Projecting Every College Football Bowl Game

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIISeptember 24, 2012

Projecting Every College Football Bowl Game

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    UPDATE: In case there are not 70 qualified bowl teams, UTSA and others are the beneficiaries of this contingency plan. Only 72 teams qualified last year, and there are sanctions in place that make that 70 mark questionable for this postseason.

    After the dust settled in the wee hours of Sunday morning, there were meatless carcasses scattered all around the nation.

    Oklahoma, UCLA and the Big Ten, in general, have likely lost their shots at the national title. Other teams are slowly losing what they thought would be a strength of schedule.

    These teams are far from out of the bowl-game mix, though. There are 35 bowls to shoot for, and there is nothing wrong with simply shooting for the postseason.

    From the opening kickoff of the New Mexico Bowl to the BCS National Championship Game, here are the bowl projections following Week 4 of the 2012 season, presented in order of appearance on television. 

     

    *Selected photos are of last year's victor from each bowl 

    *Stats from ESPN.com

    *Bowl criteria and schedule order from Flickr.com

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

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    Prediction: Washington Huskies vs. Wyoming Cowboys

    Who kicks off bowl season? Why, it's none other than the Washington Huskies and Wyoming Cowboys.

    The Huskies are the final team from the Pac-12 to make the cut into bowl selection and the Cowboys round out the Mountain West.

    The Huskies and Cowboys will officially mark the first game to take place after the ever-so-exciting Championship Weekend in early December.

    It's a strange pair of mascots to be fighting. I mean, the phrase "three-dog night" comes from dogs and cowboys, doesn't it? (Turns out it was the Aborigines that coined the phrase, not American cowboys.)

    The great news for all fans is that the New Mexico Bowl should be highly entertaining.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

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    Prediction: UTSA Roadrunners vs. Ball State Cardinals

    Two rushing offenses ranked in the Top 40 (as of Week 4) will meet in the postseason to answer the age-old question: Which came first, the Cardinal or the Roadrunner?

    Ball State is off to a 3-1 start and looks good to finish in the Top Four of the Mid-American Conference.

    UT-San Antonio looks equally good to finish second in the MAC behind Louisiana Tech.

    Bring on the postseason, as these bowl predictions are making me poo-poo about 90 percent of the cross-conference matches we've seen so far in 2012.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

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    Prediction: BYU Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs

    All BYU has to do to make this bowl is get six wins. It is linked to this bowl for the 2012 season and will find a way to win four more after a 2-2 start—the Cougars lost both games by a combined four points.

    San Diego State will be there waiting for the Cougars after a second-place finish behind the Boise State Broncos in the MWC.

    Life will be a bit easier for the Aztecs next year when Boise State leaves the party.

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl

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    Prediction: Houston Cougars vs. Temple Owls

    Temple puts together back-to-back bowl seasons, finishing at or above .500 and getting a little help from the selectors to pull it from the sea of teams who qualified with six wins.

    Houston suffers the letdown of losing Case Keenum, but still manages to limp into bowl season during the rebuild.

    Houston fans, after a disappointing—but somewhat expected—0-3 start, will be thrilled to experience six wins over the next nine games. Hopefully, they don't come to my house if the Cougars don't make it.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

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    Prediction: SMU Mustangs vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

    The Ragin' Cajuns return to the postseason via the New Orleans Bowl for the second straight year. Instead of the San Diego State Aztecs, the Cajuns will face the SMU Mustangs.

    The Mustangs will finish third in Conference USA behind Southern Miss and Tulsa, clinching a berth in the New Orleans Bowl against the Cajuns.

    Look for a nail-biter to be decided in the fourth quarter.

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl

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    Prediction: Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Boise State Broncos

    Arizona State vs. Boise State is one of those dreaded rematches of last year's bowl.

    "...No matter how I toss the dice, it had to be." (h/t The Turtles) "I can't see me pickin' no matchup but this...for all my liiiiife." Okay, done with that. Moving on.

    Arizona State once again finishes fifth in the Pac-12 and Boise State wins the MWC. Thank goodness Boise State leaves next year for the Big East.

    Of course, Arizona State will just be happy to make a bowl two years in a row. (It should have been three; the Sun Devils won six games in 2010.)

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

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    Prediction: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

    Louisiana Tech vs. Tulsa sounded like such a smooth match that I needed to verify the past five seasons to make sure it hadn't happened.

    Rematches are even more frowned upon after the Alabama-LSU debacle from last year, so avoiding them is a high priority...at least for me.

    LA Tech finishes this season tops in the WAC, and Tulsa finishes second in C-USA to win a trip to Hawaii.

    Hopefully, the kids remember to play football when they get there. (Unlike Southern Miss and Nevada last year.)

