Along with the rites of spring, winter festivals, and the harvesting of autumn comes a summer tradition equally anticipated among college football fans.
The tradition of predicting how the season will progress, followed by speculation concerning who will go to which particular bowl game.
At this time of year, hope springs eternal, every school has an equal opportunity to win each game and advance to the bowl game of their preference.
Especially when it comes to the favorite team of fans, you know, "your team."
In our summer series, we have projected who will be the top 10, who will be the winners in each conference, who will be the leaders of each region, and who will be invited to the five BCS Bowls.
Now, for the final part of the odyssey, the placement of teams in the bowls.
There are 35 bowls this season, far too many openings to reasonably anticipate all of the selections.
Suppose we break this down, not to dismiss the participants to smaller bowls, as they have worked equally hard, sweat just as much, paid just as heavy a price to get to their post season reward.
Rather, we wish to draw an artificial line in the sand, identify the bowls that pay out the most money to the participants, and discuss only those.
Eighteen of the 35 postseason events pay out more than 1.5 million dollars to schools, 17 do not reach that level. In fact, 11 of those do not even reach the coveted million dollar pay out status.
The 1.5 million dollar level is therefore the halfway dividing line of our nearly three dozen post season affairs.
So, let us turn our attention to these 18 highest paying of the extravaganzas, the so-called "Big Money Bowls."
The Music City Bowl—Payout $1,600,000
Located in Nashville, Tennessee. Matches the ACC versus the SEC.
Projected Teams—Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky
The Liberty Bowl—Payout $1,700,000
Located in Memphis, Tennessee. Matches the SEC versus Conference USA Champion
Projected Teams—Mississippi versus Houston
The Sun Bowl—Payout $1,900,000
Located in El Paso, Texas. Matches the ACC versus the PAC 10.
Projected Teams—Clemson versus Washington
The Pinstripe Bowl—Payout $2,000,000
Located in New York City. Matches the Big East versus the Big 12 or Notre Dame.
Projected Teams—West Virginia versus Notre Dame
The only Bowl that has been around longer than the Sun Bowl is the Rose Bowl. The Sun, the Orange, and the Sugar all began in the 1934 season.
This is the first year of the new ACC-Sun contract and the conference will want to put its best foot forward. Nobody in this country travels like Clemson. They will be plucked above their finishing position in the league and given this prestigious responsibility of representing the ACC in El Paso because they will fill the hallowed stadium.
Washington, with Jake Locker, is the obvious choice as the opponent.
The Pinstripe is in its first year and will want media friendly names and a large crowd, as this is the first Bowl game in New York City since Nebraska defeated Miami in the 1962 Gotham Bowl.
Although the Irish will make a trip to the Big Apple to take on West Point during the season, they will be the hands down choice, even though they are listed as a back up team for the Big 12 in this Bowl.
West Virginia will be chosen for the same reason Clemson is going to El Paso. The Mountaineers travel, and they will provide the rocking crowd for the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium.
Two million clams for Morgantown will not hurt either.
It's a big responsibility for West Virginia, but they've shown before they can represent the Big East better than anyone else in the conference.
Georgia Tech is a fixture in the bowl season and should have an interesting trip to Nashville to carry the ACC banner against Joker Phillips's Wildcats of Kentucky.
Houston could end up in a BCS bowl behind the talent of quarterback Case Keenum. Ole Miss enjoys traveling to Memphis and will provide a solid road block for the Cougars. An interesting note concerning these two teams, the Rebels and Houston played every season from 1954 through 1970, but have not met since.
The Champs Sports Bowl—Payout $2,130,000
Located in Orlando, Florida. Matches the ACC versus the Big East.
Projected Teams—Virginia Tech versus Pittsburgh
The Holiday Bowl—Payout $2,200,000
Located in San Diego, California. Matches the Pac-10 versus the Big 12.
Projected Teams—Oregon versus Texas Tech
The Alamo Bowl—Payout $2,225,000
Located in San Antonio, Texas. Matches the Pac- 10 versus the Big 12.
Projected Teams—Oregon State versus Missouri
The Gator Bowl—Payout $2,750,000
Located in Jacksonville, Florida. Matches the SEC versus the Big Ten.
Projected Teams—Arkansas versus Michigan State.
The Gator Bowl returns to the SEC's list of postseason games and there is nobody better to represent the conference in this historic game than Ryan Mallett and his Razorbacks. The Big Ten will provide plenty of competition with hard-hitting linebacker Greg Jones and the Spartans of Michigan State.
Texas Tech played in the Alamo last year, so they will opt for San Diego, while Oregon State looks to finish second in the Pac-10 and scoop up the Alamo Bowl. The third-place team from the Pac-10, Oregon, heads off to the Holiday Bowl under the new bowl contracts.
