After playoff field is set, who else fills New Years Six bowl line-up?


Today is the day the bowls will be finalized. Which school will be playing in which bowl? To try and project that, we must first figure out the playoff picture, and yesterday proved that will be extremely difficult. Did Ohio State crack the playoff field last night with a 59-0 victory over Wisconsin, or will the top four hold firm? Nobody really knows, but for now let’s go with this projection that will surely upset Big 12 fans.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama (SEC champion) vs. Florida State (ACC champion)

Rose Bowl: Oregon (Pac-12 champion) vs. Ohio State (Big Ten champion)

The Automatic Entrants

Baylor (Big 12 co-champion), Boise State (highest-ranked Group of Five champion), Georgia Tech (ACC representative), Michigan State (highest ranked non-champion from Big Ten and SEC)

The ACC is contracted to fill one spot in the Orange Bowl. It would be very likely that team will be Georgia Tech. The Orange Bowl will take the next highest-ranked ACC team if the conference champion is in the playoff. With Florida State winning the ACC title and expected to be placed in the four-team playoff, that should send Georgia Tech to the Orange Bowl. The Yellow Jackets are ranked ahead of the ACC’s Clemson and Louisville in the latest playoff rankings.

The Orange Bowl also gets the highest-ranked team available from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame. The Irish are way out of this conversation, and the Big Ten is in prime position to send Michigan State to the bowl as the highest-ranked option from the Big Ten and SEC.

This year the new bowl format guarantees one spot in the non-playoff bowls to the highest-ranked champion from the Group of Five conferences — the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt Conference. Boise State was the only team from those conferences ranked by the selection committee in last week’s ranking, and a home win against Fresno State likely locks the Broncos into making that reservation in one of the access bowls.

The At-Large Pool

Baylor (Big 12 co-champion), TCU (Big 12 co-champion), Arizona, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Kansas State

Throw both Big 12 co-champs in the leftover pool. Wisconsin being blown away will drop them out of the mix, leaving the door open for both Mississippi schools, Kansas State and Arizona. Look for Kansas State to be left out of the line-up with both Big 12 co-champs available.

Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Michigan State

Fiesta Bowl: Arizona vs. Boise State

Cotton Bowl: Baylor vs. Ole Miss

Peach Bowl: TCU vs. Mississippi State

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.