That's what college football delivered in the conference championship games, with No. 4 USC (11-2) seeing its hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff dashed in a 47-24 loss to Utah in the Pac-12 final on Friday night. Then on Saturday, No. 3 TCU fell 31-28 in overtime to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game, pushing the Horned Frogs to the playoff precipice.
Top-ranked Georgia (13-0) beat LSU 50-30 for the SEC title, while No. 2 Michigan (13-0) outlasted Purdue 43-22 late Saturday in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Bulldogs and Wolverines were largely considered shoo-ins for the four-team playoff even if they lost Saturday, so they'll be Nos. 1 and 2 when the playoff rankings come out Sunday.
USC's loss opened a path for No. 5 Ohio State (11-1) to make the playoff. The big question: Does No. 6 Alabama, with its two losses, jump ahead of 12-1 TCU or Ohio State? The guess here is no.
As for the Gophers (8-4), their most likely destination still appears to be the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium. Long-shot possibilities could be the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31 in Nashville or the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Fla.
Here's our projection of the four playoff teams and New Year's Six bowls when they're announced beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN:
Fiesta (playoff semifinal), Dec. 31, Glendale, Ariz.: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 TCU
Peach (playoff semifinal), Dec. 31, Atlanta: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Ohio State
Rose, Jan. 2, Pasadena, Calif.: Penn State vs. Utah
Orange, Dec. 30, Miami Gardens, Fla.: Clemson vs. Tennessee
Sugar, Dec. 31, New Orleans: Alabama vs. Kansas State
Cotton, Jan. 2, Arlington, Texas: USC vs. Tulane
How does all of this impact the rest of the Big Ten? That will play out later Sunday afternoon when the remainder of the bowl schedule is revealed.
The Big Ten received good news from Utah's win over USC, which likely means Ohio State will be in the playoff instead of the Orange Bowl. In turn, the ReliaQuest Bowl would remain in the Big Ten's mix rather than taking an ACC team. Here are projections where other Big Ten teams will play:
Citrus, Jan. 2, Orlando: Purdue vs. LSU
ReliaQuest, Jan. 2, Tampa, Fla.: Illinois vs. South Carolina
- Gophers' chances: Possible, but unlikely. Minnesota played in this bowl following the 2019 season, while Illinois (8-4) hasn't been to Tampa since the 1990 season and won the head-to-head matchup with the Gophers.
Music City, Dec. 31, Nashville: Iowa vs. Ole Miss
- Gophers' chances: Possible. Along with the ReliaQuest, this bowl appears to be the favorite for Minnesota fans. Scott Ramsey, Music City Bowl president and CEO, said Illinois, Iowa and the Gophers are under consideration, but the bowl prefers teams that haven't been there before. Iowa (7-5) and Illinois have not. The Gophers have, in 2002, '04 and '05. In addition, the Hawkeyes were set to play in the Music City in 2020, but COVID-19 forced the game's cancellation.
Pinstripe, Dec. 29, New York: Gophers vs. Syracuse
- Gophers' chances: Most likely. The Pinstripe has the goal of putting eight different Big Ten teams in eight years in the bowl, and so far, seven different Big Ten teams have appeared. Minnesota and Illinois haven't been to the Bronx, so either is possible.
Duke's Mayo, Dec. 30, Charlotte, N.C.: Maryland vs. North Carolina State
- Gophers' chances: Unlikely. Mayo bowl execs have focused on Illinois, Iowa and Maryland.
Guaranteed Rate, Dec. 27, Phoenix: Wisconsin vs. Baylor
- Gophers' chances: None. They won't be invited to this bowl in back-to-back years.