Bowl Predictions 2011: Final

This is it. I’m going and writing this up now. We’ll see what’s still true later today.

I have come up eight possible scenarios based on the outcome of the BCS today. Basically, these are the three most important variables:

  • Whether Oklahoma State moves ahead of Alabama to #2 in the BCS
  • Whether Michigan moves from #16 to #14 or better in the BCS
  • Whether TCU moves from #18 to #16 or better in the BCS

This means that it is currently very difficult to nail down exactly what will happen with the Big Ten, Big 12, or Mountain West. (The SEC is unaffected because Alabama will go to a BCS game if it falls out of the top two.)

For each set of scenarios, there are constants. You can see those constants here. Also common in most of these scenarios is that I do not think Boise State will get a BCS at-large bid. If TCU does not make it, then I think that’s that for the mid-majors this year – unless Michigan also does not make it, thus limiting the available/attractive at-large bids.

Which do I think is most likely? What I call “Scenario 1”: a LSU-Alabama rematch with Michigan in and TCU out. This is currently what is available on the main page. Each scenario is also available in its entirety:

Why do I think the first is the most likely? I don’t think enough voters will suddenly decide to put Oklahoma State ahead of Alabama and Stanford to pass them in the standings. Also, while many thought the Cowboys would pass Alabama in all the computers, the first poll out of the gate is the Sagarin ratings, which puts Alabama 2nd and Oklahoma State 3rd. While the highest and lowest positions for each team are thrown out, if any of the other five polls break that way then we will not have agreement among them. Also, all these teams in front of Michigan lost yesterday: Virginia Tech, Houston, Oklahoma, and Michigan State. The last two, specifically, are likely to fall behind Michigan in the new poll. The questions is: will they also fall behind TCU? The closest loss in the rankings to TCU was Georgia, which will fall behind them, but around them in the rankings are Baylor (which just beat Texas) and Clemson (which just demolished Virginia Tech). Also, I think many of the newly-minted two-loss teams today could settle in ahead of TCU. So in other words, it doesn’t look good for the Horned Frogs. And given the general leanings of the folks who control the BCS, I don’t think they’ll give out a bone to Boise State, even though they could be as high as 5th in the new poll.

I’ll start with the conferences that are well-defined in my template. Again, regardless of what happens at the top of the polls, that will likely not have any effect on these, and are constant across all scenarios.

With Clemson back to its old ways in the ACC title game, this makes the Chick-fil-a a very good bet to grab Virginia Tech, which means the FSU-Notre Dame matchup is back in play for the Champs. There’s still some room for FSU to go to Atlanta, but I don’t think VPI will fall past the Champs even though they got blown out. The rest of the conference looks pretty straightforward: Tech to the Sun, NC State to the Belk, Virginia to the Music City, Wake Forest to the Independence, and North Carolina to the Military.

Big East
The Champs Sports Bowl will almost certainly use its option to take Notre Dame this year. After that, only news searches revealed my least favorite bowl scenario is going to happen. Read the article if you want the gory details. The upshot is that other online search put Louisville as a solid lock of the Belk, Rutgers in the Pinstripe, and Pitt to the Compass, which leaves Cincy to the Liberty.

Conference USA
Houston losing was really bad for the conference. Due to the wacky Big East/SEC Liberty Bowl thing it also looks like Southern Miss won’t be going there. While there supposedly is an “order” for the C-USA bowls that I found today, it still doesn’t make much sense to me. Either way, they will fall a team short, most likely in the New Orleans Bowl. I put Southern Miss in the Compass Bowl and Houston in the TicketCity. I put SMU in the other Dallas bowl game, Marshall in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, and shipped Tulsa out to Hawaii. But of all my picks, short of guessing at-large teams, I generally always feel the least confident about C-USA. Well, and the Big East.

With their win in the title game, NIU should be bound for the Bowl in Mobile. I saw a rumor say that Western Michigan would get the nod for Pizza Bowl, so I put conference runner-up Ohio out in Boise, with Toledo and Ball State waiting nervously by the phone.

I think Stanford is a lock for a BCS at-large berth, which leaves the Pac-12 short a team or two, even with UCLA’s waiver. As the best remaining team on the board at this point, I put Washington in the Alamo and Cal in the Holiday. Utah is the only other team with a winning record, so I stuck them in the Sun, and figured that left Arizona State for the Las Vegas Bowl. This leaves, of course, UCLA, which a trip to the Fight Hunger Bowl.

