Bowl Predictions 2014: Week 2

Okay, let’s do this right this time. As usual, the latest predictions are here.

We’ll start with the playoff.

Playoffs? We’re talking about playoffs? Are you kidding me?

Jokes aside, we pretty much have to start here because it require me to pretty much guess what 12 people I don’t know are going to do. I did my projections again through the end of the season, and my #1 and #2 seeds wound up being pretty easy: ACC Champ Florida State and SEC Champ Alabama. From there, it gets much more difficult.

Consider the following teams: 1-loss Big 12 Champion Baylor, 1-loss Big 12 runner-up TCU, 1-loss Pac-12 Champ Oregon, and 1-loss Mississippi State. I have Baylor in as my #3, and to me for the four seed it comes down to Oregon and Mississippi State. This is an extremely tough debate for me, but at the end of the day I think Mississippi State is the better team and I gave them the nod. Fortunately for me, the next few weeks will probably change everything, though if I had to guess it’ll just be a different jumble of teams involved in the handwringing.

Anyway, as it turns out, when it comes to just predicting who goes to what bowls, that’s the easy part. I put FSU and Mississippi State in the Sugar Bowl and sent Alabama and Baylor out west. No, the hard part is figuring out who the at-large teams for the Peach, Fiesta, and Cotton Bowls are.

Here’s the deal with the non-playoff playoff committee controlled bowls. First, there’s the Orange Bowl. Since it’s not a play-off site this year, and the home of the ACC champion, it must take another ACC team. I picked ACC title-game runner-up Duke, since I don’t have them losing until then. If Duke has more than 2-losses after the ACC title game, then it’ll be Clemson. The ACC’s opponent in the Orange bowl is “the highest ranked team from the SEC, Big Ten, or Notre Dame”. Based on my projections, my guess is that even with two losses Mississippi will be the highest ranked team that meets the criteria.

So after that you still have some teams that must go to at-large slots, namely, Oregon, Michigan State, and East Carolina (as the projected highest ranking team from the “non-contract” conferences). This also means three more teams have to come from somewhere. TCU is the only remaining 1-loss team in this scenario, so we have to dip into the pool of two-loss teams. I project this pool to consist of Ohio State (Big Ten west runner-up), Nebraska (Big Ten title game loser), Arizona State (Pac-12 title game loser), and Notre Dame (I have them losing to Arizona State now).

There’s nothing that actually says the committee has to prefer TCU over any of the 2-loss teams, but to make things easier for me I picked them anyway. I then went ahead with Notre Dame and Ohio State, because really if we’re all about the money, it’s hard to beat those two.

So these are my committee-controlled matchups:

  • Peach Bowl: Michigan State vs. Notre Dame. Traditional foes that won’t meet again for a while.
  • Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Ohio State. Rematch of the 2009 Rose Bowl.
  • Orange Bowl: Duke vs. Mississippi. Well, it’s what the contract says.
  • Cotton Bowl: TCU vs. East Carolina. Well, they have to put ECU somewhere.
  • Rose Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #3 Baylor.
  • Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Mississippi State.

 Well, if nothing else, the BCS was at least easier to predict.

With Duke in the Orange Bowl, Clemson is slam dunk for the Russell Athletic Bowl slot. From there it’s basically guessing at this point what the bowls and conference will do. I’d like to think the ACC won’t send us out to El Paso again just yet, and I could definitely see Miami getting sent to New York City for brand purposes. Other than that, the ACC won’t have enough teams to fill in its slots, but that could (and probably will) change, especially in terms of the teams from the Coastal.

Big Ten
I don’t see any way Michigan makes a bowl, which should make it easier to fire Hoke (provided that he isn’t fired before the end of the season). Supposedly in the new Big Ten lineup the Holiday Bowl is on equal footing with the Citrus and Outback bowls, but that seems really unlikely to me, so I sent Nebraska and Wisconsin to Florida and shipped Maryland to San Diego. Other than that, there’s also a weird sharing agreement with the ACC for the Music City and Taxslayer Bowls. For now, I’m just guessing that the ACC will go to Jacksonville and the Big Ten to Nashville, but that could easily change. Another oddity is the San Francisco Bowl, and I don’t mean in terms of its name (since it’s 50 miles away in Santa Clara, but at least it’ll be in a football stadium now). I figure Northwestern gets sent out west, setting up a brainy matchup with Stanford.

Big 12
Despite losing to them, I have Oklahoma getting the Alamo nod over Kansas State. Otherwise, this one was by the book. I was able to sneak in a Oklahoma State-Texas A&M game in the Liberty Bowl, though.

With only one playoff team, these projections actually have the Pac-12 having two extra teams. In this case, I figure California and UCLA to go 6-6 and get left behind. Any major conference at-large candidate will have somewhere to go, though, and as it turns out I only barely had enough teams anyway. Now, I didn’t say that they’d get to go anywhere cool. I matched UCLA with Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and California with Cincinnati in the St. Petersburg Bowl (now sponsored by Bitcoin, by the way1). I don’t think you can go wrong with Arizona State versus either Oklahoma or Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl, though. Also, thanks to not having enough teams, I’m projecting Southern Cal to face Arkansas State in the Cactus Bowl. I am pretty sure whoever administers that bowl his praying that the Big 12 doesn’t get two teams in the playoff (which is why that happened).

The SEC will also be short of teams, due mostly to getting three teams into the playoff. I don’t know if the committee will be so bold as to break the two-teams-per-conference precedent set by the BCS, but as I explained with the Orange Bowl, they may not have a choice. Also, even though it says SEC 2-7, I suspect some of those bowls are “more equal” than others (especially the Outback Bowl). I have Auburn losing a couple more times and winding up there to face Wisconsin, which would definitely be a fun contrast of two teams that like to run the ball but in completely different ways.

Everyone Else
No real surprises anywhere else. I put the extra Sun Belt and MAC teams to work, but we’ll see if that holds up. If it doesn’t, it would a little fun to see what happens, but I’m not really projecting any teams to meet the “too few bowls” criteria. (Though it does remind that I need to figure out who the top five schools in APR are for this season.)

As usual, everything will probably be different next week.

Update (10/28): After some more research, Georgia Southern (along with Old Dominion and Appalachian State) will only be bowl eligible if there are not enough teams. Since in the scenarios for this week that is actually the case, it doesn’t affect anything, but I’ll note it properly in future weeks.