Okay, it’s that time again folks. The picture is starting to get clearer, or it would be, expect it seems to have decided to actually get cloudier if anything as we’re now only two weekends away from the end of the season and there is still a very real chance we won’t have enough teams.
However, as usual, let’s start at the opposite end of the spectrum. The predictions are, as per usual, here.
Oregon losing to Stanford had all sorts of repercussions for the BCS bowls, and not just at the very top.
Starting with the National Championship Game, I’ve gone ahead and matched Notre Dame and Alabama. Of course, this is beset with all sorts of caveats. The number of games that could impact #1 and #2 before the end of the season are almost too numerous to list.
#1 is easy, though, given the following: if Notre Dame beats Southern Cal this weekend in Los Angeles, the Irish will make their first ever appearance in the national title game. If Notre Dame loses, well, all hell breaks loose. The specter of another SEC-SEC matchup looms extremely large. But for now, let’s go with what happens if Notre Dame wins.
Alabama will not lose to Auburn this weekend. I just can’t even entertain the possibility of it happening, unless Gene Chizik is just trying to pull the most epic practical joke in the history of the state of Alabama. An easier explanation is just that Chizik is as awful of a coach as everyone thought he was when Auburn inexplicably hired him away from Iowa State. As for Georgia at #3, well, I think anyone reading this by now knows my positions re: the Bulldogs, but nonetheless they will play Alabama for the SEC title next weekend in Atlanta. Provided neither team loses this weekend, this matchup is currently a play-in game for the national title game.
Okay, so what happens if the things everyone expects to happen don’t? Well… let’s start with what happens if Notre Dame loses and the eventual SEC champion does not lose this weekend. Sitting at #4 in the BCS standings currently is Florida. If Florida beats Florida State Saturday, then they’re in. If the Gators lose (a very real possibility), then it gets interesting. The remaining 1-loss teams at the top of the standings are Oregon, Kansas State, Stanford, and Florida State. (I skipped LSU and Texas A&M. While they’re still high in the polls, the scenarios for human voters to elevate a 2-loss team to the national title game this year just seem too remote right now.) Oregon has one game remaining against their ranked rival Oregon State. Kansas State plays Texas next weekend, which is good because it is a) next weekend (a win would be fresh in voter’s minds, especially since Oregon will likely not play in the Pac-12 title game) and b) it is against a resurgent and ranked Texas. Also c) K-State still holds the tiebreaker over Oklahoma in the Big 12, so they will still be conference champs. Additionally d) the computers still love K-State and they like Texas, so a win over the Longhorns would help them. For these reasons, even if Oregon beats Oregon State, I like the Wildcats to jump the Ducks if Notre Dame and Florida lose. Next up is Stanford, which now controls its own destiny in the Pac-12. They will play UCLA this weekend, and if they win, well, they get to play UCLA again next Saturday. Playing two more games is good, and they did beat the Ducks head-to-head, but they are still 11th in the human polls. Nonetheless, they could be the next up if Oregon and K-State lose. If K-State loses and Oregon doesn’t, that could be an interesting battle. Finally, there’s Florida State. FSU desperately needs the cred they’ll get from the computers if they beat Florida, which will give their computer ranking a chance to catch up to their human ranking (6th and 5th versus 17th, currently). FSU’s schedule and loss to a mediocre NC State are really screwing them over right now. A win over GT in the conference championship game, whether we’re 6-6 or 7-5, would probably be their 3rd or 4th best win of the season behind Florida and Clemson.
So let’s get back to ND-Bama in the national title game and look at the other bowls. First up will be the Sugar Bowl, seeking a replacement for Alabama. I think it is pretty unlikely the Sugar will take the SEC title game loser, and at this point, considering the hype around TAMU and Johnny Manziel, I think the Sugar will take Texas A&M. Next up is the Fiesta. Kansas State will go here if they beat Texas and don’t wind up back in the title game. And here’s where the ramifications begin. If Oregon beats Oregon State (and, well, maybe even if they don’t), they will likely end up here. Note that this now means there will be two Pac-12 teams in, as I have Stanford winning the league and facing Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. The Sugar needs another team, and basically will be picking between Oklahoma and Clemson. And this where the ramifications end up: what looked like a great possibility for the ACC until last weekend has been snuffed out, unless Oregon, Kansas State, or Stanford get into the national title game. I just don’t think the Sugar will pick Clemson over the Sooners. This relegates, as expected, the Big East winner (whoever they end up being) to the Orange.
