For Mississippi State, the hopes of an 11-win regular season, a birth in the college football playoff and another victory in the Battle for the Golden Egg all came crashing down in one moment. However, the Bulldogs could still find themselves playing in the biggest bowl game in the last 60 years when all of the matchups are announced in two weeks.
The college football playoff committee holds most of the power when determining those bowl berths, so for starters, it is important to try to determine where Mississippi State will project into the rankings. The Bulldogs entered the week at No 4, and while the battle for that position will remain hot, the Bulldogs will no longer be a part of it. It will be interesting to see which team moves into the top-four between TCU, Ohio State, and Baylor, and it is important in determining in which bowl game the Bulldogs will play.
The reason for this is that displaced conference champions are taken care of with certain placements in other New Years' Six Bowl games.
The second thing to keep in mind is where the Bulldogs actually end up in the ranking. To feel extremely confident about their spot in a New Years' Six Bowl, Mississippi State needs to be no lower than No. 9 this week because while the top-eleven would, in theory, all get in a bowl, it would only take a few upsets next weekend to toss that out the window.
With that said, my best guess at the new top-ten is as follows: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 TCU, No. 5 Baylor, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 7. Mississippi State, No. 8 Michigan State, No. 9 Arizona, No. 10 Kansas State. There are two wildcards in this prediction. The first one being that I could see Mississippi State and Michigan State swapping spots in this poll. The second one being, how will the committee look at J.T. Barrett's injury when evaluating Ohio State. This has not been a bridge that the committee has really had to cross, and given that it happened with a game to play, it is not as important now. However, if it had happened in the Big Ten championship, it would have complicated things greatly for the committee. My guess is they let Ohio State ride and prove how good they can still be in the Big Ten Championship against Wisconsin.
With that said, the national semifinals should be No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU in the Sugar Bowl and No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl. That means that the Sugar Bowl gets its SEC Champion, but not its Big 12 champion if Baylor wins out, assuming the Big 12 does not decide to change who will be declared champion or co-champion again, and the Orange Bowl loses the ACC champion. This also leaves Baylor and Ohio State as displaced conference champions, and displaced conference champions will head to either the Peach, Cotton, or Fiesta Bowls.
This makes for quite the complicated dance because with Ohio State being a displaced champion, they could also be the highest ranked team from the Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame alliance that is supposed to play against an ACC team in the Orange Bowl. If Ohio State wins the Big Ten, but does not make the playoff, they will more than likely be the highest ranked team out of that alliance, but they would not go to the Orange Bowl. However, should they lose, which is possible with their third string quarterback playing, it will depend on whom the committee ranks higher, most likely between Mississippi State and Michigan State. Given that both teams are done playing, we should have this answer Tuesday. My guess is the Bulldogs will just be higher, and they will be playing in the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech.
So what if Michigan State is the higher ranked team? That would send the Spartans to the Orange Bowl, and Mississippi State would be looking elsewhere. Let's recap what we know in this scenario:
Sugar: Alabama vs. TCU
Rose: Oregon vs. Florida State
Orange: Michigan State vs. Georgia Tech
Now our road takes two different paths depending on whom the Big Ten champion is. Should Ohio State win the Big Ten, they would quite likely head to the Peach Bowl based on geography. Baylor would be likely to head to the Cotton Bowl as the displaced Big 12 champion, and Boise State, the team most likely to be the invited team to the New Years Six Bowls would most likely be looking at the Fiesta Bowl. With all of the displaced champions, and the invited team in place, it becomes a move down the rankings list to fill in the bowl games.
Peach: Ohio State vs. Mississippi State
Cotton: Baylor vs. Ole Miss
Fiesta: Boise State vs. Arizona
While that seems so simple, wait, how did Ole Miss get in there?!? Well, the Big 12 does not have a conference championship game, and in order for Baylor to be the Big 12 champion, they would have to defeat Kansas State this weekend. With Ole Miss having wins over Mississippi State and Alabama, I think the Rebels are a team likely to jump up the rankings, especially since they will look better than most three loss teams. The only team that could be a road block would be Wisconsin. Would the committee decide it would be unfair to punish Wisconsin for having to play in a conference championship game to pick up a third loss? If they think it is unfair, they may keep the Badgers ahead of Ole Miss, and they would most likely send them to the Cotton Bowl against Baylor.
Mississippi State ends up in the Peach Bowl because of geography and a story line: Dan Mullen vs. Urban Meyer. No other potential matchup really creates any type of story line, so that might be the big one. Ole Miss has a bit of a history with sending fans to the Cotton Bowl, so that should encourage the committee to send them there. However, it would not come as much of a surprise if Mississippi State wen to the Cotton to settle who is better between them and Baylor since those questions have come up a number of times this year.
What happens if Baylor loses to Kansas State? Things open up just a bit, but most likely, Kansas State just replaces Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. What if Ohio State loses to Wisconsin? That could make things a bit more interesting, but the Big Ten champion would probably still head to the Peach Bowl.
The one lingering question is if there is a desire to recreate a "rose bowl" matchup somewhere. If there is, Boise State could go to the Peach Bowl, but it seems quite unlikely that the committee would ask Bronco fans to return to Atlanta this season.
So, what if we root for #TeamChaos next weekend, and Alabama, Florida State, Oregon, Baylor, and Ohio State all go down?
Let's save that for next week.