteed to be playing in the Orange Bowl no matter the outcome of the ACC Championship.

This would qualify all conferences who have a team in the playoff to get an additional team in the New Year’s Bowls. If the rankings hold up from this week it would mean the SEC, Pac 12, ACC and Big 12. The second highest ranked team from each of these conferences are Mississippi State, Arizona, Georgia Tech and Baylor. The Big Ten champion (Ohio State or Wisconsin) would be added, then the group of five selection (likely Boise State) to make 10 picks the committee is obligated to take. There would only be two “at-large” selections from the rankings – which would probably be Michigan State and either the Big Ten loser, Ole Miss or Kansas State.

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So right now MSU is safe, but things could get hairy. If Missouri were to beat Alabama on Saturday, they would automatically qualify for a New Year’s Bowl as the conference champion. Whether or not Alabama would still be in the playoff I don’t know, but they’d be ranked ahead of Mississippi State and they’d be in the New Year’s Bowls. If lower ranked teams like Wisconsin (who is favored) were to beat Ohio State or Kansas State beat Baylor it could get real sticky trying to become a third SEC team in the field…and I don’t like those odds.

Now, do you want to play in a New Year’s Game? 

It’s hard to believe I’m asking this question, but I am. Aside from the money, many MSU fans may want to head to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl rather than Atlanta for the Peach or Dallas for the Cotton.


One of these New Year’s Bowls will pay out around $18 million. Granted, MSU does not get to keep all of that money. They can use as much as they want on expenses but the rest goes back to the SEC. So it can be a huge blowout for the coaches and players, but it’s not like we’re pocketing $15 million into our athletic budget.

The Citrus Bowl (formerly Capitol One) pays around $5 million. Same deal – use expenses, then send the rest to the SEC.


The selection committee is charged with taking geography into consideration when making the bowl pairings. The Fiesta Bowl seems like a slim chance since it’s in Arizona – that will go to west coast or middle America teams. MSU would be heading to Dallas or Atlanta. While the Cotton Bowl has been a big bowl game in the past, it hasn’t been quite as prestigious lately. The Peach Bowl (formerly Chick-Fil-A) has never been more than an average bowl game, although well-attended and highly competitive nonetheless. It’s hard to get those stigmas out of people’s heads. The Citrus Bowl just seems more prestigious than the Peach and probably the Cotton too.


The selection committee is also charged with creating competitive match-ups. For me, that means pairing the lowest ranked team in the pool with the group of five selection. At #10 right now, Mississippi State is on the cusp of being that lowest ranked team. If Georgia Tech is the lowest qualifying team it doesn’t matter because their opponent is almost certainly Michigan State in the Orange Bowl. That would leave MSU in the Cotton or Peach to face Boise State.

The Citrus Bowl would be against Nebraska (9-3), Wisconsin (10-2) or Ohio State (11-1).


Orlando, Dallas or Atlanta?

I’m not saying I don’t want to be apart of the New Year’s Bowls, but from all the research I’ve just sorted through, I’m not going to complain about it. A trip to Disney World doesn’t sound like the worst thing for a 10-2 season, and $5 million is enough to reward the players as much as possible for the best regular season in school history. And the weather would be a nice reward for Bulldog fans as well.

One of these New Year’s Bowls, which is the most likely scenario, would be great as well. Being apart of something on its first go-round is exciting, and with the slate of games during the New Year’s holiday, it’s really cool to have our name on the docket, and a great reward for a tremendous season.

Either way, I think MSU wins. So just sit back and enjoy the final weekend of college football before the bowl games!