TheSportsNotebook’s college football coverage has been doing BCS bowl projections all year, and now have something substantive to go on. The first edition of the official BCS rankings are out. While the purpose of this exercise to do a little projecting, I am giving significant benefit of the doubt to how the rankings look. A combination of this, plus the upsets and other key results that took place in both the SEC and the country in general on Saturday have altered the BCS bowl projection landscape.
The most significant changes are the following…
*Florida State is ranked #2 behind Alabama. I’ve had either Stanford or Oregon in the “non-SEC” spot in the national championship game all year. It’s possible that Oregon, ranked 3rd, could push past Florida State on the strength of the Ducks’ upcoming games with UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State and a potential Pac-12 Championship Game. But that’s a tough guess, given that Florida State plays Miami, Florida and a potential ACC title game. I have to give the benefit of the doubt to the current poll.
*Perhaps the biggest consequence of Black Saturday in the SEC, where every power team except Alabama lost a conference game, is the race for the conference’s second spot in the major bowls (the rules prevent a third team from being picked, even on an at-large basis). Auburn is ranked #11, and while Missouri sits at #5, the Tigers likely have to complete the regular season undefeated in order to survive a presumed conference championship game loss to Alabama and still be picked.
I’m not sure that I buy Auburn over LSU or South Carolina, but the Auburn has the ranking and since they’ve now beaten Texas A&M, why shouldn’t they be projected for a Sugar Bowl nod?
*The Big 12 race is really up in the air. Baylor is ranked #7 and Texas Tech #10, both teams being unbeaten. Neither one has played anyone of consequence in the league. Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are all viable. This projection is subject to change upon further investigation, but since Baylor is dropping 70-plus points with ease and has the ranking edge, I’ll put them in the Fiesta Bowl for now.
*As the race currently stands, you have separate races for the runner-up spots in the Big 12 and Big Ten, along with the pushes of Northern Illinois and Fresno State from the midmajor level. These separate races coalesce into a push for one major bowl slot. You can call me biased for making my own Wisconsin Badgers the one exception to my deference to the rankings and you’d be right. UW is unranked right now, but I am picking them for this spot and here’s why…
–The schedule heavily favors Wisconsin winning out and finishing 10-2, while Michigan, at #22 is the only real competition within the conference and after seeing the Wolverines give up 90 points the last two weeks and knowing their toughest games are ahead, I think the Badgers will be the best Big Ten selection available.
–I am totally unimpressed with the options from the Big 12 and until that changes, I’m leaving them off the table.
–I don’t believe Northern Illinois or Fresno State will make it to the end of the season unbeaten. NIU is playing some uncomfortably close games and has its toughest MAC battles ahead. Fresno State is averse to defense. Each team has the ranking–they’re both in the Top 20–so if they finish undefeated, they’ll probably qualify, but I’m not yet confident in either one doing that.
With that out of the way, here’s how TheSportsNotebook sees the field of ten shaking out in terms of BCS bowl matchups.
THE FIELD OF TEN
Big 12: Baylor
ACC: Florida State
Big Ten: Ohio State
AAC (old Big East): Central Florida
At-Larges (4): Stanford, Clemson, Auburn, Wisconsin
BCS BOWL PROJECTIONS
BCS National Championship: Alabama-Florida State
Fiesta: Baylor-Central Florida
Rose: Oregon-Ohio State