And… we’re back! I’ll start out with a description of my process, and then we’ll do the overview. As usual, you can get the predictions here.
Even though I wait until the BCS Standings come out to do my initial round of predictions, the first several weeks still involve a lot of guesswork. I start by basically looking at every team with a shot at bowl eligibility and then trying to figure out if which of the rest of their games they will win. For those who read my weekend previews, you probably know I’m not very good at the predicting part, so the predictions can change pretty wildly in the first couple weeks as teams pull off unexpected upsets, get upset themselves, etc. By the nature of having this many bowl games, most teams will have 6 to 8 wins, which means that their seasons can change quickly, or maybe a team that I thought will have five wins ends up pulling off an upset that propels them to 6 or 7 wins. There’s also the undercurrent of BCS busters, which I’ll get to below.
As we get closer to the end, there’s a) less guessing and b) some reporting. Around Thanksgiving, team beat writers start writing about possible bowl destinations for their teams. Doing this research helps me refine the predictions greatly, as they’re usually talking to bowl officials and athletic directors, allowing them to get wind of any shenanigans that may go down (and trust me, they have gone down in the past). Since this requires access, team bloggers are usually not a great source for this. (And don’t even get me started on the Bleacher Report, which wrecks my Google search results unless I exclude them.)
So that’s that. I’ll start where I usually do, but this year it’ll be for the last time: the BCS.
I have Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Ohio State running the table. As with most other experts I’ve seen, I think Oregon’s backloaded strength of schedule will allow them to pass Florida State in the computers. So let’s pencil in Alabama and Oregon to go to Pasadena. The other automatic slots are filled out thusly: Ohio State to the Rose, Oklahoma to the Fiesta, and Florida State to the Orange.
From there, first, the Sugar and Rose bowls get the first pick of the remaining eligible BCS teams. I have them going with Auburn. If Auburn’s only other loss this season is to Alabama, then they will probably be in a better position to get a BCS berth than Missouri, though I’ve been wrong about that sort of thing in the past. I also like Stanford to get a BCS at-large bid with two losses, and take Oregon’s place in the Rose Bowl.
Then we go Orange, Sugar, Fiesta for the remaining spots. The Big Ten looks two weak this year to get 2 BCS bids, so the other conferences will have to pick up the lack. For that reason, I have a 1-loss Baylor getting an invite to the Orange Bowl (that loss is to Oklahoma). I then put Clemson in the Sugar bowl, who could very well finish the season with just one loss. And finally, the American champion will go to the Fiesta. I currently have Louisville recovering to win the conference anyway.
So what about BCS busters? Northern Illinois and Fresno State are both likely candidates, and they are currently 17th and 18th in the standings. Louisville is currently 20th. However, Louisville could probably pass them and maybe get into the top 12 if they don’t lose again, which would block the BCS busters. However, if Louisville loses again, it is game on to see if any mid-major can finish in the top 16.
It looks to be a strong year for the ACC in terms of sending teams to bowl bids. They may only come up short if the conference places two teams in the BCS, which it still has never done.
- Miami could well finish with two losses to Florida State, which I think will knock them out of contention for a BCS bid. They go to the Chick-fil-a Bowl.
- They way their defense is playing, VPI could still win the ACC Coastal, but I currently have Miami beating them. This puts them in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
- Finally given the opportunity to do so, the conference sends someone other than Georgia Tech to the Sun Bowl. In this scenario, that’s Boston College.
- Thanks to an awful out-of-conference schedule, Maryland could very well make a bowl game while going 2-6 in conference. In fact, I have them doing exactly that. I was thinking they’d get the shaft in terms of a bowl destination, what with leaving the conference and all, but as it turns out they slot right into the Military Bowl, due to be played in Annapolis, Maryland this year. Dang.
I barely consider the AAC worth talking about, but they do still have a BCS auto-bid. Anyway, I think UCF is going to drop a couple games and that Louisville is going to win the conference anyway. As outlined above, the most interesting question is whether the champion of the American will finish high enough to prevent any BCS busters.
Baylor’s next two games are against Oklahoma and Texas Tech, so we’re going to know a lot more about those three teams two weeks from now. For now, I have Baylor and Texas Tech losing some games and Oklahoma recovering to win the conference. I have TCU just missing out, so that’s a team to watch to see if they can score that 6th win.
As with last year, the Leaders division is Ohio State, Wisconsin, and then everyone else. At least Ohio State can go to a bowl this year. I have Nebraska as the champ from the Legends, which implies that I think they’ll beat Michigan. I do currently have Nebraska as making a return trip to the Capital One Bowl, so that could very easily be Wisconsin or Michigan there, depending on how things goes.
I actually have an extra Pac-12 team, even with Oregon and Stanford both going to the BCS: Utah. Of course, I may have been somewhat optimistic putting USC in a bowl game at all, and even that optimistic prediction has them at 6-6. And haters take note: despite playing nine conference games, 9 of the 12 teams could be bowl eligible (possibly 10, even, if Wazzou can eke out two more wins).
So I have Missouri winning the SEC East, and I don’t feel good about it at all. But everyone else in the SEC East has managed to face plant so far, so what other course am I left with? I even have them suffering at least one loss (probably to South Carolina) just because I can’t really fathom them going undefeated. And Auburn in a BCS game? Madness. Last year the SEC was easy: you had Alabama, TAMU, and Georgia at the top, a bunch of medicore teams, and then Ole Miss, Auburn, and Mizzou (oh, and yeah, Kentucky). This year it’s more like Alabama, everyone else, and then Kentucky.
From the independents, I don’t see Notre Dame making a BCS game at 9-3 (and they’re not even ranked right now), so I currently can only slot them in the Pinstripe Bowl? I’ll have to check in on that. I see BYU and Navy (the latter barely) making it.
From the mid-major conferences, I talked about the BCS busters at length above. It looks like we probably won’t have a shortage of teams this year, as the Sun Belt and MAC look like they’ll have plenty of extra teams to spare. The MAC especially is looking like it’ll be a good fight. MACtion Tuesdays can’t get here fast enough.
So that’s all until next week, when everything will surely be different.