Okay, it’s that time again. For those who just want to get straight to the good stuff, look no further.
First, a note on the process. At this point, we’re now firmly at the point in the season where we start looking up news and notes online. If you want to try this for yourself, I generally just use Google news, type the name of the bowl in double quotes, and also “-site:bleacherreport.com” because that site is written mostly by a bunch of amateurs who are worse at this predictions thing than I am. For the most part, you want articles from newspaper beat writers. This is mostly because they generally actually talk to bowl officials to try to get an idea of where the teams they cover are going. Also, this clues them into any bowl selection minutiae you might not otherwise know. For instance, the BBVA Compass Bowl is guaranteed a SEC team this year because they didn’t get one last year. The downside is, you need to have a gauge to know whether the minutiae is true or if they’re guessing. I also still see some inaccuracies in newspaper articles, such as one that claimed the Cotton Bowl gets to pick a SEC East team before the Capital One Bowl does, a claim refuted multiple times by the bowl’s official Twitter feed last night. (The guy behind the tweets for both the Capital One Bowl and Russell Athletic Bowl is pretty awesome by the way, and many of my problems would be solved if all bowls were as transparent about their selection process as those two are.)
Also on that note, I am going to switch up the format of this post a bit. Because there is probably something wrong with me, I will run down all of the bowl games in this week’s post and give, at a minimum, the possible teams in play for each. I should note, though, that in almost any at-large team scenario I am generally guessing from my available pool of leftover teams.
I will start with the BCS as usual, and then work chronologically backward since, roughly speaking, the more prestigious bowls are located closer to New Year’s Day than not. As with the main bowl prediction table, an asterisk means the team has accepted a bid, two asterisks means I predicted the bid correctly, and a question mark indicates a fill-in team (whether a contractually obligated back-up team or a general at-large).
BCS National Championship Game
Pick: BCS #1 vs. BCS #2
Prediction: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
After all the stuff I typed up last week, the simplest possible scenario prevailed (unfortunately). The winner of the SEC title game will play Notre Dame for the BCS crown. That’s pretty much it.
Pick: BCS (Big 12 champion) vs. BCS (at-large)
Prediction: Kansas State vs. Oregon
Possibilities: Stanford, Oklahoma
I don’t really think the Fiesta would take Stanford over Oregon if they lost the Pac-12 title game this weekend, but it’s a possibility. Oklahoma would go here as the Big 12 champ if they beat TCU and Kansas State loses to Texas.
Pick: BCS (SEC champion) vs. BCS (at-large)
Prediction: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Possibilities: Kansas State, Clemson, Kent State, Big East champion
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Kent State is currently #17 in the latest BCS rankings. While it’s more likely they would wind up in the Orange Bowl, if they beat Northern Illinois in the MAC title game Friday night and UCLA and Texas lose as I expect then they will finish in the top 16 of the BCS rankings. Since all the possibilities for Big East champion are currently not in the top 25, they will finish ahead of them. The only catch is that I don’t see Kent State beating Northern Illinois. NIU themselves also has a shot, but they’re currently at #21 and so farther away from the promised land. If a MAC team does qualify, then I would expect the Sugar to take the Big East champ. Note that as long as Florida stays ranked about the SEC championship game loser in the BCS rankings, they are guaranteed a spot in this game since they will finish #3 in the rankings. There is also a slim chance of Clemson still getting an at-large bid if both Oklahoma and Kansas State lose and the Sugar decides they’d rather have a two-loss Clemson than a three-loss OU or two-loss K-State.
Pick: BCS (ACC champion) vs. BCS (at-large)
Prediction: Florida State vs. Rutgers
Possibilities: Georgia Tech, Kent State, some other team from the Big East
I think you all know about how much I dislike deciphering the Big East at this point (and with both Rutgers and Louisville losing last weekend, I feel like that sort of proved my point). If you hate the BCS, you should probably be rooting for Georgia Tech against, like, Syracuse or something. (As a GT fan, we could always use more fans, so you’re more than welcome to get on our bandwagon to play in the most absurd BCS bowl since the either the 2006 Orange Bowl (Wake Forest-Louisville) or the 2011 Fiesta Bowl (Oklahoma-Connecticut).)
Pick: BCS (Big Ten champion) vs. BCS (Pac-12 champion)
Prediction: Nebraska vs. Stanford
Possibilities: Wisconsin, UCLA
The Rose is pretty straightforward at this point.
Pick: Sun Belt #2 vs. MAC #2
Prediction: Arkansas State vs. Kent State
Possibilities: any other Sun Belt team, Northern Illinois, any other MAC team if Kent State goes to BCS
As far as I know, this bowl does not have any contract stipulation regarding the records of the team it picks. It picks behind the New Orleans Bowl for the Sun Belt (which has already taken Louisiana-Lafayette) and the Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl, which will take the MAC champion this year.
