Bowl Predictions 2011: Week 6

Chaos reigned supreme last weekend. Now we stare down the barrel as someone will most likely play someone they already played in the BCS Championship Game. Remember folks, every game counts, unless it doesn’t.

I’m writing this as I go. Since this is an electronic document I could, of course, actually just move things around to their customary order first, but that would be too easy. So let’s start off with the little guys. The final predictions will be up at their usual place.

The first announcements of the year that I saw where that UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State have accepted bids to the New Orleans and bowls, respectively. I also have FIU and Western Kentucky qualifying as well.

BYU also formally accepted its bid to the Armed Forces Bowl.

Hawaii could’ve gained eligibility but only managed to put up 21 points against one of the worse defenses in college football. Since they play 13 games, they must have a winning record, and so at 5-6 now they will need to beat Tulane (extremely doable) and BYU. While they can beat BYU, I don’t think they will. Elsewhere in the WAC, Nevada lost a pivotal home matchup to Louisiana Tech, but that may not really matter that much as the WAC moves teams around based on what they think will work best for their games. Therefore, I still sent Nevada to the poinsettia, LaTech to Boise, and 6-6 Utah State to Hawaii.

In the MAC, I don’t see Kent State or Eastern Michigan winning their final games to get eligible. Ohio has already clinched the MAC East, and I think they will go ahead and play Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. The MAC champion goes to the bowl, but I always figure it’s best for a MAC team to actually play in the Midwest. Nonetheless, I’m guessing Ohio will go down to Mobile, NIU will go to Detroit, and I’ll pick Toledo to go out to Boise. That leaves Temple, Ball State, and Western Michigan as eagerly anticipating at-large bids elsewhere, which should materialize.

The Mountain West is going about how one would expect now that Boise is not going to the BCS. TCU will win the conference even if they sleepwalk through the UNLV game and get themselves an invite to Vegas. Boise will be a slam dunk for the Poinsettia unless an utter collapse elsewhere in the BCS occurs and they get invited as an at-large. Then it comes down to the Independence Bowl, which will likely have to choose between Wyoming and San Diego State. (Air Force should get eligible, but they do need to beat Colorado State Saturday since they played 2 DI-AA teams this year.) I’m just going to go in standings order for now (Wyoming to Independence, SDSU to New Mexico), leaving Air Force as a potential at-large for later.
Since it’s next on my list, the other two service academies will not be bowling this year after Navy’s loss to San Jose State. Notre Dame will be bowling somewhere, and I think it’s likely that somewhere will be the Champs Sports Bowl (otherwise, it will be the Pinstripe Bowl).

In Conference USA, East Carolina and Marshall will play this weekend for a bowl bid, and I like ECU in that game. Southern Mississippi, despite an inexplicable loss to UAB, should clinch the division. Houston will win the conference, of course, and should be in line for a BCS bowl bid, but they will need to beat Tulsa Saturday and USM next week to clinch it for sure. I have UTEP beating UCF Saturday to get to 6-6, giving us 6 total C-USA teams. I like USM to the Liberty bowl, but after that it’s all guesswork. C-USA does not explicitly order their bids, so I look at the payouts, with the TicketCity being the highest, followed by the Hawaii Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl. The New Orleans and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl sit at the bottom. I’ll go ahead and send Tulsa to the TicketCity and SMU to the hometown Armed Forces (literally, as it’s at their home stadium). That leaves us 2 6-6 teams for 3 bowls. Let’s pencil in ECU to go to Hawaii and UTEP to St. Petersburg, leaving us needing another team in New Orleans.

A LSU-Alabama rematch seems nearly inevitable at this point, unless all hell breaks even more loose this weekend. I highly dislike the idea of the rematch, after all, the college football is regular seasons is so short it’s not really interesting for teams to play each other twice. This year, more than ever, shows how difficult it is to resolve differences between teams that play vastly different schedules over only 12 games, and why we really need a playoff.

In the Rose, I’ve got ahead and put in Wisconsin and Oregon, though both will need to play conference championship games this year. For the other autobids, I’ve put in Oklahoma State to the Fiesta and Virginia Tech to the Orange.

The Sugar gets the first at-large pick because it lost its autobid champion to the national title game. This is where it gets tough, though. Unless some other weird stuff happens, the SEC can’t get a third team into the BCS, which limits the sort of teams that the Sugar typically picks. I will go ahead and put in Kansas State there, since Oklahoma I have Oklahoma losing to Oklahoma State this weekend. (Note that if Bedlam goes the other way around, both teams could still get into the BCS.) Now the Fiesta has a difficult choice, but I think the area’s NFL fans will flock to see Andrew Luck, so I will put Stanford in there. Now we still have to put whoever the heck is going twin the Big East as well as Houston somewhere. Due to proximity, I figure the Sugar will fall on that sword and take the Cougars. I have the Big East finishing in a 4-way tie for first, so I’m taking West Virginia out of that group.