All that said, man, there’s definitely a certain plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose vibe to Notre Dame and Alabama playing for a national title. As other observers have noted, it’s like we’re back in the 60’s or something.
Miami announced on Monday that they will, once again, forgo a trip to a postseason college football contest. The ACC will not, under any circumstance, have a team to send to the Military Bowl. If Wake Forest upsets Vanderbilt this weekend, then there could be a team send to the Independence Bowl, but otherwise that’s that. If Clemson doesn’t make the BCS, they are a lock for the Chick-fil-a Bowl. The Russell Athletic Bowl will have its hands tied and probably take NC State. This likely leaves Georgia Tech for the Sun Bowl. If GT does beat UGA, then this could all change, but if we don’t, then El Paso is likely our destination again (even if we qualify under the “UCLA rule”). For the first time in the history of everything (in football, at least) I have put Duke ahead of Virginia Tech and have them going to the Belk Bowl, leaving VPI for the Music City.
I just want to note up here that I have Georgia Tech playing Southern Cal in the Sun Bowl. To quote James Earl Jones from the widely acclaimed Cold War drama Hunt for Red October, “Mother of God.”
Do I have to? Okay, well, I’m guessing Louisville will still win the league and go to the Orange Bowl, putting Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, and then Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.
I project Nebraska to win the Big Ten and head to the Rose Bowl, but that could just as easily be Wisconsin. That said, I do have Michigan in the Capital One Bowl for now, relegating Wisconsin to the Outback. I’ve seen folks saying that Northwestern is probably headed to the Gator, so I went ahead and put them there. I also have Purdue getting in at 6-6, but otherwise the selection order goes pretty much how you’d expect for now.
With both Oklahoma and K-State BCS bound according to my projections at top, this puts Texas in the Cotton. Since I ran out of teams, I did change my projections to have Baylor beat Texas Tech this weekend so the Bears could get to 6-6. That probably means I should’ve swapped Texas Tech and West Virginia maybe, but I think the Red Raiders will still be okay for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. (I’m debating shortening that to just “Wings Bowl” but I’m not sure.)
The Pac-12 actually was in danger of having more teams than slots until this past weekend. Getting two teams into the BCS means bids for everyone. The question is, out of the remaining teams, who goes to the Alamo Bowl? While it almost certainly has to be Oregon State and UCLA, will the Alamo want a team that just lost its last two games to the same team? In my searching, I found the Holiday Bowl really wants Oregon State over UCLA. I went ahead and swapped them for now but we’ll see again next weekend. In any scenario, I think the two Arizona schools will get picked last, but which one goes to San Francisco and which goes to Albuquerque will probably be determined this weekend. As for the middle, well, the Sun can either pick USC or Washington probably, with the other going to the Las Vegas Bowl.
I think the loser of the SEC title game will probably wind up in the Capital One Bowl, or Texas A&M if they’re still available. If TAMU is still around when the Cotton Bowl comes up, then they are a lock, otherwise it’ll probably be LSU. I’m putting Florida in the Outback Bowl (assuming a loss to Florida State this weekend). I currently have Miss State in the Chick-fil-a Bowl, though I’m not super confident in the Bulldogs over the Gamecocks, but the latter’s final destination likely has a lot to do with how they do against Clemson this weekend. Assuming a loss, I have them in the Gator Bowl. I put Vanderbilt in the Music City, but they would really love it if Missouri or Ole Miss get eligible somehow.
As mentioned above, I ran out of teams, so I put used my “in case of emergency, break glass” team in the form of the Texas-San Antonio Road Runners, putting them in the Independence Bowl. I also have the Military Bowl and the BBVA Compass Bowl as being completely devoid of participants. And this all includes the fudging I did to get Baylor eligible. I had to a fair amount of swapping to make sure that two MAC teams weren’t facing each other in the games, but at this point I really consider myself two teams short.
Also, in other news, Air Force actually accepted a bid to the Armed Forces Bowl earlier this week, which I guess is a pretty good indication the Mountain West doesn’t have any sort of rules for their bowls. I didn’t really predict that, hence the single asterisk.
Well, this is a pretty long post, and there’s a fair chance all of this could be bunk after this weekend. So I’ll stop here. Enjoy your Turkey Day, and the weekend guide should go up tomorrow.