College Football Bowl Projections: How BCS Rankings Shake Up Bowl Picture
Rivalry week has come and gone, and the SEC stays king atop the BCS Standings. LSU brought home a second straight perfect BCS ranking, and even a loss to Georgia will likely not drop the Tigers past Alabama and Oklahoma State (or Stanford) to third. As a result, it appears the rematch of the latest "Game of the Century" is on.
The remainder of the bowl picture is coming into shape as well. One huge question remaining is whether the loser of the Bedlam game will receive an at-large BCS berth over Michigan. The Wolverines dropped a slot to No. 16 in the rankings this week, but two of the three teams in front of them will likely lose this week: Michigan State plays Wisconsin, and Georgia must play LSU. Although there are no guarantees that the Wolverines will jump both teams, if Michigan reaches No. 14, then it will be very hard to turn them down for a BCS bowl.
Teams are beginning to accept bowl invitations already, but there are nearly enough bowl bids to go around to every eligible team thanks to UCLA having to play another game at 6-6 and Miami holding themselves out of a bowl game. There are only 72 bowl eligible teams for 70 spots, so there should not be too many disappointed young athletes this holiday season.
Let's get right into the projections!
New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State vs. Temple
MWC No. 4 vs. Pac-12 No. 7 (not available)
San Diego State will likely be the only choice from the Mountain West available to the New Mexico Bowl, but the Aztecs do not have to travel far and should be a good draw. Furthermore, San Diego State will match up well against nearly every team available to fill the other slot of the bowl, which is empty thanks to a lack of teams eligible in the Pac-12.
With the other slot being open, the bowl will be able to pursue major conference teams such as Illinois and Iowa State. However, both of these teams will likely go to slightly larger payouts available in other bowls with openings, so Temple will be the choice as the best non-major conference team. The Owls will be thrilled to be bowling despite not being selected in the MAC three-bowl lineup.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Toledo vs. Utah State
MAC No. 3 vs. WAC No. 1
Toledo lost a wild-game against Northern Illinois and thus will be left out of the conference championship despite a 7-1 record. Toledo played tough and perhaps should have beaten Syracuse and Ohio State as well, which would have had the Rockets flirting with the national rankings. Look for a lot of lateral passes to force defenders into one-on-one tackling situations.
The Poinsettia Bowl has already elected to invite WAC conference champion Louisiana Tech, which is a better fit than the game in Idaho. As a result, the choice will be between Utah State and Nevada. Utah State makes more geographical sense and defeated the Wolfpack this weekend, so look for the Aggies to make the short trip to take on the Rockets.
New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Western Michigan
Sun Belt No. 2 vs. C-USA No. 5 (not available)
The Sun Belt teams have already filled their two bowl slots as Louisiana-Lafayette accepted a bowl invite to local New Orleans this weekend. The Ragin' Cajuns will probably need to wait until the last minute of bowl selections to find out who will be joining them on their home turf.
The New Orleans Bowl will surprisingly not have a fifth bowl-eligible team from Conference USA to choose because only five teams are eligible and Houston is headed to a BCS bowl with a win in the conference championship. Barring an upset, the bowl committee will need to lure a team into the game with a lower payout than most other bowl games. Provided with a choice between Western Michigan, Western Kentucky and Ball State, I believe the Broncos will be selected.
However, do not be surprised to see either of the other two teams here.
St. Petersburg Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Tulsa
Big East No. 6 vs. C-USA No. 2
Pittsburgh may not have been successful in the Backyard Brawl, but another chance to reach six wins happens this week at Syracuse. Considering how bad the Orangemen have played during conference play, it would be a shocker to see Syracuse pull the upset to reach this bowl game. This has to be considered a huge disappointment once again for the Panthers, who were so close to another shared conference championship.
Speaking of being close to a conference championship, Tulsa was 7-0 and headed into a big showdown with Houston with a chance to make the conference championship game. After Case Keenum and the Cougars disposed of Tulsa with ease, the Golden Hurricane will fall into this bowl game. Pittsburgh should not underestimate Tulsa though, as the Panthers could lose this game.
