Erik’s 70-Team Bowl Projections
Well, I have absolutely no idea where 4 of C-USA’s 6 teams will be bowling, and the Cotton Bowl is going to be Hell to forecast, but other than that, this isn’t too crazy. After adding last week’s play into my season-based projections, I no longer believe the SEC will have 2 teams in the BCS, much to the chagrin of ESPN and the bowl cartel. I think Auburn loses to Alabama *and* South Carolina, and LSU will fall to Arkansas in Fayetteville. That gives the SEC a 3-loss conference champion in the Sugar Bowl and four 2-loss teams fighting for the conference’s top bowl bids. I just can’t see a 2-loss SEC team getting in over an undefeated TCU or a 1-loss Ohio State, so new game predictions shake up my bowl projections considerably.
When it comes to SMU, Southern Miss, UTEP, and Tulsa bowling in the Hawai’i, New Orleans, St. Petersburg, and Armed Forces Bowl, your guess is as good as mine.
If you read last week’s projections, you know the drill. I don’t like the corporate sponsorship of bowl games, so I call all bowls by their original name or bid name. If you’re an even halfway-decent college football fan, you should be able to figure them out if you don’t know them already. With that said, here's my stab at how 70 teams will be matched up in 35 games...
BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
BCS vs. BCS
Oregon vs. Boise State
Comment: I stick by my belief that Auburn will lose to either Alabama or South Carolina (or both!), and Boise State will leap TCU in the computers to play for all the marbles. I can’t see Oregon losing down the stretch, even though both games should be good ones. Think of this as a rematch of last year’s game, but way nastier and on a neutral field.
BCS vs. BCS
Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Comment: If Oregon goes to the NCG, this will be Stanford unless Auburn wins out and it’s Boise State. From the Big Ten, it’s highly likely this will be Wisconsin, as I don’t think they’ll choke against Northwestern. Ohio State losing to Michigan would put Michigan State here if they don’t blow it in Happy Valley.
BCS vs. BCS
South Carolina vs. TCU
Comment: I’m clearly biased (I went to South Carolina), but I think the Gamecocks are going to take their rematch with Auburn. Lattimore is on, and Spurrier’s team only lost by 8 *at* Auburn a little while back. Auburn could be especially vulnerable if they lose to ‘Bama as well, since they may then have little to play for against Carolina. I still think TCU lands in this spot, but I’m worried about their ability to go to the BCS with Stanford in the equation. The Sugar Bowl has come up short of selling out when teams like Cincinnati and Utah came to town, so organizers may be hesitant to take TCU. However, those games also featured a pair of 1-loss Florida & Alabama teams who just missed out on the NCG, and their fanbases were crushed and didn’t travel to their best abilities. South Carolina landing here helps out TCU’s case tremendously, as the Gamecocks averaged over 76,508 fans during a 2-year span where the team was 1-21. Carolina travels win or lose (and they’ll be pumped to travel to their first-ever Sugar Bowl), and this lands the Frogs in New Orleans.
BCS vs. BCS
Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State
Comment: I no longer think LSU lands in Miami, as I’m now predicting a Razorback win in Fayetteville. Auburn or ‘Bama could go here as well, but I think bowl organizers would rather have an Ohio State team whose fanbase isn’t nearly as disappointed as those in Dixie. Moreover, the bowl has picked a Big Ten team 3 times in the past 10 years, but only 1 SEC team. Alabama could be a threat, but an LSU that loses to Arkansas and a non-SEC-champion Auburn probably wouldn’t get the draw. Virginia Tech shouldn’t have any problem with N.C. State or Florida State, and will reach this game at 11-2.
BCS vs. BCS
Oklahoma State vs. West Virginia
Comment: The Big XII pick could be Nebraska or Oklahoma as well (or even Texas A&M, though unlikely), but I continue to believe this is the year the Cowboys break through. West Virginia should land here as 9-3 Big East champions (at least the conference hopes so), but it could be Pitt or UConn as well.
