It's appropriate in the final year before the College Football Playoff expands that this might be one of the biggest debates in the 10 seasons since the four-team system was adopted.
There have been two constants in the previous editions: An unbeaten team from the Power Five has always gotten in the field and the SEC champion has also been there every season.
It looks like one of those previous axioms won't be true this year. Michigan and Washington are certain to be No. 1 and No. 2, probably in that order. That leaves Alabama, Texas and Florida State fighting for the last two spots. The Crimson Tide won the SEC title Saturday in a stirring defeat of Georgia, but lost earlier this season to the Longhorns. With both teams having one loss and the propensity for the committee to weigh head-to-head results strongly, the only question is whether the Seminoles are ahead of them or behind.
Given the Seminoles have been hindered on offense without Jordan Travis, the avenue is there for the committee to justify moving them to No. 5. It's a cruel outcome, but the stated purpose of selecting the field is to get the four best teams in and it's hard to look past the harsh reality that Florida State likely won't be competitive if selected.
The idea of leaving Alabama out after knocking off a team that is the two-time defending champion and had been No. 1 for the past three weeks in the playoff rankings also looms large. Selecting Alabama over Florida State would be unpopular to some. But it should also make for two very compelling semifinals.
Florida State's omission also changes the outlook for the New Year's Six games. Louisville would have been slated for the Orange Bowl with the Seminoles in the field because the ACC has a team tied to the game. That extra opening should swing to Oklahoma, which was No. 12 in last week's rankings behind Mississippi but got a boost with SMU defeating Tulane in the American Athletic title game. The Sooners beat the Mustangs earlier this season — in addition to Texas, which is the best victory of any of the two-loss teams contending for a spot. The Rebels saw their victory against the Green Wave diminished and only have a win against LSU to stand on.
Notes: Some conferences may not fulfill their bowl allotment. Asterisks denote a replacement pick. James Madison and Jacksonville State are eligible due to a lack of six-win teams to fill the 82 spots. Minnesota is included as the five-win team with the highest APR. Bold indicates a team that has accepted a berth.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bowl projections: College Football Playoff set with Alabama, Texas