Poinsettia Bowl: (7) Boise State vs. Louisiana Tech
MWC No. 2 vs. WAC No. 2
The Poinsettia Bowl pulled a slight surprise by taking WAC champion Louisiana Tech, but the Idaho Potato bowl had a better fit in Utah State. In any event, it appears that the Poinsettia Bowl will have Boise State to draw in television viewers and casual fans to watch the game. There is a small chance if Michigan does not become BCS bowl eligible that the Broncos could be selected over the loser of the Bedlam game, but Boise State could still be a hard sell when Houston has locked up one at-large berth already.
The Broncos will not be happy to be here, but do not expect Kellen Moore and company to play dead for Louisiana Tech. To the contrary, Boise State could make this the most boring of the bowl games by showing up with all their talent.
Las Vegas Bowl: (18) TCU vs. Utah
MWC No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 5
The Las Vegas Bowl will be thrilled to see this matchup of former Mountain West rivals, each moving into major conference play this year or next year. The Horned Frogs will not be able to catch Houston for the automatic BCS berth, but TCU should be content with a Rose Bowl victory last year and another conference championship this year. A game against Utah will keep the Horned Frogs sharp during bowl practices.
The Utes were close to making the inaugural Pac-12 championship, but that miss might be a blessing considering how well Oregon is playing now. As UCLA will be knocked out of bowl contention with a loss, Utah will be the only choice left, assuming California and Arizona State are taken off the board first. The Utes will provide a challenge to TCU, but the Horned Frogs should be favored.
Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Florida International
WAC No. 4 vs. C-USA No. 6 (not available)
Hawaii is 6-6 at this point and has a big game left against BYU, but the Cougars must travel out to Hawaii to knock off the Warriors. Considering how tough Hawaii plays at home, the Warriors have about a 50 percent chance of reaching the winning record required to play in the bowl game hosted in their stadium. If Hawaii loses this week, then Western Kentucky or Ball State could end up filling the slot.
Conference USA will not have enough bowl-eligible teams, so the Hawaii Bowl will already need to fill one slot with an at-large team. I project Florida International will be the best choice remaining considering the relatively low bowl payout and high travel expenses for teams playing in this bowl game. FIU has eight wins this season, and this will be a nice reward no matter who the opponent is.
Independence Bowl: N.C. State vs. Wyoming
ACC No. 7 vs. MWC No. 3
North Carolina State put an exclamation point on the season with a dominating win over Clemson two weeks ago, so the Wolfpack will roll into this bowl game with some confidence. N.C. State will be favored to win this bowl game as well, which could kick start additional recruiting to become competitive once again in the ACC.
Wyoming was not successful in the trip to Boise this weekend, but the Cowboys will still finish third in a tough Mountain West Conference. Consequently, the Cowboys will end up in this bowl game. One can only hope Wyoming busts out the bright yellow and brown uniforms to make a statement.
Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl: Ohio vs. Northwestern
MAC No. 1 vs. Big Ten No. 8
This bowl projection assumes the Big Ten will attain two BCS bowl berths, although Northwestern may be the pick even if Purdue and Illinois are competing for this slot. Northwestern is not in any risk of dropping out of a bowl game thanks to all the at-large openings in other bowl games, but the Wildcats will take the final Big Ten tie-in. The Big Ten has struggled to fill this slot regularly, so Detroit will be happy to finally fill this bowl game with a Big Ten team.
Ohio plays Northern Illinois this weekend at Ford Field with the winner earning a ticket to another game at Ford Field (this bowl game). Frank Solich is due to finally win a conference championship with the underrated Bobcats, so that is why Ohio is slotted here. The Bobcats have a strong enough defense to keep both Dan Persa and Mike Kafka in check, and this game could be one of the better in bowl season.
Belk Bowl: Florida State vs. Louisville
ACC No. 4 vs. Big East No. 3
Florida State has had a disappointing season considering that a return to BCS glory was anticipated, but the Seminoles still have a fan base that will travel to a bowl game. The Seminoles will likely be chosen over Georgia Tech for this game, even though Virginia will be selected over both of these teams as a result of the Cavaliers beating both of them.
