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Bowl Projections

Michigan No. 2, but USC has inside track on title game

Posted: Monday November 20, 2006 11:43AM; Updated: Tuesday November 21, 2006 6:04PM
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Mike Hart and Michigan are still No. 2 in the BCS, but it will be tough to stay there if USC beats Notre Dame and UCLA in its final two games.
Mike Hart and Michigan are still No. 2 in the BCS, but it will be tough to stay there if USC beats Notre Dame and UCLA in its final two games.
Al Tielemans/SI

Staying No. 2 in the BCS standings was the worst thing that could have happened to Michigan -- because the only direction it can go now is down. And I fully expect that to happen. As one USC follower said to me on Sunday, the Wolverines may be about to suffer a case of "Brad Banks Syndrome."

You remember Banks, Iowa's one-year wonder of a quarterback who finished second in the Heisman voting in 2002. Banks had a phenomenal regular season, but it ended on Nov. 16. USC's Carson Palmer played twice more after that, including a dazzling prime-time performance against Notre Dame in his regular-season finale, and there was nothing Banks could do to counter it. He was, for all practical purposes, out of sight, out of mind.

And that's what I think is going to end up happening to Michigan. Considering the weeks and weeks of attention that had been heaped on the impending Game of the Century, one that actually lived up to the hype, it's not surprising that many voters (including this one) opted to keep the Wolverines No. 2. The majority of those ballots were turned in just hours after taking in that incredible game. It was fresh on everyone's minds, and the fact is, at this point, Michigan is as qualified to be No. 2 as anyone.

But over the next two weeks, the Wolverines are going to sit on the backburner while the nation focuses its attention first on Notre Dame-USC, then Florida-Arkansas. If the Trojans beat both the Irish and UCLA, there's little question in my mind they will rise to No. 2, which is why I've placed them, not Michigan, in the projected title matchup below.

The two SEC teams seem to be lagging behind in the opinion arena -- when did that happen, by the way? Earlier in the season you couldn't go two seconds without hearing about the SEC -- but if the Trojans slip up, the Gators-Razorbacks game may itself become a championship play-in ... for Florida. Fair or not, I think Arkansas' lopsided loss to USC will keep voters from moving the Hogs ahead of Michigan. It also seems highly unlikely Notre Dame could move past the Wolverines -- the team they lost to 47-21 -- even with a win over the Trojans.

So realistically, there are three remaining contenders with a chance to face Ohio State: USC, Michigan and Florida. The only scenario under which I see the Ohio State-Michigan rematch actually coming to fruition is if USC loses a game, and if Arkansas loses to LSU, thus taking away some of the luster from a possible Florida victory. Even then, I feel like most of the country hasn't seen a Gators game since their loss to Auburn, and if it does comes down to Michigan and Florida, the Gators -- in particular their defense -- will get a chance to make a final impression just a few hours before the last ballots are due.

Sound familiar?

BCS/New Year's Day Games
Date Bowl Matchup
Jan. 8 Title Ohio State (BCS No. 1) vs. USC (BCS No. 2)
Jan. 3 Sugar Arkansas (SEC champ) vs. Notre Dame (BCS at-large)
Jan. 2 Orange Georgia Tech (ACC champ) vs. Louisville (Big East champ)
Jan. 1 Fiesta Texas (Big 12 champ) vs. Boise State (BCS at-large)
Jan. 1 Rose Michigan (BCS at-large) vs. West Virginia (BCS at-large)
Jan. 1 Capital One Wisconsin (Big Ten No. 2) vs. Florida (SEC No. 2)
Jan. 1 Gator Boston College (ACC No. 3) vs. Oklahoma (Big East No. 2/Big 12)
Jan. 1 Outback Penn State (Big Ten No. 3) vs. Auburn (SEC)
Jan. 1 Cotton Nebraska (Big 12 No. 2) vs. LSU (SEC)
Other Games
Date Bowl Matchup
Jan. 7 GMAC Southern Miss (C-USA No. 2) vs. Ohio (MAC)
Jan. 6 International USF (Big East No. 4/5) vs. Northern Illinois (MAC)
Dec. 31 MPC Computers San Jose State (WAC) vs. Western Michigan* (ACC)
Dec. 30 Chick-fil-A Virginia Tech (ACC No. 2) vs. Tennessee (SEC)
Dec. 30 Alamo Iowa (Big Ten No. 5) vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 No. 4)
Dec. 30 Meineke Navy (Big East/Navy) vs. Clemson (ACC)
Dec. 29 Champs Sports Wake Forest (ACC No. 4) vs. Purdue (Big Ten No. 4)
Dec. 29 Insight Kansas State (Big 12 No. 6) vs. Minnesota (Big Ten No. 6)
Dec. 29 Liberty Houston (C-USA champ) vs. Georgia (SEC)
Dec. 29 Sun Oregon State (Pac-10 No. 3) vs. Rutgers (Big 12/Big East)
Dec. 29 Music City Maryland (ACC No. 5) vs. Kentucky (SEC)
Dec. 28 Texas Oklahoma State (Big 12) vs. Cincinnati (Big East)
Dec. 28 Holiday Cal (Pac-10 No. 2) vs. Texas A&M (Big 12 No. 3)
Dec. 28 Independence Missouri (Big 12 No. 7) vs. Alabama (SEC)
Dec. 27 Emerald Arizona (Pac-10 No. 5) vs. Florida State (ACC No. 7)
Dec. 26 Motor City South Carolina* (Big Ten No. 7) vs. Central Michigan (MAC)
Dec. 24 Hawaii Hawaii (WAC) vs. UCLA (Pac-10 No. 6)
Dec. 23 Armed Forces TCU (MWC) vs. Rice (C-USA)
Dec. 23 New Mexico New Mexico (MWC) vs. Nevada (WAC)
Dec. 23 Birmingham Pittsburgh (Big East) vs. Tulsa (C-USA)
Dec. 22 New Orleans Middle Tennessee St. (Sun Belt) vs. SMU (C-USA)
Dec. 21 Las Vegas Oregon (Pac-10 No. 4) vs. BYU (MWC champ)
Dec. 20 Poinsettia Utah (MWC) vs. Arizona State (at-large)
Teams in bold have accepted bowl invitation
* -- replacement team for conference without enough eligible teams