Bowl Predictions, Week 1

Here we go kids. Here they are. I kind of explain the process during last week’s first set. This year for our first week I’ll try to make sense of the season and take a conference-by-conference look at the predictions, as well as a BCS section. That said, this is all pretty much a crap shoot the way this season is going.

The BCS:
The BCS rules are laid out on the prediction page, so I won’t bother here. What I will say is that my process for the BCS goes something along the lines of synthesizing the current standings with what I think will happen. So for now this yields a title game matchup of Ohio State and South Florida. I don’t think USF is as illegitimate as a lot of people may think. They have out-of-conference wins over UNC and at Auburn, and a victory over still highly-regarded West Virginia.

Other potential title game contenders include the other teams in the top 5: BC, Oklahoma, and LSU. LSU was (rightly) not penalized for losing to Kentucky, with some losses by other top teams could find themselves in New Orleans. Of course, according to me, they’ll end up there anyway, but we’ll get there in a bit.

The other conference winners, according to me, will be Boston College, Oklahoma, LSU, and Oregon. While a loss in Blacksburg Thursday does sink BC’s title game chances (well, in all likelihood), it does not end their ACC Title game chances. Oregon is my pick to come out of the three-way choas created by Cal’s loss to Oregon State. So they all go to their respective bowls (Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, and Rose).

So the Rose has the first shot at the remaining eligible teams, since they lose Ohio State to the title game. And, well, I have my doubts they’ll be excited about what they see. There is history of SEC teams going to Rose Bowls in the distant past (i.e., before World War II Alabama went to a few games and Georgia Tech even went to one). So I put Kentucky there, assuming they’ll do well the rest of the way. I figure West Virginia will be able to go to a BCS game and land in the Orange (though they could end up in the Rose as well, sending Kentucky to the Orange). I like Cal going to the Fiesta, though in retrospect perhaps this should be USC, or maybe even someone else because for my Oregon scenario they each need 2 losses. I’ll re-examine this next week. Moving on, I then put Kansas in the Sugar because they’ll be the most appealing team left.

The ACC:

Since I have BC going to the Orange Bowl, then my predicted ACC runner-up will be Virginia Tech, who then will go to the Gator.

It gets a lot harder after that.

Thanks to their good record right now, I have Virginia in the Gator Bowl spot, though I doubt this will remain the status quo. Clemson slots nicely to the Champs Spots Bowl, and then we have the ACC# 5/6/7 cluster for the Music City, Car Care, and Emerald Bowls. In perhaps a bit of homerism, I have Maryland getting exiled out west while Florida State and Georgia Tech go to the Car Care and Music City Bowls. Assuming Miami loses to FSU, they’ll bring up the rear and make a return trip to Boise, though the league may send Maryland or FSU there instead.

The Big East:
I have both USF and WVU going to the BCS. The Big East #2 pick goes to either the Gator or Sun Bowls (see the page), and so this year I see Cincinnati going to the Sun Bowl (otherwise, the Sun will be stuck with Big East teams in 2008 and 2009). I like Rutgers to go Charlotte to play FSU and UConn to go up north, leaving Louisville to salvage to the remains of their season in Birmingham.

The Big 12:
The choas has hit especially hard in the Big 12, with both of the traditional Big 12 South powers losing before they played each other. Nonetheless, I see Oklahoma winning the conference and having a Fiesta. However, assuming Kansas’s only loss is to OU in the Big 12 Title Game, then they could very easily still qualify for the BCS, so I’ve slotted them into the Sugar Bowl.

The Cotton Bowl will take the aerial show of Texas Tech, sending Texas out to the official start of interest-worthy bowls, the Holiday Bowl. TAMU slots in nicely to the Alamo Bowl, followed by Kansas State going to the Gator (see the Big East for why). The sixth pick goes to one of the two games that no one will see, the Insight Bowl, due to being on the NFL Network, unfortunate if you’re a fan of the Missouri Tigers. The next slot is the Independence Bowl, where I send Colorado, and last and certainly least is the other game no one will see, the Texas Bowl, where the greatest offense on Earth, Oklahoma State, winds up.

The Big Ten:
After everyone’s favorite “whoops!” moment of the year (Michigan losing to Appalachian State), the Big Ten was written off. And it probably still should be, as it will probably only send Ohio State to the BCS, leaving the Rose without its coveted Big Ten team as none will probably qualify.