Since LSU and Alabama will both be in the BCS in any scenario, we can go ahead and figure the rest of the BCS. I like Arkansas to get the nod for the Capital One, which also lets the SEC bowls switch things up. Georgia and South Carolina, then will end up in the Outback and Cotton bowls, and maybe even in that order. Auburn is pretty solidly next on the plate, and with the worry of an Auburn-Clemson rematch gone, they’ll get a trip to Atlanta. I think the Gator, regardless of scenario, will try to set up the Urban Meyer thing, so they’ll probably take Florida. At this point, what’s left is Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. I like both to stay home, relatively speaking, with Vandy going to the Music City and Miss State to the de facto capital of Mississippi, Memphis.

Sun Belt
Arkansas State, Florida International, and UL-Lafayette are all set. It’s not looking good for Western Kentucky to get their first every bowl bid, though.

Hawaii lost to BYU, so unlike UCLA, they will not be bowling at 6-7. Utah State and Louisiana Tech are set with bids already. There are some rumblings Nevada may work out an arrangement to play closer to home (say, the Fight Hunger), but without anything more concrete I’m sticking with putting them in the Hawaii Bowl.

Okay, cool, so what about the conferences that are affected by the BCS? Well, let’s start with the Big 12.

Big 12
Whether Oklahoma State gets into the title game doesn’t matter here, as they will be in the BCS either way. The question is whether Kansas State will get an at-large berth. Oklahoma, Houston, and Virginia Tech all lost in front of them and will probably fall behind K-State, which may make them an attractive candidate generally for lack of better options. The only team that threatens K-State in this regard is Boise State. I am perhaps not giving Boise enough credit for the BCS folks here, but I think the Wildcats would be an attractive option for the Fiesta or Sugar, while Boise is probably more attractive to the Fiesta. So in all scenarios where either Michigan or TCU do not make it, or both, I have Kansas State in over Boise. The BCS bowl committees may surprise me, though! It’s happened before.

Outside of that, I think Oklahoma is a pretty safe bet for the Cotton in any scenario where K-State is in the BCS, but if K-State is not in the BCS I think they are bound for Arlington. From there, things pretty much just go in this order for me: Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri, and Iowa State. Just push them up or down a slot depending on who gets into the BCS, basically.

Big Ten
Wisconsin is in and Michigan State is out, in all scenarios. The question is Michigan. If Michigan is in, and I think they will be, I think the Capital One jumps at the chance to grab Nebraska for the second time ever and the first since 1990. If Michigan is not in the BCS, however, then I think they will go to the Capital One. Either way, I think Michigan State is a good bet for the Outback Bowl, followed by Iowa if Michigan is in or Nebraska if Michigan is out. (If Michigan is out, some of my scenarios have Texas-Nebraska in the Insight Bowl. That’d be a fun one, I’d wager, but probably not likely.) I have Ohio State in the Gator regardless of scenario as well.

Then things start to get interesting. The Big Ten has too many teams for its bids, the questions is if this will be one or two extra teams. If Michigan is in, I think that will put Penn State in the Car Care Bowl, Purdue in the TicketCity, and Northwester in the Pizza with Illinois waiting anxiously. If Michigan is out, then I like Iowa to the Car Care, Penn State to the TicketCity, and Purdue in the Pizza, with Northwestern and Illinois waiting.

Mountain West
If Boise is not in, then all indications are they will go to the Las Vegas Bowl. If TCU is not in then they will go to the Poinsettia. The only way TCU goes to the Vegas, it appears, is if Boise gets into the BCS. If TCU is in the BCS, then it looks like (as of the wee hours of Sunday) that the Poinsettia will not take the hometown San Diego State Aztecs and instead take Wyoming. All scenarios put Air Force in the Independence again, while Wyoming goes to the New Mexico if they’re still available, and San Diego State if they’re not. With the former scenario, SDSU will need an at-large berth.

The leftovers
In no scenario do I have Ball State or Western Kentucky making a bowl game. (Sorry Hilltoppers.) Basically, all these scenarios have an affect on how many teams need at-large bids. In cases where the Big 12 gets two teams in, I have Temple in the Military Bowl and Iowa State if not. I also have Illinois going out west to the Fight Hunger Bowl in all scenarios. That leaves the New Orleans Bowl and New Mexico Bowl needing teams, which depends heavily on if Boise/TCU and/or Michigan got BCS bids. If both do, then I have Toledo and Temple in those games. If the former but not the latter then I have Northwestern and Temple, with Toledo out completely. If the Michigan gets in and Boise/TCU do not, then  I have Toledo and San Diego State occupying those slots. If neither get in, then I have Northwestern and Toledo in those slots.

Note that when it comes to the at-larges, the situation tends to be extremely fluid and there can also be horsetrading (like I alluded to with Nevada).

I will update all 8 scenarios throughout the day as the bids come in, so stay tuned. If you really care about how I determine whether I predicted the matchups correctly, I will probably go with the scenario that most closely matches out the BCS actually turns out. I’ll be keeping track of the final destinations here in a separate directory, even.