Bowl Predictions 2012: Week 3

It’s that time again. Predictions are up at the usual place. Things have changed a bit since the first two weeks. Heading into the final month of the season, most teams only have four games left and the picture starts to become clearer for many teams in hovering the 5 to 7 win mark. Of course, we also have new complications due to thinks like Oklahoma and USC losing again. So let’s start with the BCS.

Like many other prognosticators, I still have Alabama and Oregon as my #1 and #2. Oregon’s schedule (plus the Pac-12 title game) should help them out in the computers. Notre Dame should slip in the machine rankings over the final weeks of the season, especially if USC loses again (which they will at least once). Kansas State will be a tougher nut to crack, but Oregon will remain #2 in both human polls if they win out, and again, they have the benefit of playing a 13th game. (Though it is worth noting the Pac-12 title game and Kansas State will both be on Saturday, December 1, so there isn’t a “one of the teams didn’t play the past week” advantage.)

Florida may have actually improved their chances of going to a BCS game by missing out on the SEC title game. I still think they will win out, including a win over my predicted ACC champion Florida State. If Florida only has one loss and does not play in the SEC title game (thus meaning they won’t lose to Alabama), I still like them to go to the Sugar.

The Rose Bowl is a bigger question. Nebraska’s win over Michigan this past weekend makes them the Big Ten frontrunners, so I’ll put them in the Rose. However, with an at-least two-loss Nebraska there, does the Rose gain anything by taking Notre Dame, or will they defer to the Fiesta and pick-up Oklahoma? Nebraska-Oklahoma was once one the biggest rivalries in the sport and the two teams have not played since 2010. Either way, with USC’s loss to Arizona State this weekend, it does not look like there will be a Pac-12 runner up worthy of BCS consideration.

If the Rose does pass on an undefeated or 1-loss Notre Dame, then they will definitely snapped up by the Fiesta to play a jilted Kansas State. I actually have ND going undefeated now, but if everything breaks as explained above it won’t matter.

New to the predictions this week is Boise State. Boise sits at #19 in the current BCS rankings, three spots away from the promised land provided they don’t lose and finish ahead of the Big Ten champion (which they currently will). Boise is split in the human polls, with the coaches putting them at #14 and Harris at #17. It stands to reason they’ll pick up a couple spots in the Harris poll if they don’t lose, and maybe even pick up a couple more spots in some of the computers (two of which don’t even have them in their top 25’s). Either way, if Boise makes it them they will go to the Orange and Louisville will be in the Sugar.

Possibly even more interesting is what happens if Boise doesn’t make it, however. I’m not entirely sure they will, and I very, very nearly put Clemson in the Sugar. It could happen, especially if they beat a now-depleted South Carolina in their last game of the season. The BCS feels almost like it was counting on always having at least two Big Ten and two SEC teams every year. With Ohio State and Penn State on probation and entirely too-many SEC teams at the top of the polls, this creates a logjam of teams near the fringes that could get in.

FSU is in the driver’s seat of the ACC. Less clear is just who the heck will win the Coastal. I have Miami pulling it off, finally setting up the FSU-Miami ACC title game that the conference bigwigs envisioned all those years ago when they set up the divisions and picked Florida cities for the original title games. Even as title game losers, I like Miami for the Russel Athletic Bowl. Clemson and NC State should follow into the Chick-fil-a and Sun Bowls. I have three Coastal at 6-6, including Virginia Tech, Duke, and probably entirely too optimistically at this point, Georgia Tech. I put those three into the Belk, Independence, and Music City, respectively.

Big 12
I finally have to give up on my dream of Texas playing Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. I project Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to finish ahead of the Longhorns in the conference, which just makes the notion too infeasible at this point. I put TTU in the Cotton, and then the Cowboys into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Texas is relegated to the Alamo. The Holiday Bowl could be fun again with my projected matchup of West Virginia and Southern Cal. I also have Iowa State and TCU making in at 6-6, but I put Baylor at 4-8.

Big East
Well, Louisville hasn’t lost to a MAC team yet so they’re the Big East frontrunners now. New this week is 6-6 Syracuse sneaking in, but I couldn’t put them into the Pinstripe Bowl.

Big Ten
I have Nebraska going 10-2, but remember, Wisconsin just as easily win the Big Ten title game, which I have them entering at 8-4. Either way, the Badgers may be the only eligible team from the Leaders division that even makes it to 6-6 or better, though Indiana or Purdue could do it, at least in theory. The Legends compensates by getting everyone eligible, even Minnesota, which thanks to a generous schedule can go 2-6 in the Big Ten and still make a bowl.

USC’s loss this past weekend makes it very difficult for me to project them beating Oregon and Notre Dame. I now have Arizona State winning the Pac-12 South. Stanford could finish 9-3 but I don’t think losing to Oregon in November will help their BCS chances. I actually even have Utah sneaking in at 6-6, after upsetting Cal this past weekend.

I already talked about the very top of the SEC, so let’s focus on the runners up. I don’t have Georgia or South Carolina losing again, except for the former in the SEC title game. Nonetheless, I put Georgia in the Capital One Bowl because South Carolina played there last year. Everything else was pretty much going down the line. I do have Tennessee sneaking at 6-6. Hey, they’ve done it before.

That’s pretty much it for this week. Next week I’ll incorporate news into the projections, which especially helps sort out my guesses for bowls that won’t get their contractually obligated teams (read: the Military and BBVA Compass bowls).