SEC No. 2 vs. Big Ten No. 2
Alabama vs. Michigan State
Comment: It’s hard to believe ESPN (who broadcasts the BCS) would allow the SEC to get only 1 team into the series, but it’s highly possible. You’re looking at a coin toss between Ohio State and TCU in the Sugar Bowl, and then a coin toss again between one of those teams and Auburn/Alabama/LSU in the Orange. It could happen. Right now, with Auburn projected to lose to ‘Bama and South Carolina, and LSU projected to lose to Arkansas, I think a 1-loss Big Ten team lands in the series over a 2-loss SEC team, as does undefeated TCU. Thus, this will be Alabama or Auburn. I think Orlando will want the hot hand, and takes the Tide fresh off their Iron Bowl victory. They’ll be paired against a 1- or 2-loss Michigan State team (I’m not sold they beat Penn State in Happy Valley).
Big XII No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3/4
Texas A&M vs. LSU
Comment: This is probably the hardest bowl to predict with current win/loss projections through the conference championships. I’m now betting on the SEC West having four 2-loss powers, and the Cotton Bowl should have its pick between three very solid 3-loss teams from the Big XII. Jerry Jones will undoubtedly be begging for Arkansas versus Nebraska or Oklahoma, but I think bowl organizers will want Texas A&M. As such, they won’t want a rematch of a game played in this very stadium just months earlier. Now, with Texas A&M in, it’ll be either LSU or Auburn. Traditionally, the Cotton Bowl and the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa split the third selection on an East/West divisional divide, but this year they’ll be fighting over three West teams. Therein, I think the Hall of Fame wants nearby Auburn, and the Cotton will take LSU.
Pac-10 No. 2 vs. Big XII No. 3
Arizona vs. Oklahoma
Comment: This one hasn’t changed since last week, either. If A&M loses to Texas, this will probably be where they land, but I’m betting they go to the Cotton, and the Alamo will have choices between OU, Nebraska, and Missouri. Of those three, it’ll take a closer Oklahoma team over a deflated Nebraska side. Arizona is definitely the pick from the Pac-10 unless Oregon loses and knocks Stanford out of the BCS – which I’m not predicting at this time.
HALL OF FAME BOWL
Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No.3/4
Iowa vs. Auburn
Comment: Iowa was here just two years ago, and they’ll be back this time around as well. Auburn lands here as the SEC number 3, being much closer to Tampa than LSU or Arkansas. Pretty easy pick, I’d say.
ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5
Florida State vs. Arkansas
Comment: Even if N.C. State goes to the ACC championship game instead of Florida State, they won’t go here. Organizers would rather have a happy-to-be-good-again Seminole fanbase, and they’re inviting the Wolfpack to their 2012 kickoff anyway. FSU will be taking on a very good Arkansas team, and Atlanta will be home to a very good game.
Big East No. 2 / Notre Dame vs. ACC No. 3
Notre Dame vs. Miami (FL)
Comment: Notre Dame’s 6-6 or 7-5 record be damned, we’re talking about Catholics versus Convicts here. This is happening. Book it.
Big XII No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4/5
Nebraska vs. Michigan
Comment: Bowl organizers won’t be able to resist this one. They’ll get either Michigan or Penn State versus Oklahoma or Nebraska, and they couldn’t be happier. Missouri won’t be considered with so many historical powers on the board. When the Alamo takes OU, the Copper will crap itself over landing Nebraska versus a future conference mate. I think the Gator wants Penn State, and Penn State wants the Gator, so Michigan lands here versus the Cornhuskers. You’ll only here about it being a Nebraska versus future conference mate game about 2,146,316 times (yes, that’s 911 times 2,356).
Pac-10 No.3 vs. Big XII No. 5
California vs. Missouri
Comment: What the F*ck, California? This game will be the winner of this weekend’s Washington/California showdown in Berkeley. The Pac-10 is really in a pickle with two BCS teams, and at this point it could theoretically fail to put a team into this game. Not just the San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Sun Bowls - this bowl, too. Oi vey. That being said, I give the edge to the Bears, but not by much. From the Big XII, I think it should be Missouri unless the Copper takes them – then it’d be Nebraska. However, I don’t think the Copper can resist a Big Ten expansion preview, and takes the Cornhuskers.
Big Ten No. 4/5 vs. SEC No. 6
Penn State vs. Florida
Comment: I don’t see this one changing from my projection last week. The only difference is that last week I had two SEC teams in the BCS, and this week I don’t. As such, Florida’s being picked ahead of Mississippi State this time instead of behind them. Sorry, Bulldog fans, but Gainesville’s proximity to Jacksonville beats you out, bowl enthusiasm be damned.