BBVA Compass Bowl
Pick: SEC #8/9 vs. Big East #5/6
Prediction: Mississippi vs. Ohio?
Possibilities: Pittsburgh, any bowl eligible Sun Belt team, any bowl eligible MAC team
If Pitt gets to 6-6, they will go here or to Tampa. In my news search earlier, I did find that due to the wacky swap with the Liberty and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl last year this game will get a SEC team this year. I would normally think Ole Miss would go to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. Note that Vandy is maybe a possibility here, but I believe the SEC does have some language regarding records in their deals and Vandy is 8-4 while Ole Miss is 6-6.
Pick: Big 12 #2 vs. SEC #3/4
Prediction: Texas vs. Louisiana State
Possibilities: Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
The Cotton Bowl gets the first pick of the Big 12 teams after the BCS and will grab Oklahoma or Kansas State if they’re forced out of the BCS either because both lost or because a MAC team made it in. Most likely, they will be picking between Texas and Oklahoma State. I went with Texas, but I figure either is equally likely if they can’t get Texas A&M. The Cotton Bowl’s agreement with the SEC says they will generally “prefer” a SEC West team, and this year figures to be no exception. The Cotton would probably prefer Texas A&M, but they will almost certainly take LSU if they are available, which I figure to be the case.
Pick: Big Ten #3 vs. SEC #3/4
Prediction: Northwestern vs. South Carolina
Possibilities: Nebraska, Michigan, Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Mississippi State
If Nebraska loses the Big Ten title game, they could land here. Likely I think they will take which of Michigan or Northwestern the Capital One doesn’t take. On the SEC side, just as the Cotton is supposed to prefer SEC West teams, the Outback is supposed to prefer teams from the East. I think they will probably take South Carolina, but the SEC title game loser is a very strong possibility. I sort of went with this to avoid a potential South Carolina-Clemson rematch in the Chick-fil-a Bowl, but in real life the Outback Bowl doesn’t have to care about that.
Capital One Bowl
Pick: SEC #2 vs. Big Ten #2
Prediction: Texas A&M vs. Michigan
Possibilities: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana State, South Carolina, Northwestern, Nebraska
I think it’s pretty unlikely that the Capital One Bowl would take either conference’s title game loser. More likely is that they’ll take a team that hasn’t played in a Florida bowl game since the 60’s and has the nation’s most exciting player as their quarterback. On the Big Ten side, they can consider Nebraska if they lose to Wisconsin, but I think more likely is that they are choosing between Northwestern and Michigan. In the end, I think Michigan’s larger fan base and their own exciting player will win out over Northwestern’s very good season.
Heart of Dallas Bowl
Pick: C-USA #2/3/4/5/6 vs. Big Ten #7
Prediction: Baylor? vs. Purdue
Possibilities: any of the bowl eligible Conference USA teams (other than the champion), Iowa State, Minnesota
Apparently at some point during the season the Big 12 signed an agreement with this bowl (which I like to call the “Zombie Cotton Bowl” since it’s a New Year’s Day bowl game at, well, the Cotton Bowl), and it should come in handy since C-USA won’t have enough teams and the Big 12 doesn’t have enough bowls for all its teams. Iowa State or Baylor could represent the Big 12, as could Minnesota or Purdue from the Big Ten.
Pick: Big Ten #4 vs. SEC #6
Prediction: Wisconsin vs. Mississippi State
Possibilities: Northwestern, Michigan, South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt
Georgia could fall all the way here if they lose the SEC title game, though I doubt they will. South Carolina could end up here if the Chick-fil-a Bowl has to take Clemson. Looking over the Big Ten, I don’t think any of the 6-6 teams would jump Wisconsin to get here. Northwestern could fall here if the Outback takes Wisconsin instead. I don’t view Michigan getting past the Cap One and Outback Bowls as terribly likely.
Pick: ACC #2 vs. SEC #5
Prediction: Clemson vs. Georgia
Possibilities: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Mississippi State, South Carolina
If Clemson gets into the BCS somehow, then all heck breaks loose for the Chick-fil-a Bowl. The ACC’s agreement with them (and all their bowls) require that they take a team within two conference wins of the best available team. In this case, that would mean Georgia Tech at 5-3 (assuming we lose in the ACC title game), NC State at 4-4, and Virginia Tech at 4-4. I can’t imagine any of these possibilities are exciting for the CFA Bowl, even though Clemson already traveled to Atlanta this year to play in their kickoff game. By the same rule, Clemson at 7-1 (or, via some miracle, Florida State at 7-1) would be the choice(s) if they are available. That said, if Georgia falls all the way here, the best way to get both of those teams back in the Georgia Dome for a second time this year is to have them play each other. The two rivals last meet in 2003. Since the bowl will pretty much have to take Clemson, I would guess they would take Georgia or Mississippi State over a rematch for the Tigers with South Carolina. Oh, and yeah, of the other three ACC teams, they would almost have to take NC State even though they just fired their coach. I just can’t see a 6-6 VPI or a 6-7 Georgia Tech in this game.