Even with their inexplicable loss to NC State blowing their BCS hopes, Clemson will likely still be attractive enough for the Chick-fil-a Bowl. Following that, there are 4 ACC teams that will finish 5-3 (most likely): Wake Forest, Florida State, Virginia, and Georgia Tech. Of this group, FSU is probably the most attractive for the Champs Sports at the ACC #3 slot. Also, if they take Notre Dame is creates a huge “name” matchup. ACC #4 is the Sun Bowl and I think it’s likely GT will end up there. The Belk Bowl will probably use its option to take a 4-4 NC State team over UVA and Wake, but the Music City will probably have no issues with taking UVA. (This is where I had Miami going previously, but with their announcement that they won’t accept a bowl bid it’s sort of a moot point now.) With Carolina at 3-5, this means Wake can’t fall any farther than the Independence Bowl, with the Tar Heels then ending up in DC for the Military Bowl.

Big 12
If Oklahoma doesn’t make a BCS game, they will be a very obvious candidate for the Cotton Bowl. At this point, the Alamo will probably have no choice but to take Baylor. This leaves the rest of the 7-5-/6-6 Big 12 misfits to fight over the remaining bids. I’ll go ahead and put Texas in the Insight Bowl and Missouri in the Holiday, leaving TAMU to the Car Care Bowl (of Texas) and Iowa State to the Pinstripe.

Big East
Again: I really hate picking the Big East. As I said above, I have 4 teams finishing with a 5-2 conference record currently. Since the Champs will probably take Notre Dame, that leaves the next selection to the Belk Bowl, where I guess Cincy has the best chance of going except that they already played NC State this year, so I’ll switch that to Louisville instead. Rutgers likes to think of themselves as “New York City’s college football team” so I’ll send them to the Pinstripe. I’ll pencil Cincy in for the Compass Bowl and so that leaves only Pitt for the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s.

Big Ten
I’m not sure the Big Ten will get two teams into the BCS this year. If they do, it will be Michigan. Since Michigan State will suffer a third loss in the Big Ten title game they won’t likely be eligible, which means Michigan could sneak into the top 14. If they don’t, the Capital One Bowl is good consolation prize, especially after the past few years. Fret not, Sparty supporters, as I just have them landing softly in the Outback Bowl. From there, I’m sure the Insight Bowl would love to match Nebraska back up with Texas, and given the Gator Bowl’s scruples I doubt they would hesitate to take Penn State. Iowa’s large traveling fanbase should be a slam dunk for the Car Care Bowl (of Texas!). Form there, there’s a bevy of unattractive options at 6-6 and 7-5, such as Northwestern, Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois. The only two bowls left are the TicketCity Bowl and Little Ceasar’s Pizza Bowl, so I’ll go ahead and take the biggest “names” for those two, with the Buckeyes going to Dallas and Illinois to Detroit, leaving Purdue and Northwestern to fend for themselves.

With Oregon and Stanford in the BCS and USC ineligible, the picture looks pretty bleak if you’re a bowl affiliated with the Pac-12. I actually have Utah winning the Pac-12 South and getting to an 8-4 record, so you know what, I’ll go ahead and put them in the Alamo. The Holiday is next up. I want to put Washington there but they went to San Diego last year. UCLA is also 5-4 in conference but they’re also actually awful and may fire their coach after the season. I’ll go ahead and put them there though and send Washington El Paso. That leaves me 6-6 Arizona State and Cal, so I’ll send the Sun Devils to Vegas and let the Bears stay in their temporary home for the Fight Hunger Bowl.

Arkansas is the jewel of the remaining SEC teams and will certainly end up in the Capital One Bowl. Of course, that means we have to figure out someone else to send to the Cotton Bowl. That’ll be between Georgia and South Carolina most likely, so I’ll put UGA in the Outback and send the Gamecocks to Dallas. Auburn’s the only team left at this point with a winning record, so I’ll set up Tigers-Tigers in the Chick-fil-a. The Gator is the next up, and well, it’s so easy to put the Gators there. (Almost… too easy.)  I’ll go ahead and put the Vols in the Music City, leaving us 2 teams and bowls! Memphis is basically the capital of Mississippi anyway, so that makes Miss State a natural fit for the Liberty and relegates Vandy to the Compass.

At-large Resolution
At this point, I still need four teams for the New Mexico, New Orleans, Military, and Fight Hunger Bowls. Northwestern and Purdue will probably go somewhere, so I’ll put Northwestern in the Military and Purdue in the Fight Hunger. I figure 8-4 Temple will get a bid somewhere, so let’s go with the New Orleans Bowl. That leaves us the New Mexico bowl… this is a guess, but I’ll go ahead and put 8-4 FIU there.