ACC No. 4 vs. Pac-10 No. 4
Maryland vs. Kentucky
Comment: This game will likely wind up with the winner of the N.C. State / Maryland game. I happen to think Maryland wins that one for some odd reason. Thus, the Terrapins will be traveling to El Paso. The Military Bowl will be disappointed it can’t land the local team, but no amount of negotiating will drop them 4 spots. In terms of Pac-10 representation... I don’t think there will be any. The Pac-10’s best hope of putting a team in this game was UCLA getting here, but their choke-job against Washington last week did them in. They won’t be winning out and getting past Southern Cal, and only 1 team can make it here between Cal and Washington. Yikes. The Sun Bowl doesn’t have a back-up agreement in place, as they couldn’t/didn’t see this coming. They’ll probably get a choice between Kentucky and Louisville, and though the Cardinals beat the Wildcats in September, I bet they take Kentucky. It’s a good thing the locals flock to this game, because traveling fans probably won’t in high numbers.
QUEEN CITY BOWL
ACC No. 5 vs. Big East No. 3
N.C. State vs. Connecticut
Comment: I think N.C. Stat loses to Maryland, so this is where they wound land. If the Wolfpack down the Terrapins, however, it’s likely to be Georgia Tech. It *won’t* be North Carolina for the third time in a row, I know that much. From the Big East, who comes is anyone’s guess – as it will be with all Big East bowl tie-ins. I predict UConn and Syracuse will finish 8-4 and Pitt will finish 7-5. South Florida and Louisville will likely be 6-6, so they’re not happening. Of the three who are eligible, I think the bowl takes UConn. There are a lot of Connecticut ex-patriots living in the Charlotte area (something I learned living nearby), and an 8-4 Huskies team should make a good game against the Wolfpack. Besides, I think the boys from the Pinstripe Bowl will be breathing quite heavily down Charlotte’s neck about letting them have Syracuse.
MUSIC CITY BOWL
SEC No. 7 vs. ACC No. 6
Mississippi State vs. North Carolina
Comment: The Bulldogs fall to Nashville, but they should be fine with that – they’ll just be happy to go bowling. The ACC representative is anyone’s guess – it will be either Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, or Boston College. Actually, it probably won’t be Boston College. Of the options available, Clemson has the best traveling fanbase (though it pains me to admit that), but they were in this game last year against Kentucky. As such, I’d put my money on it being UNC, who will have the best record of the four, and whom organizers have wanted for years.
ACC No. 7 vs. MWC No. 3
Clemson vs. Air Force
Comment: Air Force is the easy call as the MWC’s No. 3 selection. Who they face depends on how ACC bowl tie-ins play their hand before Shreveport. It’ll probably be Georgia Tech, Clemson, or Boston College. Actually, once again – scratch that. It won’t be Boston College. As I said last week, "Clemson's an easy pick over Georgia Tech or Boston College from the ACC. I HATE Clemson, but they're the closest thing to an SEC team the ACC has: huge stadium, rabid fanbase, travels well, good football."
C-USA No. 1 vs. SEC No. 8/9
Central Florida vs. Tennessee
Comment: I think Tennessee beats Kentucky to become bowl-eligible, and Memphis and Birmingham would be fools to not take UT and UGA, respectively. Anything can happen in the C-USA title game, but I think O’Leary’s Knights take the conference crown.
SAN FRANCISCO BOWL
Pac-10 No.6/ACC No.9 vs. WAC
Georgia Tech vs. Nevada
Comment: Apparently, the WAC won’t be swinging any deals to get Nevada into the Las Vegas Bowl. As such, they’ll land here against the ACC’s last available team instead of a Pac-10 team. Even though Georgia Tech is one of college football’s historic powers, there’s not a good fit for them before this game, so I think they’ll land here. Boston College was just here last year, so organizers will probably be thankfully the Eagles are likely heading to D.C. The Yellow Jackets were here in 2005 in a poorly-attended game, but Nevada fans should bring the crowds, so it shouldn’t be a huge concern for bowl organizers. Not that they have a choice anyway.
