Bowl Prections 2014: Final

It’s the final weekend of the season, and the last set of bowl predictions where in I predict who goes where are here. Of course, since the Committee will unveil their rankings at noon Eastern, most of you won’t see this, but those are the breaks I guess.

Let’s get down it.

Playoff

Here’s that image again, one last time:

Here’s my projected top three:

  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. Florida State

So the problem is that number four slot. Based on the above, I consider TCU and Baylor to have virtually identical resumes, except for the part where Baylor, you know, beat TCU. The problem is that I have been saying that for as long as I’ve been doing these predictions this year, and the Committee has not agreed with me one bit.

Ohio State’s utter annihilation of Wisconsin makes them much more likely to jump into the #4 slot than previously slot. Also hurting TCU (and Baylor) is Oklahoma being upset by three touchdown underdog Oklahoma State.

The challenge here is thinking like the Committee. In a fair and just world where I rule over everything, Baylor is in. Since this world is unfair and cruel, Baylor almost certainly has no shot.

That leaves us with TCU and Ohio State. So let’s go to a tale of the tape:

Ohio State Texas Christian
Record 12-1 11-1
Best Win Michigan State Kansas State
Worst Loss Virginia Tech Baylor
vs. >.500 teams 7-0 4-1
Opponent win % 0.574 0.529
MOV vs. >.500 26.3 9.2
Yard Margin vs. >.500 186 9

The mental block for me is still Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is not a team that should be a confused with a good one. Also, I still think Ohio State’s Big Ten competition was weaker than TCU’s competition, even considering that Ohio State faced more teams with winning records. (Worth noting that the Big Ten only has eight conference games compared to the Big 12’s nine, which means that Big Ten teams only need three conference wins to get to better than .500 rather than four.)

Frankly, based on the Committee’s votes so far, I have to predict that it will be TCU in the playoff. Florida State’s win over us should put them back at #3, but TCU has been consistently above Ohio State in every poll. I don’t really know what criteria they’re looking at, but at this point my gut says that they’re going to say it’s TCU.

As though that’s not confusing enough, there’s another issue. Regardless of what the top four looks like, the following teams are virtual locks to play in either the playoff or one of the access bowls:

  1. Alabama (SEC Champ)
  2. Oregon (Pac-12 Champ)
  3. Florida State (ACC Champ)
  4. Ohio State (Big Ten Champ)
  5. TCU (Big 12 Co-Champ)
  6. Baylor (Big 12 Co-Champ)
  7. Boise State (highest ranked Group of Five team)
  8. Georgia Tech (highest ranked non-playoff ACC team, Orange Bowl)
  9. Michigan State (Orange Bowl selects highest ranked Big Ten/SEC non-champ or Notre Dame)
  10. Mississippi State (ranked #10 this week and didn’t play)

There are two playoff bowl games and four access bowls for a total of 12 teams.

So I need two more teams. Arizona (#7 going into the week) was a pretty good bet, but they got blown out by Oregon. Kansas State was #9 and lost. Both these losses will almost certainly put Ole Miss (#12) into a game. Now the question is, how far does Arizona fall? Kansas State is probably out of the picture now. #13 was Wisconsin, but their demolition at the hands of Ohio State puts them out. Are #14 Georgia and #15 UCLA now also in play?

The Committee has executed large drops before. Ole Miss dropped 11 spots after getting blown out by Arkansas. Of course, Oregon is a slightly better opponent than Arkansas, and Arizona did beat them earlier in the season. I don’t think Arizona will be ranked behind Georgia. The worry for the Wildcats, though, is UCLA, who beat Arizona. UCLA also beat Arizona’s second-best win, Arizona State. However, UCLA was last seen losing in dominating fashion to a pretty mediocre Stanford team.

So with that, I’m going to stick with Arizona. I’ve placed them in the Fiesta against Boise State. The rest of the access bowls are pretty interesting. Ole Miss has been to the Cotton Bowl a couple times in the past five years, so I sent them to the Peach instead to face Ohio State, leaving Baylor to face Mississippi State in the Cotton. (Talk about two teams who wish their seasons had gone just slightly different.)

ACC

The top of the ACC is fairly orderly as long as nothing happens to Florida State. Since a Big Ten team will appear in the Orange Bowl, the ACC will take its slot in the Citrus Bowl, and that team would most likely be Clemson. This leaves Louisville to gobble up the Russell Athletic Bowl bid.