Louisville is sitting in first place in the Big East but needs Cincinnati to lose this weekend so they can win a tiebreaker over West Virginia. Cincinnati could lose on the road, but that seems unlikely, and so Louisville will fall behind West Virginia and Notre Dame to this game. Charlie Strong is only two years removed from leading the Gators against the Seminoles every year, so he will have the Cardinals well prepared for this game.
Military Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Air Force
ACC No. 8 vs. Navy (not available)
Despite winning only one nonconference game, Wake Forest finished strong in ACC play to reach six wins and a bowl game. Although the Demon Deacons trail only Clemson in the Atlantic Division, they will fall down to the last choice from the conference because of a relatively small fan following. Despite being in the BCS just a few years ago, Wake Forest fans will be happy to see a team on the rise play a 13th game.
Navy could not reach bowl eligibility for the first time in a few years, and that leaves the Military Bowl looking for a replacement. Coincidentally, Air Force will likely be available with the Mountain West not sending a team to BCS bowls this year. The Falcons should find some big openings downfield against the Wake Forest defense, which will probably decide this matchup.
Holiday Bowl: (22) Texas vs. California
Big 12 No. 5 vs. Pac-12 No. 3
Similar to Nebraska a season ago, Texas fans will not be happy with this season. Nonetheless, the Holiday Bowl is a nice place for the Longhorns to land. Texas will be paired in an interesting game against California in Pac-12 territory, which appeared to help Washington knock off the Cornhuskers a year ago.
California was never really in the conference race with Stanford and Oregon, but Cal still made a respectable appearance in the tougher of the two divisions this season. The Golden Bears may even be favored in this game when you consider how tough they played against the top Pac-12 teams. Another big match up for a traditionally strong bowl game.
Champs Sports Bowl: Virginia vs. Notre Dame
ACC No. 3 vs. Big East No. 2
Virginia came within one game of playing for an ACC title, which is a shocking achievement in Mike London's second year. Although Virginia Tech was never in danger of losing to the Cavaliers, Virginia should be competitive in the Coastal Division for many years to come. Although Florida State may travel a bit better, the Champs Sports Bowl will reward Virginia on an unexpected high-quality season, especially considering the opponent will have no problems selling bowl tickets.
That other opponent will be Notre Dame, which gets slotted into this bowl when they do not make the BCS. Following the loss against Stanford, the Irish have zero chance of jumping to the BCS. However, Notre Dame finished with eight wins in nine games before the Stanford loss and appears to be on the rise as a program. Notre Dame will be heavily favored to win a rematch of an early November game.
Alamo Bowl: (17) Baylor vs. Washington
Big 12 No. 3 vs. Pac-12 No. 2
Baylor climbed the bowl pecking order with a victory over Oklahoma two weeks ago. The Bears are also desirable to Texas-based bowl games thanks in large part to the magnificent play of quarterback Robert Griffin III. RG3 will look to put an impressive cap on his college career (if he goes pro) with a big game against the Huskies. Look for Baylor to score at least 40 points in this game.
Washington finished third behind only Oregon and Stanford in the North division. The Huskies have fared just fine without Jake Locker at quarterback, although the Huskies will not be confused for Baylor on the offensive side of the ball. Washington came up with a great game plan to shut down a better Nebraska team last year, so look for this game to stay close.
Armed Forces Bowl: SMU vs. BYU
C-USA No. 3 vs. BYU
SMU features the well-known, June Jones passing attack, and Conference USA has not been able to slow it down any better than the WAC did when Jones was at Hawaii. SMU will be challenged by the BYU linebackers and defensive line, as there will not be a ton of time to pass on each down.
BYU played a solid schedule in its first year of independence, and eight or nine wins is nothing to sneeze at. The Cougars will put up significant points against the SMU defense, but the question is whether the defense can slow the Mustangs enough to get a win. The Armed Forces Bowl could be an underrated gem in the early bowl season.