ACC No. 8 vs. C-USA No. 2-6
Boston College vs. East Carolina
Comment: C-USA is going to want its eastern teams to stay in its eastern bowls, and this one is pretty easy to project. ECU has a ton of alumni in northern Virginia, and that should help ease the pain of missing out on local favorite Maryland from the ACC. As to who represents the ACC, it’s the same dilemma I proposed last week: Boston College or Georgia Tech. As I said last week, "Tech fans probably travel a little better, but asking them to go to a cold bowl game that's 10 hours away is probably a bit much. That's not such a leap for BC, who's a little closer and used to the cold." I don’t see any reason to change that logic.
Big XII No. 7 vs. Big East No. 4
Kansas State vs. Syracuse
Comment: If Syracuse is here, the Pinstripe is taking them. If not, they’re taking Connecticut. That’s a no-brainer. The bowl is unlikely to see many fans travel from Big XII country, and it’s going to want a team from the northeast. In this case, I think they land Syracuse. Their opponent will be either Texas Tech or Kansas State, and it’s really the bowl’s call as to who they take. If they’re nice to the Dallas Football Classic, they’ll take Kansas State, but we’ll see. In a pure coin toss, I say it’s Kansas State.
Big XII No. 6 vs. Big Ten No. 6
Baylor vs. Illinois
Comment: Houston officials will take either Baylor or Texas Tech, and given the likely enthusiasm gap between the schools, I think the Texas Bowl takes Baylor. Illinois will almost assuredly be the pick from the Big Ten, as organizers won't be taking Northwestern over the Illini.
Navy vs. MWC No. 2
Navy vs. San Diego State
Comment: Navy has clinched their spot here, and SDSU says they want this game over the Las Vegas Bowl. Vegas is willing to cooperate with that, so this game will be Middies-Aztecs. Easy enough.
LAS VEGAS BOWL
MWC No. 1 vs. Pac-10 No. 5
Utah vs. Louisville
Comment: Brady Hoke says he wants this game. SDSU officials say they want to cooperate with the Poinsettia Bowl. Who wins that decision may wind up coming down to how contract negotiations are going, but I think the Aztecs stay in San Diego. Las Vegas has said they’re fine with that and they’ll take Utah. Who Utah plays, however, is quite the question. Right now, the Pac-10 won’t even be able to fulfill its Sun Bowl obligation, nonetheless this one. The choices will probably be Kentucky and Louisville, as the Big XII won’t have anyone extra unless the Longhorns perform a miracle against Texas A&M. The Sun Bowl’s the bigger draw, and they’ll take Kentucky, so Louisville lands here. The Mountain West will get a chance to show up the Big East, who it hates so very much.
ARMED FORCES BOWL:
Army or MWC-CUSA vs. MWC/C-USA
Army vs. Tulsa
Comment: Last week I didn’t think the MWC or C-USA could fill all of its bids. This week, I think C-USA has a chance to do it, where SMU should have an honest shot at beating an ECU team that was destroyed by a very bad Rice team. If that happens, Army gets the MWC’s spot – who won’t be able to fulfill its obligations unless TCU is shafted from the BCS (which I’m not predicting). I’d expect the bowl to then take a pretty good Tulsa team to face them. Sorry, BYU – but you’re going to Albuquerque now, not Dallas.
Hawai'i vs. C-USA No. 2-6
Hawai’i vs. Southern Miss
Comment: Well, Hawai’i is a lock, so that’s nice. Who they face is anyone’s guess. The C-USA WAC, and Sun Belt tie-ins are brutal to predict. I said Southern Miss last week, and I’m sticking with them. I think the Golden Eagles wind up at 9-3, and as tempting as it’ll be to bring June Jones to the islands again (this time to face his old team, unlike last year), the Warriors would rather face the best team possible. In this case, that’s Southern Miss.
SEC No. 8/9 vs. Big East No. 5
Georgia vs. Pittsburgh
Comment: As noted in my Liberty Bowl comments, "I think Tennessee beats Kentucky to become bowl-eligible, and Memphis and Birmingham would be fools to not take UT and UGA, respectively." Georgia should get up for its rivalry game with Georgia Tech, and a Bulldogs win makes them bowl-eligible and Birmingham-bound. At 7-5, Pitt will likely fall to this spot, and we can all enjoy a match-up of two teams that were killer in the early ‘80s. What does everyone else think of a re-match of the ’82 Sugar Bowl? F*cking awesome? Thought so. It was only one of the greatest bowl games of all time.
