Bowl Predictions 2012: Week 1

It’s that time of year again, folks! This is where I try to predict the future. For the next month-and-a-half I will attempt to tell you where your team will go. After that, I then try to predict all the games. It’s difficult, but this is my 14th crack at this, so I like to think I know what I’m talking about.

Through the remainder of the fall, the predictions will always be available right here.

Anyway, let’s start by looking at the BCS picture.

Figuring this out is always the tough part. It requires weighing a multitude of factors and attempting to predict the mindset two disparate groups of people and a set of formulas. What I usually do is I sit down late Saturday or Sunday and try to basically predict what every team is going to do for the rest of the season. For the non-BCS leagues, this usually doesn’t impact anything unless there’s a BCS buster, which it doesn’t look like there will be (unless Boise State wins out, but I don’t seem them doing that). For the six “AQ” conferences, this means figuring out their champion and runners-up to see if they will end up with two losses or less.

This year that proved to be difficult. From where I sit right now, I don’t see any 1-loss major conference teams, other than Florida. I have Alabama and Oregon running the table, and thus, in the National Championship game. This means the Sugar and Rose bowls get first cracks at replacements from the pool of eligible teams. Notre Dame is the big prize, as they will likely be eligible as a BCS at-large for the first time in awhile as long as they have two losses or less. (I have them losing to Southern Cal and Oklahoma.) I would think the Sugar would jump at the chance to snag Notre Dame. The Rose will probably be able to pick from USC or Oregon State. Even though USC is local I have them going there for now. As the Big 12 champion, Oklahoma will go to the Fiesta Bowl, which has the first at-large team pick this year. I have Florida going there. The matchup for the Sugar is problematic. They will have to pick a team from the Big 12 since the ACC likely will not qualify two teams (and I doubt they would take them anyway) and the Big East is the Big East. For now, I have them taking my top 2-loss Big 12 team, West Virginia. From there, the Orange gets the ACC champ versus Big East champ yet again. Right now I have Florida State and Cincinnati penciled in.

With FSU winning the conference, that leaves Clemson as the clear second choice. It’s been a year since the Tigers were in Atlanta, so I’ll send them to the Chick-fil-a. (Also, the ACC bowl rules don’t leave much of a choice.) From there, things drop off rapidly. I have NC State going 8-4 and heading to the Russell Athletic (formerly Champ Sports) Bowl, and then a pair if 7-5 teams in VPI and Miami going to the Sun and Belk Bowls. Right now I have GT squeaking in at 6-6 and going to the Music City. Maryland falls just sort at 5-7 and UNC is ineligible even though I have them at 10-2. But, wait, what’s that? Yes, Duke is on the page. I have them going 5-7 and there’s a new set of eligibility rules. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Big East
I have Cincinnati winning the whole thing, followed by Louisville going to the Russell Athletic, and Rutgers going to the Belk. I bent over backwards to get UConn to 6-6 and put them in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Big Ten
As we all already know at this point, the Big Ten is a disaster this year. I have Ohio State winning out, but of course they’re not eligible, so they’re out. I also have Penn State going 6-6 but they’re also ineligible. So I have Michigan coming out on top and heading to Pasadena, with the usual assortment of teams behind them.

Big 12
Thanks to generous out-of-conference scheduling, 8 of the Big 12’s 10 teams will go bowling this year. I have Oklahoma going to the Fiesta and West Virginia going to the Sugar despite a late loss to Oklahoma. I know it seems unlikely right now but I still have Texas doing well over the rest of the season and going to the Cotton, while I’m not sure Kansas State is for real so I have them going to the Alamo.

Oregon and USC are probably BCS-bound, so that leaves out-of-nowhere 10-win Oregon State going to the Alamo. The most interesting matchup is probably Stanford-Baylor in the Holiday Bowl, which will be the “A Year Too Late Bowl” if that actually comes to pass.

I have Alabama and Florida going to the BCS. I think it’s probably unlikely, but it was too hard to resist putting Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl against Texas. (If it’s possible, I can’t imagine them not doing it though.) I have both South Carolina and Georgia at 10-2 and currently in the Capital One and Outback Bowls. Since that’s where they went last year, that could easily be flipped. I have Tennessee going 7-5, as well as Ole Miss and Vanderbilt going 6-6 to squeak in.

Everyone Else
I have Ohio running the table in the MAC, but unfortunately that won’t be enough to get them into the BCS picture. Conference USA is just brutal this year. What is usually a plentiful source of teams may only have four teams make it to six wins, though UCF and Tulsa could both win 10 games. If you look at the table, you may notice “UTSA??” and “Duke??”. What the double question marks mean is that they qualify under the new set of eligibility rules that area also detailed on the bowls page. Texas-San Antonio qualifies as a 6-6 or better team that is a transitional team, and Duke qualifies as a 5-7 team that finished in the top 5 of last year’s APR. Otherwise, I will be two teams short.

So far the past couple years, everything has worked itself out such that I am not short of teams. Right now, however, it’s hard to see how there will be enough teams without invoking the new rule.

As usual, everything will be different next week. The biggest game of the weekend, by far, is South Carolina-Florida. This will likely determine the SEC Champ and thus the SEC’s second BCS team this year.