With Texas' entirely illegitimate and unsatisfying win over Nebraska booking them a spot in the BCS national championship, the bowls' at-large selections will proceed as follows in tonight's Selection Special on Fox.
Alabama and Texas will be selected to face each other in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 7, 2010. Because Alabama will be selected first, the Sugar Bowl, to which the SEC winner is an automatic bid, will get the first at-large selection. Barring some unforeseen act of God, they will select the Florida Gators.
The next selection will go to the Fiesta Bowl, to which the Big 12 typically sends its runner-up. Because no other Big 12 team is in the running, this is where the selecting will get interesting.
For most of the week, the Fiesta appeared to belong to the Big Ten. The legitimate selection was Iowa: wins over better opponents, closer losses in head-to-head matchups, and a better out-of-conference schedule than the Penn State Nittany Lions. There was also the news that a diaspora of Iowans currently resides in Phoenix, guaranteeing a easy sellout from the Hawkeye fanbase.
But college football is a linear game, and the Big Ten might have gotten left behind after an awesome weekend of college football. The Fiesta had to love Cincinnati's come-from-way-behind win. Boise completed another perfect regular season, and they have a history of making the Fiesta exciting.
In an ideal world, maybe the Fiesta really raises some cain by taking Nebraska's outstanding defensive effort against UT as grounds to invite the Cornhuskers to Phoenix.
Maybe, but don't count on it—the selection rules don't allow taking teams that aren't ranked in the top 14.
Instead, the latest projected matchup in the Fiesta Bowl is between unbeaten TCU and unbeaten Boise State . That's right, the two BCS busters will bust...each other.
This is an awful, awful idea. The pitch is an alternative-reality national championship between two unbeatens, but in this reality, such a game defeats the entire purpose of the bust: to pit the teams from the "other" conferences against the big boys and see if they stack up.
Floating such an idea might not be the Fiesta's fault. In fact, the selection process might actually be forcing the Fiesta to test the waters for any sign of positivity towards a TCU-Boise matchup.
Follow me here: assume that the Fiesta selects TCU with the first at-large pick. Then, the Orange Bowl will select a Big Ten team with the next pick to face Georgia Tech (probably Penn State, considering the Nittany Lions' relatively solid ratings in the 2006 Orange Bowl game against Florida State).
The Sugar Bowl will then select unbeaten Cincinnati to face Florida in a true David and Goliath story, leaving the Fiesta Bowl with no choice but to take Boise State with the final at-large pick.
But nobody puts the Fiesta Bowl in a corner. They are the lynchpin of the bowl picture; they control its fate. They will likely preempt the TCU-Boise possibility by taking a Big Ten team, thereby preventing what amounts to an unwatchable matchup that already played out in last year's Poinsettia Bowl, a game I imagine very few of us remember.
This also indicates that neither the Orange Bowl nor the Sugar Bowl are showing the nerve to select a BCS buster for their games, despite the clear advantage in probable viewers and the raised stakes of such a game. Are they forgetting that Boise State-Oklahoma was the best bowl of 2006?
But it won't matter: I predict that the Fiesta, to head off disaster, will select Iowa, the Orange Bowl will take Cincinnati, and the Sugar Bowl will be forced to select TCU to face Florida, leaving the Hawkeyes to square off against the Boise State Broncos.
Between the Sugar and the Fiesta, one of those should be your best bowl of the year.
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech-Cincinnati
Sugar Bowl: Florida-TCU
Rose Bowl: Oregon-Ohio State
Fiesta Bowl: Iowa-Boise State