At 9-3, the No. 12 Ole Miss Rebels are the top three-loss team in the college football playing world. That's what you get with a pair of wins over now top-10 teams (including No. 1 Alabama), schizophrenic losses to No. 24 LSU and unranked Arkansas, and a tragedy of a heartbreaker against No. 19 Auburn.
That resume alone is certainly worthy of a Gator Bowl or Citrus Bowl invite, events which are projected to land the Rebels by a few publications. But what would it take for Ole Miss to get a bid to, say, the Peach Bowl, a bowl which, along with the Cotton Bowl, was elevated to "neo-BCS" status with their recent inclusion in the rotation to host the College Football Playoffs?
As with the many SEC Championship and Playoff scenarios we listed pre-Arkansas collapse, it's going to take a little help from outside of our own program.
When not a part of the playoff itself, the six playoff rotation bowls - which do not include the College Football Championship Game itself - break down thusly:
- Rose Bowl - B1G #1 vs. Pac 12 #1
- Sugar Bowl - SEC #1 vs. Big XII #1
- Orange Bowl - ACC #1 vs. SEC #2, B1G #2, or Notre Dame
- Cotton Bowl - at-large or "Group of Five" (committee selection)
- Fiesta Bowl - at-large or "Group of Five" (committee selection)
- Peach Bowl - at-large or "Group of Five" (committee selection)
The Rose and the Sugar Bowls are a part of the playoff, which would mean that the top teams from the conferences tied into those games would be placed elsewhere, but with the current top-12 of the College Football Playoff Rankings breaking down thusly:
- Alabama (11-Senquez Golson)
- Oregon (11-1)
- TCU (11-1)
- Florida State (12-0)
- Ohio State (11-1)
- Baylor (10-1)
- Arizona (10-2)
- Michigan State (10-2)
- Kansas State (9-2)
- Mississippi Schtuyte (10-2)
- Georgia Tech (10-2)
- Ole Miss (9-3)
...it would stand to reason that - unless #CHAOS rears its head - the playoff will feature Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and TCU - the top teams from the SEC, ACC, Pac 12, and Big XII. That means that Ole Miss is competing for spots in the Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Peach Bowls against teams with just one or two losses. To take one of those spots, a few more teams would have to get a third loss, or some teams would have to earn a second loss in embarrassing enough fashion to give the Rebs the necessary jump in the polls to have them included as a three-loss team.
Per the bowl selection rules, Boise State is going to get a seat at the table as the top-ranked non-P5 conference team That seat's probably saved for them at the Fiesta Bowl, assuming they somehow don't dookie up their sleeping arrangements against a 6-6 Fresno State team in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. It's unlikely that Ole Miss meets Boise State in a rematch, and it's not like the Fiesta Bowl committee is going to consider an SEC team anyway for that other at-large spot. That'll be for Baylor, Zona, Kansas State - you know, teams West of the Mississippi.
The Orange Bowl will almost certainly feature a 10-2 Mississippi State team unless Alabama loses to Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. (Which, by the way, doesn't help the Rebs in this scenario at all. State would simply move down the totem pole a bit and squeeze the Rebs out of the conversation.) State would face Florida State, Georgia Tech, or Clemson, depending on the outcome of the ACC Championship Game and how that shakes up in the final CFP rankings. It's pretty unlikely that Ole Miss jumps Mississippi State in these rankings, so I assume this spot is theirs.
The Cotton Bowl seems like a realistic possibility (sidebar: we're tired of Dallas, aren't we?) if enough two-loss teams themselves become three loss teams. Georgia Tech, Arizona, and Kansas State all have likely shots of losing this weekend, which would probably bump Ole Miss to as high as No. 9, if not one notch higher if Ohio State somehow loses in dramatic fashion to Wisconsin and is punished for their bizarre Virginia Tech loss. A top-10 Ole Miss team isn't getting passed up for a chance at a Cotton Bowl, especially against a really good Baylor team.
The Peach Bowl's another possibility for many of the same reasons. If certain teams lose, the Rebs jump. And let's consider this possibility. Let's say that Georgia Tech wins the ACC Championship game against Florida State, Ohio State beats Wisconsin in the B1G Championship Game, and Arizona and Kansas State both lose their respective games as well. You'd have either Ohio State or Baylor taking the place of Florida State. It's not unreasonable to think that Georgia Tech gets the bid over Florida State for the Orange Bowl (nor is the contrary unreasonable to imagine as well).
That leaves an odd possibility that Ole Miss could play Florida State in the Peach Bowl, giving us exactly what we've always wanted: an excuse to talk about the got danged 'Noles.