The Champs Sports Bowl gets the second choice of the Big East and will take Pittsburgh. The Orlando event also has the third choice in the ACC and will take Virginia Tech.
The Outback Bowl—Payout $3,100,000
Located in Tampa, Florida. Matches the SEC versus the Big 10.
Projected Teams—Georgia versus Penn State
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl—Payout $3,250 for ACC, $2,400,000 for SEC.
Located in Atlanta, Georgia. Matches the ACC versus the SEC.
Projected Teams—Miami versus South Carolina
The Insight Bowl—Payout $3,325,000
Located in Tempe, Arizona. Matches The Big 10 versus the Big 12.
Projected Teams—Northwestern versus Texas A&M
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl, formerly known as the Peach Bowl, has the second choice of ACC teams and the fifth selection among the SEC. Their payout is adjusted accordingly.
South Carolina has not been to this bowl since 1969 and yet Columbia is only a three-hour drive across I-20 to Atlanta. The Gamecock fans will sell the place out, making up for the selection of ACC regular-season champion Miami, who will enter the game on a down note.
The Insight Bowl signed on with ESPN and has a pocket full of money, if not the prestige, to snap up an excellently coached Wildcat team from the Big Ten. The Aggies travel well and get the Big 12 invite.
The Outback Bowl, with Joe Paterno designing a strategy to stop Georgia's sensational receiver A.J. Green, may be the best matchup of the bowl games.
The Cotton Bowl—Payout $3,575,000
Located in Arlington, Texas. Matches the SEC versus the Big 12.
Projected Teams—LSU versus Texas
The Capital One Bowl—Payout $4,250,000
Located in Orlando, Florida. Matches the SEC versus the Big 10.
Projected Teams—Auburn versus Wisconsin
These are two stand-alone bowls. This is called "being in high cotton," among bowl game selections. No pun intended.
The Cotton Bowl is one of the oldest postseason events, but is now played at the retractable roof stadium outside of Dallas in the city of Arlington. The Capital One, formerly the Citrus Bowl and before 1983 known as The Tangerine Bowl for 35 years, provides an entertaining trip for any group of players and fans.
An LSU versus Texas game, played on the night of January 7, would provide fans with a classic confrontation. It will be the only college game played on that date, so viewers will be able to give it their undivided attention.
Auburn has the potential to run the table, while the Badgers fully expect to win the BCS championship this year. The Capital One broadcast will be televised against three other bowl games in the early afternoon on New Year's Day, preventing these two fine teams from having an undivided audience.
No.5: The Fiesta Bowl
Projected Teams: Iowa versus Oklahoma
No.4: The Sugar Bowl
Projected Teams: Boise State versus Alabama
No.3: The Orange Bowl
Projected Teams: Florida State versus Connecticut
No.2: The Rose Bowl
Projected Teams: Ohio State versus Arizona
No.1: BCS Title Game
Projected Teams: Nebraska versus Florida
The six "BCS Conference" champions absorb all but four positions available in these contests. The two top-ranked teams in the final poll will play for the BCS Championship. The remaining four openings can be selected due to ranking as "at-large" teams.
Boise State, should the Broncos finish undefeated, will be ranked at least in the top four in the final poll and be selected by the Sugar Bowl. Although they may be disheartened if not chosen for the title game, they will no doubt be relieved they can go to a new destination away from the Fiesta Bowl.
Alabama will lose to Florida in the SEC Championship game and be selected as an at-large squad for the Sugar Bowl. The same thing happened to the Crimson Tide two years ago and they were run off the field by unbeaten Utah.
The Orange will take the ACC and Big East champions. This will provide good fan interest throughout the eastern seaboard as well as heavy attendance.
The Fiesta Bowl will select highly ranked at-large teams. Oklahoma from the Big 12 and Iowa from the Big Ten make for an interesting contest. Sooner coach Bob Stoops is a former Hawkeye player.
Either of these rugged teams could advance to the BCS Title game provided they have good fortune during the season.
The Rose Bowl has become something of a downer for teams since it became a member of the BCS Bowl rotation. It spells the end of a season where one hopes to get into the BCS Title contest.
Two years ago Southern California had to face that dilemma, last year it was Ohio State's turn.
There is no question about the awesome power and talent of Ohio State this season but the murderous schedule just might be their Achilles heel.
The Pac-10, when the Trojans are not in charge, usually springs the surprise team to the BCS. Look for Arizona to emerge from a hotly contested race with the teams of the Northwest.
Nebraska should win every game and qualify for the title game ranked No.1 in the country.
Florida, on the strength of supposed victories over ACC champion Florida State and last year's BCS champion Alabama in their final two games, should vault into the No. 2 position in the final poll.
These BCS selections were covered in a previous article we prepared and this is the link straight to it.