    If you missed that game, you didn't miss much. The kids all played like they were hungover for almost an hour.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

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    Prediction: Indiana Hoosiers vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

    With the Big Ten in the midst of a down year—against all paperwork saying it could make the BCS without limping into the Rose Bowl—Indiana is poised to limp into bowl season with a potential six-win performance in 2012.

    Northern Illinois will earn its trip by finishing behind only the Ohio Bobcats in the MAC. This match should be close.

Military Bowl

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    Prediction: Army Black Knights vs. Toledo Rockets

    Toledo is off to a 3-1 start this year. It could go as high as the GoDaddy.com Bowl if the chips fall in Toledo's favor. As of right now, expect Ohio and Northern Illinois to finish just ahead of the Rockets.

    That will pit the Rockets against the Black Knights in the aptly named Military Bowl.

Belk Bowl

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    Prediction: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

    Georgia Tech dropped a three-point decision to Virginia Tech in the season opener. The ACC will beat each other up considerably, and the fight to get into a bowl will be fierce.

    Georgia Tech will finish just high enough to make the Belk Bowl, which is a very short trip away from the Yellow Jackets' home field. In fact, it's in the heart of ACC country.

    Rutgers will finish the season in a solid position in the Big East and trek on down to Charlotte, N.C. for the Belk Bowl.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

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    Prediction: UCLA Bruins vs. Baylor Bears

    UCLA got off to a great start, but looked like it ran out of fuel against Oregon State this past weekend. Of course, lots of ranked teams look like they run out of gas against the Beavers.

    Baylor is off to a decent start, but looked little better than Auburn against Louisiana-Monroe. That doesn't spell a whole lot of wins for the Bears this season.

    Still, Baylor should get the requisite six wins for a trip to the Holiday Bowl to challenge the Bruins.

AdvoCare v100 Independence Bowl

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    Prediction: Miami Hurricanes vs. Colorado State Rams

    Colorado State is off to a not-so-great start, but any improvement is likely to land it in a bowl. The Rams lost six games by a combined 14 points last year.

    Miami was called "back" way too soon. While the talent may be at "The U," the talent has not yet been converted to actual skill. Still, a bowl is nothing to sneeze at, and many teams would trade spots with the Hurricanes in a heartbeat.

    Miami limps into a bowl and Colorado State rejoices over making the postseason.

Russell Athletic Bowl

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    Prediction: Louisville Cardinals vs. Boston College Eagles

    Louisville is overrated as of the Week 5 polls, but at least the Cardinals are not losing games.

    Louisville finishes behind Cincinnati in the Big East to land right here in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

    Notre Dame continues to shock the nation and doesn't land in this bowl, making room for ACC-middler Boston College.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

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    Prediction: Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Wisconsin Badgers

    Oklahoma State and Wisconsin both entered the season with high hopes. Arizona and Oregon State had 60 minutes each to make an argument against those two.

    Both Arizona and Oregon State won the cases.

    Oklahoma State continues to rebuild in the wake of the Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon departures. Wisconsin continues to rebuild after losing Russell Wilson during the offseason.

    Both teams are finding out that they lost more than they thought—happy to make any bowl at all, at least in Week 4. If they put together some winning streaks, their bowl position has nowhere to go but up.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

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    Prediction: Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Nevada Wolf Pack

    Marshall finishes fifth in C-USA and Nevada finishes fourth in its inaugural season in the MWC.

    The Armed Forces Bowl was a three-point decision in favor of the BYU Cougars last year. Marshall vs. Nevada will likely be just as close a game.

    Nevada would likely come into the game favored by eight or nine points. That's how it stands at the end of Week 4 anyway.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

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    Prediction: Navy Midshipmen vs. Arizona Wildcats

    Navy is off to a horrible 1-2 start to this season, and I remain unconvinced that it will finish short of the six-win mark.

    This week's match against the San Jose State Spartans will tell me a lot more about the Midshipmen.

    In the meantime, Arizona looks like the Pac-12 team that will find itself in the Kraft Bowl. Though the Wildcats got off to a great start, their bowl placement hinges on their ability to recover from the shutout that Oregon handed them in Week 4.

    They limp to a mid-Pac-12 finish. I am the one percent...holding that opinion, that is. Oregon just put on a clinic on how to stop them. The other Pac-12 teams will be watching that game tape.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

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    Prediction: Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Syracuse Orange

    Texas Tech vs. Syracuse is a surprisingly close match. Tech looks to finish in the middle of the Big 12, while 'Cuse is looking good for a finish in the Top Four of the Big East.

    The Orange lost a one-point decision to Big Ten-surprise Northwestern and another close game to then-No. 2 USC.

    The Orange are much better than their 1-3 record shows, and Texas Tech will find that out in Yankee Stadium.

