Three big games determine the national college football champion. But there are 40 postseason games in all so that teams from Buffalo to Miami of Ohio each get a shot at some type of postseason glory.
Here’s a look at all the games, celebrating roses, peaches, independence … and Cheez-Its.
The National Semifinals
Dec. 28, Peach Bowl: No. 1 Louisiana State (-12½) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
L.S.U. is the only team making its semifinal debut. It last played for the national title in the 2011 season, losing to Alabama in the national championship game.
Oklahoma was the most efficient offensive team in the country, averaging 8.2 yards per play. Its kicker, Gabe Brkic, was 17 for 17 on field goals, including a 50-yarder, and 48 for 48 on extra points.
The over-under on the game is 75 or 76, the second highest total in the Playoff’s history behind the total of 80 for the Alabama-Oklahoma semifinal last season. (That game ended with 79 points scored.)
This is Clemson’s fifth straight year in the national semifinals; it has two titles, including last season.
Ohio State dominated the power rankings all year (and remains No. 1 at Sagarin), so it’s a surprise to see the Buckeyes as underdogs. Perhaps it is because Clemson has a 10-3 record against the spread this year, the best of any team.
Clemson, led by running back Travis Etienne, has 6.46 yards per rush, the best mark in the country. It also leads in passing defense and surrendered just 10.6 points a game.
The Big One
Jan. 13, National Championship: No. 1 L.S.U. or No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 2 Ohio State or No. 3 Clemson.
Inpredictable, a site that guesses betting lines, suggests that the lines on the most likely possible finals matchups will be Ohio State (-2) over L.S.U. and Clemson (-3) over L.S.U.
No love for Oklahoma though. Should it upset L.S.U. it will be around a 12½-point underdog again.
Dec. 20, Bahamas Bowl: Buffalo (-4½) vs. Charlotte
Frisco Bowl: Utah State (-9½) vs. Kent State
Kent State is back in a bowl for the first time since 2012, the longest drought of any of this year’s bowl teams.
Dec. 21, New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State (-4½) vs. Central Michigan
Cure Bowl: Georgia Southern (-5½) vs. Liberty
Georgia Southern passed the ball 136 times this season, and was never intercepted.
Boca Raton Bowl: Southern Methodist (-3½) vs. Florida Atlantic
Florida Atlantic intercepted the ball 1.6 times a game, best in the country.
Camellia Bowl: Arkansas State (-3) vs. Florida International
Las Vegas Bowl: Washington (-3½) vs. No. 19 Boise State
New Orleans Bowl: No. 20 Appalachian State (-17) vs. University of Alabama at Birmingham
Appalachian State is 4-0 in bowl games in the top division. It did lose some minor bowls like the Pythian Bowl in the 1950s.
The Holiday Weeks
Dec. 23, Gasparilla Bowl: Central Florida (-17½) vs. Marshall
The biggest point spread of the postseason. Central Florida was 9-3 and ranked for the first part of the year. Marshall was 8-4, against an easier Conference USA schedule.
Dec. 24, Hawaii Bowl: Brigham Young University (-1½) vs. Hawaii
Hawaii played in the Hawaii Bowl last year as well, losing by 17 to Louisiana Tech.
Dec. 26, Independence Bowl: Miami (-7½) vs. Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech played the weakest schedule of any bowl team, ranked only 140th by Jeff Sagarin, behind many Football Championship Subdivision teams.
Quick Lane Bowl: Pitt (-10½) vs. Eastern Michigan
Dec. 27, Military Bowl: North Carolina (-5) vs. Temple
Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State (-3½) vs. Wake Forest
Texas Bowl: Texas A&M (-6) vs. No. 25 Oklahoma State
Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State has run for 1,936 yards, the most in the nation.
Holiday Bowl: No. 16 Iowa (-1½) vs. No. 22 Southern California
Kicker Keith Duncan of Iowa made 29 field goals, four more than anyone else.
Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force (-2½) vs. Washington State
Anthony Gordon of Washington State leads the nation in pass completions, attempts and yardage. Air Force commits just over three penalties a game, the best rate in the country.
Dec. 28, Cotton Bowl: No. 10 Penn State (-7) vs. No. 17 Memphis
It is harder to run against Penn State than any other team; it gives up 2.6 yards per rush.
Camping World Bowl: No. 15 Notre Dame (-3½) vs. Iowa State
Many football statisticians consider recovering fumbles to be mostly luck. Notre Dame has 17 fumble recoveries, the most in the country.
The Night Before the Night Before
Dec. 30, Orange Bowl: No. 9 Florida (-13) vs. No. 24 Virginia
First Responder Bowl: Western Kentucky (-2½) vs. Western Michigan
Music City Bowl: Mississippi State (-3½) vs. Louisville
Redbox Bowl: California (-6½) vs. Illinois
Illinois has six defensive touchdowns, the most in the country.
New Year’s Eve
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech (-3) vs. Kentucky
Sun Bowl: Arizona State (-5½) vs. Florida State
Liberty Bowl: Kansas State (-1) vs. No. 23 Navy
Navy still has a game to play on Saturday, against Army; it is a 10½-point favorite. Navy ran the ball more than any other team this season, 60 times a game. Second and third were Army and Air Force.
Kansas State’s Joshua Youngblood ran back three kickoffs for touchdowns, more than anyone else.
Arizona Bowl: Wyoming (-7) vs. Georgia State
Alamo Bowl: No. 11 Utah (-6½) vs. Texas
Texas fell the farthest from its preseason ranking, slipping from No. 10 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll to a 7-5 record.
New Year’s Day
Rose Bowl: No. 8 Wisconsin (-3) vs. No. 6 Oregon
Wisconsin made the biggest leap up the rankings, from No. 19 in the preseason poll to No. 8 in the playoff ranking.
Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Georgia (-7½) vs. No. 7 Baylor
Georgia gave up one rushing touchdown all season.
Citrus Bowl: No. 13 Alabama (-7) vs. No. 14 Michigan
Alabama played in all five national semifinals before this season. Although it is ranked only No. 13 after losing twice, it is in the top four in many computer rankings, rather than Oklahoma. Michigan also tends to outpunch its ranking with computers.
Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama is the top passer by adjusted yards per attempt, but many think Joe Burrow of L.S.U., the Heisman Trophy favorite who ranks third and is not recovering from a significant injury, will go ahead of Tagovailoa in the draft.
Outback Bowl: No. 12 Auburn (-7½) vs. No. 18 Minnesota
Auburn played the second toughest schedule in the country, according to Sagarin, trailing only South Carolina, which did not make a bowl. Auburn beat six bowl teams — Oregon, Tulane, Kent State, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Alabama. It lost to three, Florida, Georgia and L.S.U., all of whom are in the top 10.
The Last Gasp
Jan. 2, Birmingham Bowl: No. 21 Cincinnati (-6½) vs. Boston College
Gator Bowl: Tennessee (pick) vs. Indiana
Jan. 3, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio (-6½) vs. Nevada
Jan. 4, Armed Forces Bowl: Tulane (-7) vs. Southern Miss
Jan. 6, LendingTree Bowl: Louisiana (-14) vs. Miami (Ohio)
This is a new name for this bowl, which was formerly the Dollar General Bowl (and before that the GoDaddy, GMAC and Mobile Alabama Bowl).