Pinstripe Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Rutgers
Big 12 No. 7 vs. Big East No. 4
Texas A&M fell from grace in a hurry, as nearly every Big 12 team took its best shot against the Aggies in A&M's last year in the conference. The Aggies will not find the going any easier in the SEC, but at least there will not be the open animosity from most opponents like there was this season. Ryan Tannehill should have yet another good performance, but the Aggies defense needs to play better under Mike Sherman to spare his job in the long run.
Rutgers will be an easy selection for a bowl game in Yankee Stadium over Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights will fill the stands against a traditional power like Texas A&M. Rutgers has been plagued by inconsistent play all season, but that could be enough to defeat Texas A&M, which plays wildly inconsistent from half to half, let alone game to game.
Music City Bowl: North Carolina vs. Vanderbilt
ACC No. 6 vs. SEC No. 8
North Carolina survived the season in which Butch Jones was lost just days before the opening game, and a bowl game will be a nice reward for the kids that have played their hearts out despite the adversity of the last two years. The Tar Heels will like seing Vanderbilt on the opposing sideline, as the Commodores will give UNC a chance to steal the headlines from the basketball team for a weekend.
Vanderbilt did what Tennessee and Kentucky could not, and that was reach six wins in the rugged SEC. The Commodores will not be a desirable pick to leave town, but the Nashville-based Music City Bowl will love having the hometown team for this game. With Chapel Hill only a short drive away, this will be another good showing for both teams. Hopefully, this year's bowl game does not end with as much controversy as the Tennessee-UNC bowl game last season.
Insight Bowl: (11) Kansas State vs. Ohio State
Big 12 No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4
Kansas State will finish ahead of Baylor in the conference standings, but the Wildcats do not have Robert Griffin III to launch them into the Alamo Bowl. Thus, Kansas State will find itself in a rematch of a memorable 2004 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Kansas State had to come back from a big deficit in that game, but that should not happen this year as the Buckeyes are not high-powered on offense.
Ohio State received the best news of the season today with the announcement of Urban Meyer being hired as the next head coach. However, Luke Fickell gets one more opportunity to win a seventh game and earn a winning season in his first year at head coach. Fickell may be the coach of the future after Meyer, so it would be nice for him to leave some better memories than the 0-3 ending to this regular season. Braxton Miller will be a tough test for the Wildcats.
Meineke Car Care Bowl: (25) Missouri vs. (21) Penn State
Big 12 No. 6 vs. Big Ten No. 6
Missouri appeared to be struggling to get to a bowl despite having an easy closing schedule when Gary Pinkel was suspended for a game for a DUI. However, the Tigers escaped a tough home game against Texas Tech and then handled rival Kansas to end up with seven wins. Missouri might be headed out of the conference next year, but this bowl will still be content to grab Missouri while it can.
Penn State will drop all the way down to this bowl game thanks to the scandal in State College and a cold end of the season. What looked like a magical season at 8-1 with Joe Paterno ends with a thud here. Tom Bradley may be still in the mix to win the full-time job, and another defensive lock down performance to help erase the memory of the breakdown in Madison could do the trick. Penn State should win this game, although it will stay close thanks to the ineptitude of the Nittany Lions offense.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Nevada vs. Iowa State
WAC No. 3 vs. Army/Pac-12 No. 6 (not available)
Nevada surprisingly struggled to reach six wins this season, but a 4-2 mark in conference play heading into the final weekend of the season guarantees a bowl appearance. The Wolfpack will be a tough test for Iowa State, although the Cyclones will have a full month to prepare for the pistol attack. Colin Kaepernick was a fun athlete to watch, but freshman Cody Fajardo may make the fans in Nevada forget about Kaepernick in a hurry after his freshman season.
Iowa State needed to win one game against the trio of Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State to reach a bowl. As everyone knows, the Cyclones made a bowl game in style by upsetting the Cowboys at home to ruin Oklahoma State's season. The Cyclones will not be selected by any regular conference bowl tie-in, leaving the Cyclones to take a big payday in this game.
Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Arizona State
ACC No. 5 vs. Pac-12 No. 4
Georgia Tech does not come into this game on the right foot after losing to Georgia, but at least Paul Johnson will still be coaching, which is a better situation than Dennis Erickson at Arizona State. The Yellow Jackets have been tough to stop except when teams have a lot of time to prepare for the option attack. Thus, Arizona State should be ready to slow down Georgia Tech's offense in this game.
However, Arizona State will be playing its final game for coach Erickson, which does not give the staff much reason to work their tails off. Arizona State has a lot of young talent, and hopefully the chance to gain extra bowl practices will help the Sun Devils come up off the mat much more quickly than those teams looking at a bare cupboard and a new coaching staff. Arizona State played many teams better than Georgia Tech this year, so do not be surprised if an upset happens.
Liberty Bowl: (24) Southern Miss vs. Mississippi State
C-USA No. 1 vs. SEC No. 7
Southern Miss slips up a spot to this bowl game following Tulsa's dismantling by Houston, as the Liberty Bowl will favor a team that made the conference championship over a team that was blown out to lose the division title. Of course, Southern Miss could also end up here with a win over Houston, although that seems unlikely considering how well Case Keenum is playing. The Golden Eagles lost a couple unexpected games this season, but this game will be winnable.
For the Bulldogs, this season has been tough going against what were the top three teams in the nation within their own division. The Bulldogs took care of business out of conference and also against the SEC East, so a bowl berth was well earned this year. Mississippi State blew away Michigan last year in a bowl game, so Southern Miss should be prepared for a tough challenge despite the mediocre record of the Bulldogs.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: (20) Clemson vs. Auburn
ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5
Clemson ended the long winning streak for the defending national champions back in September, and that game was highly competitive. As a result, the Chick-fil-A Bowl will not be hesitant to put together the battle of the Tigers once more. Clemson stumbled out of the national title race at the end of the season, but this will be a nice landing spot after losing the conference championship to Virginia Tech. If Clemson wins that game, then Virginia Tech will drop here.
Auburn faced the same struggles Mississippi State did in facing the tough trio of Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. However, Auburn persevered and took some good shots from teams eager to defeat a defending national champion. Auburn took a team with a small handful of returning starters and made it into a winner, which could be Gene Chizik's best coaching job yet. Auburn will be tough for Clemson to defeat twice.
TicketCity Bowl: Purdue vs. Marshall
Big Ten No. 7 vs. C-USA No. 4
Purdue locked up bowl-eligible status with a win over Indiana this weekend, which sets the Boilermakers up for their first bowl game in four seasons. The Boilermakers have patched together a season with a trio of quarterbacks led by freshman Caleb Terbush. Purdue will like to see another 6-6 team on the other side of the field, as this will provide a legitimate opportunity for the first winning season in Danny Hope's coaching tenure.
Marshall slipped into bowl eligibility by defending the home turf this weekend against East Carolina. The Thundering Herd struggled against a tough nonconference schedule, but set themselves up for success in league play with these tough games. Marshall will not be intimidated by Purdue, although the Boilermakers will score some points against a weak Marshall defense.
Capital One Bowl: (19) Nebraska vs. (8) Arkansas
Big Ten No. 2 vs. SEC No. 2
Nebraska is hoping for Michigan to make the BCS because it is likely the Wolverines could knock the Cornhuskers out of this game and out of New Year's Day (January 2) if that does not happen. Otherwise, Nebraska will be an easy choice for a bowl game that has not had access to that fan base for a long time. Bo Pelini will find his defense tested by an offense that looks far more like the Big 12 opposition than the new conference foes in the Big Ten.
That opposition is Arkansas, which lost a chance at a national title last weekend in Baton Rouge. The Razorbacks will be happy to avenge last season's bowl loss to a Big Ten team in this game, and Nebraska's defense has been prone to some big plays this season. Look for a lot of points and a wild finish when these two teams meet.
Gator Bowl: Iowa vs. Florida
Big Ten No. 5 vs. SEC No. 6
The Gator Bowl has made a lot of noise this week about setting up the Urban Meyer bowl with the local Gators playing against their former coach and the future coach of Ohio State. However, I project that Ohio State will be taken off the board before the Gator gets a choice, which will leave Iowa as the choice here over Penn State (PSU and Florida played last year in bowl season). Iowa fans will be thrilled to follow James Vandenberg and his offensive weapons to Jacksonville for this game.
