As soon as we head into the chill of November, it seems most everyone wants to present some manner of bowl projections. Every year, it proves to be a most futile exercise.
Look at what the Big XII title game has done in its 11-year history. For example, in 2008, many a Longhorn fan likely had to cancel Miami plans. Oops...
What makes this exercise even more absurd in 2009 is the mediocrity in the "deep" conferences. There are some conferences who have well earned their reputations—one way or another.
But I ask you, can it be that some of the "elite" conferences are trading on reputation and not much more?
In 2008, they boasted three of the top eight in the BCS, with sound support from the balance. You could build your case that it was top to bottom the strongest conference overall in 2008 (NOT for eternity, SEC fans).
Then came bowl season. A close Texas win in the Fiesta was about the only thing that kept the conference from complete failure, and even that one was closer than most thought.
In 2009, the Big XII North is even more of a joke than usual. Texas A&M has regressed—which is admittedly enjoyable for all Longhorn fans. Texas Tech has regressed at QB with no Graham Harrell/Michael Crabtree.
All this leaves Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State to carry the load. Even there, Oklahoma has been snakebitten by injuries and thus "down" at 5-3. As an aside, Oklahoma does have a championship defense in '09, and they will be a tough out down the stretch. Someone should have told Sam Bradford to call Matt Leinart. Bad guidance...
Perennial power with well-established programs and plenty of depth. BCS titles more so than anyone else and a passionate and knowledgeable fanbase of diehards.
In 2008 Ole Miss shocks Florida and ignites BOTH teams down the stretch. Alabama has a near perfect season.
In 2009, the SEC lays claim to three top 10 teams with a combined one loss. Many suggest it is a foregone conclusion that the SEC champ is in Pasadena.
The "top to bottom" argument has more holes in it than Georgia's secondary. SIX teams in the SEC find themselves at or below .500 winning percentage. VERY unlikely they can fill all of their bowl commitments. (For comparison, Big XII has two sub-.500, the Pac-10 has three, and the Big Ten/Eleven has four).
Outside of the top three, there can be little argument the conference is gaining benefit on past accomplishments.
Has long been talked of the Pac 1+9. 2008 bowl season goes swimmingly well, and the Washington/Washington State nightmare is swept under the rug.
2009 opens with the Oregon debacle, but then something odd happens. ALMOST all teams surprise on the good side. Washington inexplicably beats USC and SHOULD have beat Notre Dame. Coach: GET THE EIGHT-POINT lead! Make two plays beat you!
Oregon is rolling, Arizona is undefeated in conference, and Cal has righted the ship. Stanford has even joined the party.
In 2008, another season of fundamental football meets the bowl season with a resounding thud. Flagship Penn State had their pants yanked down before USC and the world. This could have been much worse had Pete Carroll not shown some mercy. Ohio State plays their best game of the year but falls again in the Fiesta Bowl.
2009: Media darling Iowa is now carrying the banner while Penn State and Ohio State battle for a New Year's bid and second place. Should Iowa run the table, take their opponent minus the points in ANY BCS GAME THEY GO TO. You heard it here first!
As to the bowl projections and just how nonsensical they can be, let's explore this scenario:
Nov. 7: LSU beats Alabama in a hard-fought, close game. It could happen, as these teams are moving in opposite directions.
Rest of November: Form holds and the top 10 win out.
Dec. 5: Texas wins Big XII, LSU shocks Florida in the rematch in Atlanta.
Results: Texas No. 1 in BCS. Cincy, Iowa also undefeated from major (BCS) conferences. TCU and Boise State sit at 12-0.
Oregon is right behind (and must STAY behind) Boise State due to their Sept. 4 results. They are the best one-loss team as of this article. Oregon has the SOS and the common opponent of Washington (won by 24) to stay ahead of LSU (won by three) no matter what history tells us.
Let's pretend the ESPN/media train takes LSU as their champion. LSU should pass BSU, might pass Cincy at 12-0, and would pass 11-1 Bama and 12-1 Florida. At 12-0, no matter how ugly, 12-0 Iowa will get the nod—with wins ON THE ROAD against Penn State, OSU, Wisconsin, and MSU that the computers cannot ignore.
The SEC could have three one-loss teams in the top 10 and have NO SHOT at the national title. Embrace the horror.
This is just a possible outcome, with no more merit or no less merit than anyone else's. We may have a lot more, or a lot less, to talk about next Monday.