The University of Alabama football team won’t know where it is going for a bowl game until Sunday afternoon, but the events of Saturday did make the picture a little more clear.
The College Football Playoff Selection Committee will announce the four teams in the Playoff at 11:15 Sunday morning, then announce the eight teams in the other New Year’s 6 bowls at 2 p.m. The other bowl pairings will trickle into public knowledge in the hours that follow. Alabama — after falling to No. 12 in the penultimate CFP rankings — is likely to be outside of the New Year’s 6.
With LSU to be selected for the Playoff and Georgia likely to fall out of it after losing 37-10 in the SEC Championship Game, the Bulldogs are likely to go to the Sugar Bowl, both as the SEC runner-up and most likely to be the highest ranked SEC team not in the four-team Playoff.
After the Sugar Bowl, SEC teams can fall into the Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. The Orange Bowl will pair ACC Championship Game loser Virginia with the highest ranked Big 10 or SEC team that has not already been slotted into a bowl; that is unlikely for UA with Florida, Wisconsin, Penn State and Auburn already ahead of Alabama. The Cotton Bowl will then take Group of 5 representative Memphis (American Athletic Conference champion) and an at-large choice, likely one of the three teams listed above that was not taken by the Orange Bowl.
The SEC’s bowl protocol then gives the first choice of SEC teams remaining to the Citrus Bowl. If Wisconsin’s loss to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship Game drops it below Auburn in the rankings — thus giving Auburn an inside track to the Cotton Bowl — it is more likely that Alabama falls into the Citrus Bowl. Otherwise, it is up to the Citrus Bowl whether it wants Alabama or Auburn.
If Alabama falls past the Citrus Bowl, it will go to a group of six bowls that work with the SEC to place teams: Music City (Nashville), Outback (Tampa), Gator (Jacksonville), Belk (Charlotte), Liberty (Memphis) and Texas (Houston).