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The College Football Notebook


November 25, 2009 9:27 AM

Bowl Projections

The days of packed college football Saturdays are over, but the smattering of games left are of major consequence for how the bowl matchups will play out. Coming up tomorrow, we’ll look at all the key games from Thursday to Sunday, but today let’s set the table with some projections for the major bowls and the top second-tier games. In previous posts, I’ve discussed the rules of selection for BCS games. I don’t want to rehash them all today, but if you’re not familiar, you can find them by clicking here.

BCS National Championship: Texas vs. Florida
The matchup I had at the start of the year (admittedly not the boldest pick on the planet) and they’re both still standing. No reason to change course now.

Orange Bowl: Penn State vs. Georgia Tech
Clemson’s coming on and may upset the Yellow Jackets next week for the ACC title and automatic spot in this game. And rumor has it that the Big Ten is leaning heavily on the BCS to take Iowa rather than Penn State, due to the Hawkeyes’ head-to-head win. But however you slice it, this game will be the ACC Champ vs. Big Ten #2.

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. TCU
This game has the key decision to make about Boise State. Their relationship with the Big 12 points to taking the Cowboys, so long as they beat Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Cincinnati
The loser of the SEC championship game is almost certainly going to be chosen by the Sugar. And the Big East champ has an automatic bid and nowhere else to go. Pitt could still win the league. The Sugar would surely love for either Oklahoma State or TCU, two schools that are close, with passionate fan bases, to fall into their lap. But for the second straight year, they get the discouraged SEC runner-up against an unbeaten team looking to make a name for themselves.

Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Oregon
I like the Ducks to beat Oregon State next Thursday. This would shape up as a great game, one in which an enormous amount of pressure would be on Ohio State to end their big-game losing streak.

That’s the major bowl lineup. If I had my own way, I’d like to see the Fiesta try and stage an “Undercard National Championship”, with Cincinnati and TCU. That also gives the Sugar Bowl a good traveling team in Oklahoma State. And there’s no question that Iowa deserves the Big Ten nod over Penn State. But until the major bowls get a centrally organized selection committee, similar to the NCAA Tournament, each game’s individual interest will trump the overall good of the game.

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Capital One Bowl: Iowa vs. LSU (Big Ten vs. SEC)
The Tigers’ loss to Ole Miss last week opened up the race for this bid in the SEC, but if they beat Arkansas on Saturday, Les Miles’ team should hold on for their part in the annual Big Ten-SEC runner-up grudge match.

Outback Bowl: Northwestern-Tennessee (Big Ten vs. SEC East)
This has the Wildcats leapfrogging Wisconsin, who will likely finish 9-3, presuming a win over Hawaii next week. And normally the good-traveling Badger fans give their program every edge in bowl selection. But it’s a different phenomena this year. Wisconsin’s been to Florida every year since 2002 and the fans are a little tired of the same trip. Furthermore, the road trip to Hawaii (coming more or less in conjunction with the basketball program being out there for the Maui Classic), means a lot of fans spent vacation money that way. All of which points to the excitement of the fresh face in Tampa. On the SEC side, Tennessee needs to beat Kentucky this weekend to secure the bid for themselves.

Cotton Bowl: Nebraska-Ole Miss (Big 12 vs. SEC West)
Ole Miss’ win over LSU put them back in the running for a return trip to Dallas. Auburn controls their destiny for this trip if they can upset Alabama.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Miami-Auburn (ACC vs. SEC)
It’s either Miami or Virginia Tech for the Big East spot. This game is in Atlanta, and Hokie fans already traveled there for the Alabama game back in September. This is also an attractive TV matchup in the New Year’s Eve night time slot.

Gator Bowl: Virginia Tech-Pitt (ACC vs. Big East)
Good New Year’s Day game between old foes from the Big East. The Gator Bowl is also licking its chops at the possibility of Pitt upsetting Cincy for the Big East title, then seeing the Bearcats frozen out of the BCS and falling into this game.

Holiday: Stanford-Missouri (Pac-10 vs. Big 12)
Interesting decision for this bowl to make. They get the first Pac-10 pick on the board and could go a number of ways. But I think if Stanford takes care of Notre Dame on Saturday night, their big wins over Oregon and USC get them the edge. Missouri needs to beat Kansas and get to 8-4 to earn their trip to San Diego.

The thing that jumps out at me in looking at the undercard is the complete and utter collapse of Oklahoma. If the Sooners don’t beat Oklahoma State, they fall to 6-6. They would be bowl eligible, but NCAA rules prohibit 6-6 teams from being chosen ahead of anyone else in a conference’s chain of command (whereas a 7-5 team can vault an 8-4 team). An OU win could move them up as high as the Cotton and certainly into the Holiday. A loss, and who knows how irrelevant they will become? And there also needs to be provision for a midmajor team to jump into this tier of games, just as there is for the major bowl spots. If Boise State doesn't make the BCS, they fall to the Poinsettia Bowl, where they get the loser of BYU-Utah. Even if they are going to get screwed by the BCS, why can't we get them in the Capital One for a January 1 showcase? Or even the Holiday in place of the fourth choice from the Big 12?

See you tomorrow. Game previews for the weekend will post right away in the morning, so make the Notebook one of your online stops before the holiday festivities begin.

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