Believe me when I say this, and I promise it isn't backpedaling or a moral victory: man, I'm truly glad that Mississippi State didn't finish the regular season 11-1. That would have left the Bulldogs right in the middle of the current mess that is the College Football Playoff's fourth and final spot, and I wouldn't have liked the Bulldogs chances to stay in. Ohio State obliterated a good Wisconsin team yesterday, and both Baylor and TCU won to share the most ridiculous conference championship ever. While we could spend all day talking about how silly the Big 12 is, the point is this: there are a TON of great candidates for one final spot at a national championship. History tells us that State definitely would've been pushed out of that, so I choose to be happy that we won't be subjected to that heartbreak later today.
Back to what we care about, though: where is MSU bowling this year? We can deduce that it's likely the Cotton or Peach Bowl, but honestly any attempts to make a determination from there are likely futile.
The issue is that there are no conference tie-ins for these two bowls: they're just at-large spots. So Mississippi State could easily end up in either place. If Baylor and TCU are both left out of the playoff, there's no chance that the committee will pair them up in the Cotton Bowl (oooooh, though wouldn't it be fun if they did?), which leaves one of those schools in each of the Cotton or Peach. That likely leaves State and Ole Miss to fill the other side of those bowls, and it could go either way. I still think it's Peach for State as that's the easier trip, and they will finish higher in the rankings than the Rebels. With the way this committee has operated, though, who knows how their final rankings will come down. If the committee had the stones to do it, they'd pair Baylor-TCU in the Cotton and State-Ole Miss in the Peach. Can you imagine?
So why can't MSU go to the Fiesta or Orange? If you missed our discussion earlier in the week, the Fiesta and Orange are out for MSU, pending a jump over Michigan State in the final CFB playoff rankings. The Fiesta should be filled with Boise State and Arizona -- two western teams that have had good seasons --, while the Orange Bowl gets the highest non-playoff ACC team (Georgia Tech, most likely) versus the highest ranked non-conference champion, non-playoff team from either the Big Ten, SEC, or Notre Dame. That is currently Michigan State, and with both the MSU's idle this weekend, that ranking should stay the same.
We'll find out at 11:45 what the final playoff rankings are, and if Michigan State stays ahead of State, I say that MSU is headed to the Peach Bowl (announcement at 1:45). If State somehow jumps Michigan State, then all bets are off, and the Orange Bowl could and should be back on the table for State. That will be the key to watch for at 11:45, other than the committee's final top four ranking, obviously. If things stay the same, though, expect MSU to head to Atlanta for a New Year's Eve date with one of the teams left out of the playoff.
Baylor, TCU, or Ohio State vs. MSU: the argument to expand to eight teams for the playoff could be made by any of those matchups. Hopefully we'll see that happen soon, but for now, we'll settle for an easy-to-get-to bowl against a really good national opponent. That's a pretty good way to wrap up a successful 2014 campaign if you ask me.