Valero Alamo Bowl

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    Prediction: USC Trojans vs. Oklahoma Sooners

    USC will benefit from the fact that Stanford and Oregon have already taken Pac-12 slots in bowl season and land in the Alamo Bowl against a fellow preseason-overrated Oklahoma squad.

    Although neither team will be happy with the title of the bowl, the matchup will be similar to what the pundits all thought it would be.

    Oklahoma and USC were exposed by Kansas State and Stanford, respectively. Their dreams of the national championship dashed, this is the bowl they will get.

    Of course, if Stanford, Oregon, West Virginia and/or Kansas State fall from grace, these two will benefit and move up in the postseason rankings.

    That's why these are post-Week 4 projections. There are still many weeks of football left to be played.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

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    Prediction: TCU Horned Frogs vs. Michigan Wolverines

    The Michigan Wolverines fell victim to a little-known college-football curse: Highly ranked teams that face Alabama in season openers and lose tend to go on to have mediocre seasons, despite how talented they are. It happened to Clemson in 2008, Virginia Tech in 2009 and now Michigan.

    Michigan will pull itself together, finish with a winning record and land in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU, who should finish around fourth place in the Big 12.

    Denard Robinson vs. Casey Pachall, anyone?

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

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    Prediction: Missouri Tigers vs. NC State Wolfpack

    NC State threw down against Louisville in the Belk Bowl last year. The Wolfpack will take advantage of finishing sixth in the ACC to earn a spot in the Music City Bowl.

    Missouri will have a worse inaugural season than it expected, but will finish right around the middle of the SEC to earn a spot against a team that Tennessee took down in its season opener.

    Though the season may be less than they expected, the Tigers can look forward to a slightly better bowl than last year's Independence appearance, where they beat North Carolina.

Hyundai Sun Bowl

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    Prediction: Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Oregon State Beavers

    Virginia Tech will finish behind Clemson and Florida State in the ACC to earn a trip to El Paso, Texas and the Sun Bowl.

    Oregon State will fall victim to Oregon, Stanford and USC to finish no better than fourth in the Pac-12. Even if the Beavers finish a little worse than that, the fact that there are Pac-12 teams all over the BCS picture will pull them right up into the Sun Bowl.

    Not bad for a team that started the season off with back-to-back victories over ranked opponents.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

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    Prediction: Southern Miss Golden Eagles vs. Connecticut Huskies

    The C-USA champion takes on the Big East's UConn in the Liberty Bowl. Of all the teams that could be chosen to face Southern Miss, UConn looks like the closest matchup at this point in the season.

    The Huskies are 1-1 against mid-level ACC teams Maryland and NC State. That's enough to determine that this will likely be an entertaining postseason battle that could easily end in overtime.

    Southern Miss is celebrating its 100th season. What better way for the Golden Eagles to put an exclamation point on the season than to make it as high as the Liberty Bowl? That's certainly an improvement over last year's Hawaii Bowl.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

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    Prediction: Clemson Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers

    CLemson will be pushed out of the BCS picture by virtue of the fact that the Big East is still an AQ conference. While deserving of a BCS appearance, the Tigers will have to settle for the Chick-fil-A Bowl in lieu of the Big East champion.

    Tennessee, who will get there by virtue of finishing around the halfway point in the SEC standings, will be there waiting for the Tigers.

    With five SEC teams appearing between this slide and the end of the predictions, Tennessee makes the grade for a great matchup in Atlanta in December.

TicketCity Bowl

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    Prediction: East Carolina Pirates vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

    These two teams are off to good enough starts to project well into the top half of the postseason. While the Pirates are perennial underachievers, a 2-2 (1-0) start to the season is a nice change of pace.

    The Pirates' two losses are to UNC and South Carolina, neither of which were they expected to win.

    Minnesota is off to the same start as Northwestern in the Big Ten. Although the Golden Gophers will likely finish behind the Wildcats by the end of the season, it's surprising to see that they aren't even in the "others receiving" category in either major poll.

    These underrated teams start strong and finish well to put the TicketCity Bowl on their dockets in December.

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl

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    Prediction: Northwestern Wildcats vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

    Northwestern is quietly working its way toward an undefeated season. That will most likely not happen, but being one of three Big Ten teams undefeated in non-conference play seems to be doing nothing to sway the poll voters' opinions.

    Mississippi State is off to a strong start just like the Wildcats. Both of those undefeated records will not hold up through the entire season, but finishing in the top half of each of their divisions will land them squarely in the Gator Bowl.

Capital One Bowl

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    Prediction: Florida Gators vs. Purdue Boilermakers

    Officially listed as "SEC No. 2 vs. Big Ten No. 2," the goings-on at the top of the bowls will allow Florida to get into the Capital One Bowl.

