Bowl Predictions 2012: Week 4

Welcome back. The predictions are up, and we’re only three weeks away now from the final set of predictions. I did attempt to search for news, but there’s not much action going on there yet except for a few stray beat writers and the rest of the Internet’s so-called “predictions”. Pschaw.

A quick note on methodology: remember, this is not a snapshot, but rather predictions on where teams will be at the end of the season. Hence why we’ve got Alabama and Oregon in the title game.

Quick note before we begin: with their 24-17 victory over Florida Atlantic, Navy reached the 6 win mark and accepted a bid to the Fight Hunger Bowl.

Let’s start at the top. I am still projecting Oregon, if they win out, to pass Kansas State in the BCS. I doubt at this point they will actually completely pass Kansas State in the computers, but rather just gain enough ground to let their #2 ranking in both human polls buoy them to the top.

Other than Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Kansas State, at-large locks for BCS bids are likely Florida (provided Georgia doesn’t lose to Auburn this weekend and they do lose to Alabama in the SEC title game), Florida State (provided they win the ACC title game, or with an at-large bid assured if they beat Florida), Oklahoma (if they win out). I am still agreeing with some other analysts that the Rose will play nice and take Oklahoma, which they will probably be more inclined to do if Nebraska is the Big Ten’s champion. This would allow the Fiesta to match Notre Dame against Kansas State. At this point, if Florida does not lose to Florida State (or anyone else), they will likely head to the Sugar Bowl as Alabama’s replacement. If they do stumble, then you could see Georgia or South Carolina there.

Louisville, or whoever bothers to win the Big East, is the last automatic qualifier. This leaves a mess for the last possible at-large spot. As noted last week, Boise State was in position to do this by finishing ahead of Nebraska in the BCS standings, but they lost to San Diego State. There is a two-team-per-conference limit, so none of the various SEC teams littering the top 14 can qualify. A strong candidate, if everything were to be done today, would be Oregon State, but I have them losing twice to end up at 9-3. I also have Stanford losing to Oregon, putting them at 9-3. USC could have as many as five losses at this point if they end up playing in the Pac-12 title game. This leaves only one potential 1 or 2 loss team: Clemson. Provided Clemson doesn’t pull a Clemson against Maryland or NC State, they will head into their game against South Carolina at 10-1. If they win, they will wrap up an at-large bid. At this point, given the rest of my projections, even if they lose to the Gamecocks they will still be 10-2 and more palatable than, say, a 10-2 Rutgers. For those of keeping score at home, yes, this would be the first time ever the ACC has sent two teams to the BCS. They would likely be selected by the Sugar, leaving Louisville to play FSU in the Orange.

With Clemson off to the promised land, this leaves the rest of the ACC’s bowl partners in rather unenviable positions. The Chick-fil-a would almost certainly go with an 8-4/5 Miami, and the Russell Athletic Bowl snapping up NC State. I have no other ACC teams projected to finish with winning records, with Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Duke all finishing 6-6. (Well, UNC should finish 8-4, but they’re on sanctions.) And even then, that’s with a rather heavy dose of optimism on my part, because I’m sure not crazy about our chances against Carolina this weekend. Either way, I’m sending VPI to the Sun, us to the Belk, and Duke to the Music City.

Big 12
I was able to put Texas back into the Cotton Bowl, but I couldn’t quite arrange things to put Texas A&M into the game as well. I also put Texas Tech into the Alamo over Oklahoma State, but everything else proceeds in order from there. In a rarity, the Big 12 will actually have enough teams, even with two of them going to the BCS.

Big East
Please, someone, anyone, win this thing, but preferably a team that hasn’t lost to anyone from the MAC.

Big Ten
Iowa’s loss to Indiana (Indiana!) this past weekend probably wrecks the chances of everyone in the Legends division qualifying. Unfortunately, I still don’t have Indiana getting to 6-6, so Wisconsin remains the only eligible team from the Leaders. Minnesota can thank their incredibly soft out-of-conference scheduling for getting them to the new Car Care Bowl despite going 2-6 in Big Ten play.

The infighting in the conference wrecks their chances of getting two BCS teams, unless Stanford or Oregon State upset Oregon in the next few weeks. Otherwise, I actually have Arizona as a 7-5 team with nowhere to go. The projections for at-large teams in other bowls is a total crapshoot until officials of the affected bowls start talking about who they’re looking at (which one of the reason I start looking for news), so for now I’m shipping the Wildcats off to Shreveport to make up for a lack of ACC teams.

Thanks to generous out-of-conference schedules and some really awful teams at the bottom of the conference, the SEC should get 5 teams to the 10-win mark this year. I had to put 10-2 LSU in the Cotton over 9-3 Texas A&M, but that could still change in the coming weeks. I also have Tennessee limping to 6-6 ad a Liberty Bowl bid, though they could also go to the Compass Bowl.

Everyone Else
It does look like we will avert the shortage of teams catastrophe. It just seems to “work out” every year, but someday it probably won’t. As much as I like doing these projections, frankly if we had 5 less bowls I don’t think anyone would notice. Also, with Boise not making the BCS, this pushes 6-6 New Mexico out of the Mountain West affiliated bowls. Along with 6-6 Western Michigan, they could be the only two eligible teams sitting at home this year.

As usual, things will look different next week. After the excitement of last weekend, the marquee game for the top teams this weekend will be Alabama-Texas A&M. But, hey, more on that later in the week.