Florida struggled to a 6-6 finish in Will Muschamp's first season, but the SEC was a brutal place to be this season. John Brantley is coming into his own under Charlie Weis, and one would expect this to be a good test with a month to prepare for a tough defense of the Hawkeyes. This could be a rare low-scoring affair in a bowl game considering the offensive inconsistencies.
Outback Bowl: (13) Michigan State vs. (12) South Carolina
Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No. 4
Michigan State falls here after losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship because the Capital One Bowl hosted the Spartans a year ago. However, Tampa is not that far from Orlando and the fans will be happy for another chance to show off in a New Year's Day bowl game. The Spartans will find a much more manageable SEC opponent this year, as Alabama is occupied in a bigger game.
South Carolina survived a plethora of injuries and quarterback inconsistency to end up nearly winning the East division. Although Steve Spurrier will never admit it, this was an overachieving year considering the circumstances. Michigan State will focus on stopping the Gamecocks running offense and should find success in shutting down South Carolina. Michigan State returns the favor to the SEC in this one.
Cotton Bowl: (3) Oklahoma State vs. (14) Georgia
Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3
The Cotton Bowl will end up with a game that looks like it belongs in the BCS, and very well could be in the BCS if the Cowboys and Bulldogs take care of business in conference championship games this weekend (Bedlam is a de facto conference championship). Oklahoma State still has a chance to play in the BCS, but the Sooners will knock the Cowboys out of the BCS entirely this weekend according to my projections. Thus, it will be interesting to see if Mike Gundy can motivate his team for this lesser bowl game when hopes were sky high a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Georgia will find no shame in a season that finished with ten straight wins following a disappointing 0-2 start. Thanks to South Carolina dropping two games, Mark Richt finally gets another chance to win the SEC title. The task is tall against LSU, but Georgia may shock the world and end up in the Sugar Bowl. When that does not happen, Georgia will receive a nice consolation prize with a huge bowl matchup in the heart of Texas.
BBVA Compass Bank Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Illinois
Big East No. 5 vs. SEC No. 9 (not available)
Cincinnati could make the BCS with a win and a West Virginia loss this weekend, but that will not happen for the Bearcats and UC will lose the tiebreaker to WVU. Cincinnati may have the services of starting quarterback Zack Collaros back in this game following his injury against West Virginia, but Munchie LeGaux is making a name for himself in a tough finishing stretch in the Big East. Even if Collaros is back, LeGaux will see some playing time to force the Illinois defense to stretch out and put it in one-on-one situations.
Illinois fired Ron Zook, which is no surprise considering how poor his tenure has been at Champaign. Perhaps the only shock is how long he hung on with a losing record, thanks in large part to a gift-wrapped Rose Bowl berth in 2008. Nathan Scheelhaase will be familiar to a Cincinnati defense that is used to quarterbacks of that mold in Collaros and LeGaux. Illinois will be slotted into this bowl as an at-large despite losing its last six games, and Cincinnati will likely make it seven in a row with a lame-duck coaching staff on the other sideline.
GoDaddy Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State
MAC No. 2 vs. Sun Belt No. 1
Northern Illinois has a chance to win the MAC championship this weekend against Ohio, but the consolation prize is a trip down South for this bowl game. That might be a better bowl destination than where the Ohio Bobcats will end up (Detroit, again). The Huskies have an offense that is hard to stop, and expect NIU to dominate time of possession in this game.
Arkansas State won the Sun Belt in a surprise finish this season, and the Red Wolves have already locked themselves into this bowl game. Look for a solid fan advantage with the game being played just a few hours away from the Arkansas State campus. This could be a chance to see two of the best schools in little-known conferences right before the big game.
Rose Bowl: (15) Wisconsin vs. (9) Oregon
Big Ten No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 1
Wisconsin took the opening provided by Penn State and Ohio State and rode back into the Big Ten championship by sweeping the November schedule. More impressively, Wisconsin continues to dominate at home against good teams by a wide margin. Unfortunately, the Badgers cannot successfully petition to get the Rose Bowl moved to Camp Randall.