    Purdue will continue to play sound football and make a run for the Big Ten title. The Boilermakers will fall short of that goal, but will see one of the best non-BCS bowls instead.

Outback Bowl

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    Prediction: Michigan State Spartans vs. LSU Tigers

    I'm probably the only college-football guy picking LSU to fall to fourth in the conference behind Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia; I'm placing the Tigers in the Outback Bowl against Michigan State.

    Though Auburn is a despised rival of LSU, there's no reason a second-ranked team should finish within two points of an unranked Auburn squad.

    Michigan State will finish third in the Big Ten to earn the slot against LSU.

Rose Bowl

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    Prediction: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Stanford Cardinal

    Stanford has already established that USC will hold no power over the Cardinal until Matt Barkley leaves the Trojans. Nebraska has already established that it will not be a national champion in 2012.

    The Rose Bowl is more than an acceptable consolation prize for each of these teams. Nebraska will earn a spot via the legs of Rex Burkhead and Stanford will earn it by finishing behind only Oregon in the Pac-12.

Discover Orange Bowl

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    Prediction: Florida State Seminoles vs. Cincinnati Bearcats

    ACC champion Florida State will meet the champion from the Big East in the Orange Bowl. While this will probably disappoint Seminoles fans, Cincinnati fans will be thrilled to get a shot at redemption against a team from the Sunshine State.

    Florida State is at the mercy of Oregon and Alabama at this time. Cincinnati is at the mercy of itself, as a win over Louisville is mandatory later this season.

    Florida State is still undefeated. If that continues, an Orange Bowl appearance may be a disappointment. Look for an upset by the Bearcats here if that is the case.

Allstate Sugar Bowl

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    Prediction: South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Texas Longhorns

    Texas and South Carolina have both looked very good this year, with the exception of the season openers. Both teams left some points on the field in Week 1, but have progressed steadily since then.

    Both will fall short of being conference champions (Texas to West Virginia and South Carolina to Alabama), but will land in the Sugar Bowl for a huge profit and some smiles to go with that cash.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

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    Prediction: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

    The Fiesta Bowl pits the Big 12 champion against a BCS at-large team. While West Virginia's Week 4 performance left a lot to be desired, every team has a game it'd rather forget in a BCS run.

    Oklahoma State had that game against Iowa State last year, and Alabama had it against LSU in 2011 and Tennessee in 2009.

    If Notre Dame continues to play defense the way it has thus far, the only two losses coming the Irish's way would be to USC and/or Stanford.

    Oklahoma was exposed by Kansas State, and Notre Dame just got a wake-up call against Michigan. The Irish will work on their offensive schemes to land themselves in the Fiesta Bowl against the Mountaineers.

AT&T Cotton Bowl

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    Prediction: Kansas State Wildcats vs. Georgia Bulldogs

    Last year, this game was between Kansas State and Arkansas. Even with TCU and West Virginia joining the Big 12, the shuffling in the conference should allow them to break even as far as conference placement goes.

    Georgia will lose the SEC East to South Carolina, but emerge from the season with a better record than LSU. The Bulldogs will land in the Cotton Bowl opposite the Wildcats.

BBVA Compass Bowl

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    Prediction: Texas A&M Aggies vs. South Florida Bulls

    Texas A&M had hopes of possibly being a dark horse to get into a BCS bowl in its first year in the SEC. The loss to Florida in Week 2 proved that the Aggies will need to get some SEC recruiting classes into town before contending for the top of the SEC.

    In the meantime, the Aggies should land in the Compass Bowl against South Florida, who should finish somewhere around fourth place in the Big East.

    Hey, a January play date is a January play date, am I right?

GoDaddy.com Bowl

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    Prediction: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. Ohio Bobcats

    The GoDaddy.com Bowl is slapped between New Year's and the national championship. While it is a bit of a letdown as far as the quality of teams is concerned, it's certainly better than no football at all.

    Western Kentucky (3-1/0-0) looks good to finish second in the Sun Belt. The Hilltoppers' only loss is to Alabama thus far, but ULM and ULL may have something to say about the conference title before the end of the season.

    Ohio looked really good against Penn State and may very well win the MAC. With the MAC title under its belt, Ohio will land here against WKU in January.

BCS National Championship Game

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    Prediction: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Oregon Ducks

    At close of business in Week 4, Alabama and Oregon both looked like kings of the gridiron. Oregon manhandled then-No. 22 Arizona, while Alabama ran roughshod over Florida Atlantic.

    Oregon will face USC on Nov. 3 to confirm greatness immediately following the Alabama vs. LSU match on the same date.

    Unless either one of these teams overlooks an opponent between now and then, these are the two front-runners. Even Florida State will likely not make it into the Top Two with these guys in the way.