Pick: C-USA champion vs. SEC#8/9 or Big East #5/6
Prediction: Central Florida vs. Louisiana-Monroe?
Possibilities: Tulsa, any other bowl eligible team
Provided there’s no shenanigans like there were last year, the C-USA champion (either UCF or Tulsa) will go here. The at-large replacement on the other side is a guess.
Pick: ACC #4 vs. Pac-12 #4
Prediction: Georgia Tech vs. Southern California
Possibilities: North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Duke, Washington, Arizona State, Arizona
Since there are enough bowl eligible teams at this point, Georgia Tech will not automatically qualify at 6-7 under the NCAA’s new rules to make up a shortfall of teams. This means they will need a waiver, a la UCLA last year, to still go to a bowl if they lose the ACC title game. If they do get the waiver, most signs seem to point toward the ACC stipulation that the title game loser cannot fall past here will still apply, meaning GT will be back here for the second year in a row. If GT does not get the waiver, or is selected by the Chick-fil-a or Russell Athletic Bowls, then that opens the door for the other three ACC teams listed here. (I don’t think FSU will fall this far if they lose.) On the Pac-12 side, I think it’s mostly a tossup, though I doubt the Sun will be able to resist the siren call of the USC brand name. Arizona could be the strongest possibility, though, since they’re the only Pac-12 of these four that ended their season on a positive note.
Music City Bowl
Pick: SEC #7 vs. ACC #6
Prediction: Vanderbilt vs. Virginia Tech
Possibilities: Mississippi State, Mississippi, Duke
The Music City Bowl is praying the Gator Bowl takes Vanderbilt, but if they don’t I think they will have no choice but to take Vandy over a 6-6 Ole Miss. At this point in the ACC process, it will either be VPI or Duke here, so they’re really hoping the Belk Bowl takes Duke as well.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Pick: Big 12 #4 vs. Big Ten #5
Prediction: Texas Tech vs. Michigan State
Possibilities: West Virginia, Texas Christian, Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin
I don’t think Oklahoma State or Texas could in up here, so that leaves just the other potential 7-5 Big 12 teams. From the Big Ten side, it will probably be one of the 6-6 teams, as I doubt Wisconsin will free fall all the way here if they lose the Big Ten title game.
Pick: Pac-12 #2 vs. Big 12 #3
Prediction: California-Los Angeles vs. Oklahoma State
Possibilities: Stanford, Oregon State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas
If UCLA upsets Stanford Friday, then the Cardinal could fall out of the BCS and land here. Otherwise, it will likely be a choice between UCLA and Oregon State. The Alamo may actually favor the Beavers here, since the most likely scenario is that UCLA is about to get blown out again by Stanford. On the Big 12 side, if K-State or OU falls out of the BCS, they could fall all the way here if the Cotton sticks with Oklahoma State or Texas. Otherwise, the Alamo will probably take whoever the Cotton doesn’t.
Fight Hunger Bowl
Pick: Pac-12 #6 vs. Navy
Prediction: Arizona State vs. Navy**
Possibilities: Arizona, Washington, Southern California
Any of the 7-5 Pac-12 teams could slide down here, though I think the most likely one to do is Arizona State. Navy has already accepted a bid to this game.
Pick: Big 12 #7 vs. Big East #4
Prediction: Iowa State vs. Syracuse
Possibilities: Baylor, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, some other Big East team depending on how it shakes out
A big thing these days is “eating local”, and it’s likely the committee of this New York based bowl wants to get Rutgers or Syracuse if at all possible. Chances are they’ll end up with the Orange. On the Big 12 side, they’ll likely be choosing between 6-6 Iowa State or 6-6 Baylor. WVU could fall here too.
Armed Forces Bowl
Pick: C-USA #2/3/4/5/6 vs. Mountain West #3
Prediction: Southern Methodist vs. Air Force*
Possibilities: any other bowl eligible non-champion Conference USA team, any eligible at-large team
Air Force has already accepted a bid to this game.
Car Care Bowl
Pick: Big 12 #6 vs. Big Ten #6
Prediction: Texas Christian vs. Minnesota
Possibilities: Texas Tech, West Virginia, Purdue, Michigan State
At the end of the day, this seems the most likely.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Pick: Big East #2 vs. ACC #3
Prediction: Cincinnati vs. North Carolina State
Possibilities: Rutgers, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Florida State
On the Big East side, it’s most likely any of them except Syracuse really. On the ACC side, they will probably stick with NC State given their other choices unless FSU is available.