Last year's Rose Bowl loser meets the 2009 Rose Bowl loser, as Oregon will almost certainly handle UCLA in this week's Pac-12 championship. Oregon has struggled against good SEC and Big Ten defenses in bowl season, and this game will be no different as Wisconsin will slow down the Ducks. However, Wisconsin also has the offense to run with Oregon if this game becomes a shootout. This will be one of the better BCS games.
Fiesta Bowl: (10) Oklahoma vs. (6) Houston
Big 12 No. 1 vs. BCS At Large
Houston will earn an automatic at-large berth with a win in the Conference USA championship this weekend, which will give the country a chance to see the record-breaking sensation Case Keenum on the biggest stage. Houston will travel in droves to the Fiesta Bowl with the first major bowl appearance in two decades for a big-city school. The Cougars will score some points against an Oklahoma defense prone to mistakes this season.
However, the Sooners know just how dangerous these non-BCS conference teams can be in BCS bowl games. Bob Stoops will have the Sooners ready to play up to the competition like they did against Connecticut a season ago. This game will not be a blowout, but Oklahoma will make a big statement on why a national title should have come to Norman this season with a win in this game.
Sugar Bowl: (16) Michigan vs. (4) Stanford
SEC No. 1 (not available) vs. BCS At Large
Michigan actually lost a spot in the BCS rankings despite getting a seven-year monkey off its back by beating the Buckeyes. That jeopardizes a golden opportunity for the Wolverines to make the BCS for the first time in four years. However, Georgia and either Michigan State or Wisconsin will lose next weekend in all likelihood, opening the door for Michigan to probably reach the top 14 in the BCS rankings. If that happens, the Sugar Bowl will jump on the opportunity with no SEC teams available.
Stanford is slotted by many to the Fiesta Bowl, but I believe Houston will be grabbed for another Oklahoma-against-the-little-guy storyline in the Fiesta Bowl. Stanford will lock up an automatic berth with an Oklahoma State loss this weekend, which sets up a battle of smart schools not in the Ivy League. Andrew Luck will find some openings against the Michigan defense, but these Wolverines are ready for the big stage, especially against a banged-up Cardinal squad.
Orange Bowl: (5) Virginia Tech vs. (23) West Virginia
ACC No. 1 vs. BCS At Large
The poor Orange Bowl gets the last pick in the order this season, which means this is locked in as the ACC champion against the Big East champion. At this point, it appears that West Virginia will receive all the help necessary to get back to the BCS, while Virginia Tech earns its bid against Clemson. The Hokies and the Mountaineers continued their rivalry long after Virginia Tech left the Big East, but the two teams did not play this season.
That oversight will be corrected on a big BCS stage, as both teams will be hungry for a win over a rival. With West Virginia headed to the Big 12 perhaps next year, the opportunities to play Virginia Tech may be dwindling in the future. This is definitely a better-case scenario than a lackluster Clemson versus Louisville game, which is also possible.
BCS Championship: (1) LSU vs. (2) Alabama
BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2
The Game of the Century is all but locked in with LSU holding a massive lead over Oklahoma State and Alabama having a comfortable margin over the Cowboys. LSU has been the most dominant team in college football by a wide margin, and therefore probably makes this game even with a loss to Georgia this weekend. I would not bet on that happening though, as Les Miles has had his Tigers ready for all the major showdowns this season.
Alabama will be thrilled to get another shot at LSU, although this time the game will be played in the Tigers' backyard at the Superdome. LSU won the 2003 and 2007 national titles in the Superdome, so it seems like fate draws this team back time and again for another national title on the home turf. Of course, Nick Saban won that first title for LSU, so this will also be a match up of the last two national title coaching winners in the Superdome. Although the nation might not be jazzed about a rematch, these are the best two teams in the country and so they will rightfully meet for all the marbles.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to next weekend, when all these bowl projections become actual games to preview. Have a great week!