Michigan, at the rate they are going, may well finish runner-up in the conference and end up with a nice payout in the Capital One Bowl, a nice finish after the way they started. I sent Penn State to the Outback, followed by Illinois going to San Antonio. Indiana finishes their surprising season in Orlando. Wisconsin finishes its disappointing season in Tempe, with Michigan State staying local and going to the Motor City Bowl.

“But wait!” you may say, “what about Purdue and Northwestern?” Indeed. Purdue has 5 wins and Northwestern has 4, and both should/could qualify. In the past, the Big Ten has had trouble filling its 7 bids but this year appears not to be the care. Parity is good for the old bottom line, it seems. I see Northwestern getting the shaft and Purdue (spoiler alert!) going to the Armed Forces Bowl to fill in for a Pac-10 team.

Conference USA:
Conference USA has a hearty 5 bids, the most of any mid-major. I predict East Carolina to win the whole shebang and earn a bid to the Liberty Bowl.

More than anywhere else, mid-majors generally have teams picked out-of-order to increase the chance of the game actually selling tickets. This is why I almost always pick Southern Miss to go to the GMAC bowl in Mobile, as it’s about a 2 hour drive away. My predicted title game runner-up, Tulsa, then ends up in the Bowl, which always makes me wonder why they just don’t drop the stupid “dot-com” like everyone else did 4 years ago (c.f., “ Bowl” -> Insight Bowl”). The last two bids are held by geographically-named bowls (New Orleans and Hawaii), where the conference might be represented by UTEP and Central Florida.

Navy will easily qualify for its berth in the Poinsettia Bowl. At 1-6, Notre Dame will probably not reel off a 5-game winnings streak and miss a bowl game for the first time since 2003. Were I a lesser man, I would make a quip about how this helps postpone them extending their consecutive bowl games without a win streak. I’m not, so I won’t.

The MAC:
The Mid-American Conference has 3 bids. Though it says its champion can go to either the Motor City or GMAC Bowls, due to geographic proximity the champion almost always goes to the Motor City. This will probably happen again, with Central Michigan heading to Detroit. I then like Miami of Ohio to go Mobile and Ball State to go to Toronto.

The MWC:
The Mountain West Conference has 4 bids. Its champion goes to Las Vegas, and BYU is destroying most of its conference foes so far, so I’ll send them there. Wyoming goes to San Diego, Air Force to the Armed Forces Bowl, and then New Mexico to the New Mexico Bowl. Falls into place nicely, I’d say.

The Pac-10:
Though this will probably change next week, I have both Oregon and Cal going to BCS games. I like Southern Cal then to go to the Holiday Bowl against Texas. Traditional powers, usually good game, etc., etc. Next up is the Sun Bowl, where I’ll send Arizona State.

After that, the Pac-10’s games aren’t all that great, in terms of stature. I like UCLA going to the Las Vegas Bowl and Oregon State to the Emerald, leaving the Armed Forces Bowl without a team. (Of the current 2-win teams, Washington probably has the best chance of winning 6.)

The SEC:
LSU and Kentucky will both go to the BCS in these projections. “However,” you say, “didn’t South Carolina beat Kentucky?” Why yes they did! But I never said that Kentucky would go to the SEC title game, did I? Late losses usually kill teams, so South Carolina’s loss will probably know them out of the top 14 of the BCS and send them to the Capital One Bowl.

The SEC groups their 3-5 and 6-8 picks, presumably to give the bowls more flexibility who they chose. I like Auburn, Florida, and Tennessee to finish in the 3-5 cluster and end up in the Peach, Outback, and Cotton bowls respectively. I like Alabama in the Music City to face Tech, Arkansas in Memphis, and Georgia in Shreveport.

The Sun Belt:
Troy has won 4 straight and I like that trend to continue. FAU also has a shot, but Troy has just dominated everyone since that Oklahoma State game.

The WAC:
The WAC has three bowl bids, all primarily designed to give their remote teams somewhere to go if they qualify. In a rare move, the Humanitarian Bowl actually gains its old name back after being known by it’s sponsor (Micron) for the past few years. (Hint, hint Chick-fil-a Bowl.) Boise State will almost certainly end up there. Then there’s the Hawaii Bowl. Hawaii is 18th in the initial BCS, so even if they do win out I highly doubt they’ll be able to climb high enough to qualify. So Hawaii stays there. For the New Mexico Bowl, I pretty much threw a dart and it landed on Fresno State, so there you go.

Anyway, that’s all for this week. I’ll update these every Monday the rest of the way, with the the release of each new BCS. This season has been wacky so far, so these are very subject to change.

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