Pick: ACC #7 vs. SEC #9
Prediction: Louisiana Tech? vs. Western Kentucky?
Possibilities: any bowl eligible at-large team
I have no idea for this once, since neither the ACC nor SEC will have enough teams. I’ve seen reports they really want the extra Big 12 team, but given the Heart of Dallas thing I doubt that’ll happen unless the Big 12 only gets one team into the BCS.
Pick: Pac-12 #3 vs. Big 12 #5
Prediction: Oregon State vs. West Virginia
Possibilities: UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, Texas Tech, Texas Christian
Basically, whichever Pac-12 team the Alamo doesn’t take will end up here. Holiday Bowl officials are really hoping the Alamo takes UCLA, though. Note that if UCLA goes to the Rose Bowl or Oregon is the odd team out in the BCS (or both) they could end up with Oregon or Stanford. On the Big 12 side, it basically depends on which of TTU, WVU, and TCU is left from the bowls in front of them.
Pick: ACC #5 vs. Big East #3
Prediction: Duke vs. Louisville
Possibilities: Virginia Tech, NC State, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Syracuse
The Belk has, to the frustration of many other ACC teams over years, generally preferred to pick a team from North Carolina. Since this is Duke’s first bowl game in two decades, it figures that they might actually get the nod here over VPI. NC State will go here if they are still available. As for the Big East, well, it’s still the Big East.
Pick: ACC #8 vs. Army
Prediction: Ball State? vs. San Jose State?
Possibilities: any other eligible at-large team
Army will not qualify, and the ACC doesn’t have enough bowl eligible teams to get a team here
Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl
Pick: Big Ten #8 vs. MAC #1
Prediction: Middle Tennessee State? vs. Northern Illinois
Possibilities: any bowl eligible Sun Belt team (as a contractual backup for the Big Ten), Kent State
There is a chance Kent State could win the MAC title game still end up here. On the Big Ten side, there aren’t enough Big Ten teams. The Sun Belt has an agreement with the bowl to provide teams in this case.
Pick: C-USA #2/3/4/5/6 vs. MWC #4
Prediction: East Carolina vs. Fresno State
Possibilities: any other non-champ C-USA team, any eligible at-large team, Boise State, San Diego State
The C-USA team that lands here, if one even does, is pretty much a toss-up. On the Mountain West side Fresno will likely be the team left at this point. I have to say, having a bowl game in Hawaii has probably been pretty well proven at this point to be a much better idea on paper than in execution.
Las Vegas Bowl
Pick: Pac-12 #5 vs. MWC #1
Prediction: Washington vs. Boise State
Possibilities: Southern California, Arizona, Arizona State, Fresno State, San Diego State
Note that “MWC #1” is not the same as “MWC champion”, in this case it very much means that this bowl just gets the first choice of Mountain West teams. I would guess they’ll take Boise, with Fresno as the second strongest possibility. On the Pac-12 side, it’s basically whoever they want from the gaggle of 7-5 teams after the Sun Bowl gets their pick. Arizona is also a strong candidate here.
New Orleans Bowl
Pick: C-USA #2/3/4/5/6 vs. Sun Belt #1
Prediction: Rice vs. Louisiana-Lafayette**
Possibilities: any other non-champion C-USA team
Note that the Ragin’ Cajuns have already accepted a bid to this game.
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl
Pick: C-USA #2/3/4/5/6 vs. Big East #5/6
Prediction: Tulsa vs. Pittsburgh
Possibilities: any other non-champion C-USA team, any eligible Sun Belt team, any eligible MAC team
If Pittsburgh qualifies, I think they will end up here, but they could also go to the BBVA Compass Bowl. This could very easily turn into a MAC-Sun Belt matchup though.
Pick: BYU vs. MWC #2
Prediction: BYU** vs. San Diego State
Possibilities: Boise State, Fresno State
BYU is already locked in. On the Mountain West side, if the Vegas bowl doesn’t take Boise the Poinsettia could, but I figure they like SDSU the best.
Pick: WAC vs. MAC #3
Prediction: Utah State** vs. Toledo
Possibilities: Ball State, Ohio, Bowling Green State
Utah State accepted the WAC’s last ever bowl bid. On the MAC side, I’d think they’d prefer either of the 9-3 teams or the MAC title game loser if the GoDaddy.com Bowl doesn’t take them.
New Mexico Bowl
Pick: Pac-12 #7 vs. MWC #5
Prediction: Arizona vs. Nevada**
Possibilities: Arizona State, Washington, Southern California
Whichever Pac-12 team is left from the above bowls goes here. Nevada has already accepted a bid.