Did that seem too easy? Well, don’t worry, it gets weird. Apparently the ACC’s “first tier” bowls have entered a lottery to see which one gets Notre Dame. Oh boy. Drawing on some Internet “news”, it seems like the Pinstripe will take Duke. I put Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl, but since the drawing is random they could really end up anywhere. As a result of that, though, I sent Boston College to the Sun Bowl and NC State to go Belk it up.

I’d seen some news that a Virginia Tech-Cincinnati Military Bowl matchup was pretty likely, so I did that and pushed some of the other teams down a slot.

Big Ten

In Big Ten news, these two articles demonstrate the hard part of this business. The Minneapolis Star Tribune thinks that Nebraska and Wisconsin will occupy the Big Ten’s more prestigious bowl slots, while the Lincoln Star Journal thinks it’ll be Minnesota and Wisconsin. I wound up going with the Nebraska paper, and besides, Nebraska did just fire that coach while Minnesota is enjoying one of their best seasons ever.

Trying to figure out who went where in the Big Ten’s second tier bowls is a bit of a nightmare, especially since they’re short a bid with the Citrus Bowl going to an ACC team. Another way this hurts is that Illinois is forced to scrounge for an at-large bid somewhere, though that could just easily be Maryland. I did see some news, however, indicating that Penn State is a good bet for the Pinstripe Bowl.

Big 12

The Big 12 is pretty straightforward, and they even get to fill their Cactus Bowl slot thanks to Oklahoma State’s upset. I don’t think anything too wacky will happen here.

Pac-12

Note that this all hinges on Arizona getting an access bowl bid as detailed above. If UCLA gets you can swap Arizona for them, but if it goes to a team from another conference then all hell breaks loose in these predictions.

UCLA/Arizona is a good bet for the Alamo Bowl, which picks first. Next up is the Holiday Bowl, which apparently pretty badly wants USC, even at the expense of Arizona State, so it’ll probably happen. This puts the Foster Farms Bowl in a bit of a bind, as they’ve made it known they want Stanford. Apparently the Pac-12’s two-win rule applies to conference victories. Stanford is okay if Arizona State drops this far, but if Arizona does (by virtue of being left out and not getting picked earlier) they cannot fall past here.

The Internet tells me it’s pretty likely Washington falls to the Cactus Bowl, so that sends Utah to Vegas.

SEC

I don’t think Georgia will go to Orlando, as that would cause a re-match with Clemson, so I’ve slotted Mizzou there instead. Some news I found indicates that LSU is a strong possibility for the TaxSlayer Bowl. Some news I did find had UGA officials saying their preferred destinations were Orlando and Tampa, so I’ve somewhat reluctantly slotted them into the Outback Bowl, again. (At least they won’t face Nebraska this time.) I’ve slotted Auburn into the Music City Bowl, so I think that leaves South Carolina as a strong possibility to go Belking.

That leaves the Texas and Liberty Bowls and four teams: Florida, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Arkansas. Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl just has to happen, right? I’ll be very disappointed if it doesn’t, along with the rest of the Internet. I think that point Tennessee winds up in the Liberty.

Next up in the SEC’s pecking order is the Birmingham Bowl, which I’d guess would take Florida, leaving Arkansas for the Independence. But wait! I have Miami in the Independence Bowl. And Arkansas has definitely had a better end to their season, which may make them the more exciting bowl prospect. So, just for fun, I’ve switched the two around. We’ll see how it really shakes out pretty soon anyway.

Everyone Else

Some of the bids for the Mountain West, American, and other conferences are based on news, but a lot of it (more than usual) at this point is guesswork. Hopefully next year there’ll be more bowl officials leaking news like they used to.

There is one game that needs an at-large team, the Armed Forces Bowl. Their backup conference is normally the Big 12, but there is not an extra Big 12 team. I think it will be the extra Big Ten team, which in this case is Illinois.

That leaves the following teams eligible but without bids: Texas State, Temple, Middle Tennessee State, Ohio, and Alabama-Birmingham.

A quick aside on UAB: what happened this past week is awful. They’re bowl eligible for only the second time ever, but with the school pulling the plug (for frankly what I think are entirely petty political reasons), they’ve alienated Conference USA (so they’re unlikely to get one of the conference’s bids, even at the expense of another 6-6) team and there are not enough at-large slots otherwise. I’m predicting the Blazers have played their last game.

Well, we’ll see how wrong I am very shortly. Thanks for reading!

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