Well, we have arrived at the moment of truth: These are the 16 teams that deserve an invitation to a national championship tournament for the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in 2019.

We explained our process back at the start of the season, and now that the regular season is over and conference champions crowned, we have our field for a legitimate title chase. It’s just too bad the sport is controlled by moneymakers that want to limit the field and control which teams get the chance to win it all—and which teams do not.

Our final field of 16 saw a few changes from our Week 14 projections: With another embarrassing loss for Georgia, the Alabama Crimson Tide sneak back into the field, and at the bottom, an upset in the MAC Championship Game handed the automatic bid for that conference to Miami of Ohio. Otherwise, there wasn’t much change to what we were projecting previously.

  1. Ohio State (B1G auto)
  2. Clemson (ACC auto)
  3. LSU (SEC auto)
  4. Alabama* (SEC at-large)
  5. Oklahoma (Big XII auto)
  6. Wisconsin (BIG at-large)
  7. Oregon (Pac-12 auto)
  8. Notre Dame (Independent auto)
  9. Utah (Pac-12 at-large)
  10. Baylor (Big XII at-large)
  11. Memphis (AAC auto)
  12. Boise State (MWC auto)
  13. Appalachian State (Sun Belt auto)
  14. Virginia (ACC at-large)
  15. Florida Atlantic (C-USA auto)
  16. Miami-Ohio* (MAC auto)

Dropped out: Georgia (SEC at-large), Central Michigan (MAC auto)

The higher seeds a slight “regional” advantage for the first round of our tourney only. Thus, the first-round matchups take place at mid-tier bowl games as follows, to be played on December 21, a full two weeks from now:

  • No. 16 Miami-Ohio vs. No. 1 Ohio State at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis
  • No. 15 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 2 Clemson at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta
  • No. 14 Virginia vs. No. 3 LSU at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport
  • No. 13 Appalachian State vs. No. 4 Alabama at the Outback Bowl in Orlando
  • No. 12 Boise State vs. No. 5 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix
  • No. 11 Memphis vs. No. 6 Wisconsin in the Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix
  • No. 10 Baylor vs. No. 7 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego
  • No. 9 Utah vs. No. 8 Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando

The second round/quarterfinals require just four bowl sites, so the next four oldest, traditional bowls host them on December 28, using slotted pairings (no re-seeding for “upsets”):

  • Liberty winner vs. Camping World winner at the Sun Bowl in El Paso
  • Peach winner vs. Holiday winner at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas
  • Independence winner vs. Cheez-It winner at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville
  • Outback winner vs. Fiesta winner at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando

The semifinals celebrate the traditions of two major bowls, second only to the Rose, and these games are played on January 4:

  • Sun winner vs. Citrus winner at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans
  • Cotton winner vs. Gator winner at the Orange Bowl in Miami

The final is played on January 11 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Grandaddy of Them All. All the other superfluous bowls could continue if they choose to, inviting non-playoff teams, and college football fans can have the best of both worlds.

(See how easy this is? It’s why all the other divisions of NCAA football do it.)

Thanks for joining us this season. We will be back with this feature next season!