DALLAS FOOTBALL CLASSIC
Big XII No. 8 vs. Big Ten No. 7
Texas Tech vs. Northwestern
Comment: With two Big Ten teams in the BCS, Northwestern will be the only Big Ten team left, so that’s who lands here. From the Big XII, it will come down to what the Pinstripe Bowl does, and what the Pinstripe does ultimately comes down to what Big East teams are available. Thankfully, Yankee Stadium should be able to land Connecticut or Syracuse, so it’s not unreasonable for it to honor a request from Dallas to leave Texas Tech in-state.
ST. PETERSBURG BOWL
C-USA vs. Big East No. 6
UTEP vs. South Florida
Comment: The Big East will get to choose between South Florida and Louisville. Gee, I wonder who they’ll take? From C-USA, I’d guess that UTEP lands here (but will Mike Price be with them?). If the bowl can’t land South Florida, they’ll want Southern Miss instead of UTEP, but the Golden Eagles will be flying to Hawai’i after finishing 9-3. This bowl could be in a difficult situation, but it also probably shouldn’t exist, so how bad are we supposed to feel?
NEW ORLEANS BOWL
C-USA vs. Sun Belt
SMU vs. Florida International
Comment: After watching a very bad Rice team destroy East Carolina, I’m more bullish on the Mustangs odds of going bowling. At 7-6, they probably won’t go to Hawai’i again, however, no matter how much June Jones wants to face his old team. As such, SMU probably lands here instead, where Mustang fans should travel pretty well and have a good time. They’ll probably face likely-Sun Belt-champion Florida International, though bowl organizers and the Sun Belt may try to swing Troy or Louisiana-Monroe in their place for the sake of ticket sales. It really depends which C-USA team they get. If it’s not SMU or Southern Miss, switching out FIU (and giving up the Sun Belt champ for the second year in a row) isn’t beyond reason.
MOTOR CITY BOWL
Big Ten No. 8 vs. MAC No. 1
Louisiana-Monroe vs. Northern Illinois
Comment: This will be Northern Illinois or Ohio versus a Sun Belt team. I don’t see the Bobcats topping the Huskies, so I’ll bet on NIU returning to Detroit for this one. Two Big Ten teams in the BCS means the conference will come up *just* short of filling its slot in this game, and the Sun Belt has an agreement to serve as the back-up. It’s possible the Motor City tries to swing the Sun Belt champion instead of Louisiana-Monroe (thus putting ULM in New Orleans) to make up for giving up MAC champ Central Michigan to Mobile last year, but we’ll see. New Orleans may be happy with Southern Miss or SMU enough that they refuse to give up FIU.
MOBILE ALABAMA BOWL
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Temple vs. Troy
Comment: Mobile can choose between Ohio and Temple from the MAC, and I have no idea who they’d rather have. Even though they lost to Ohio in the regular season, Temple has a little more cache and appeal, so I bet the Owls get the bid.
WAC vs. MAC No. 3
Fresno State vs. Ohio
Comment: I think Mobile will want Temple even though the Bobcats beat them, so Frank Solich’s Ohio team will be coming to Boise. There, they’ll meet a Pat Hill Bulldog team that has completely faded down the stretch, and will probably be 6-6 after facing Illinois. It won’t be a sexy match-up, but it should be a good game – the Humanitarian Bowl usually is.
NEW MEXICO BOWL:
WAC vs. MWC No. 4/5
Toledo vs. BYU
Comment: Last week I didn’t think BYU would pick New Mexico over Dallas. This week, it doesn’t matter, as C-USA is now projected to get 6 teams into its tie-ins and deny the Cougars a choice. That should be a relief for bowl organizers, because there won’t be a WAC team left to fill its spot, and BYU should bring a decent crowd. That should nullify any attempt to swing in UTEP too, thus keeping some Sun Belt / C-USA arrangements at a sane level. My guess is BYU will face a MAC team here, just as their newly-found independence will probably make them do for years to come. That team will be either Toledo or Miami of Ohio, but Toledo should have a better record at 8-4. The other option could be an 8-4 Temple team if they lose to Miam of Ohio and thus send the Redhawks to Mobile.