Just the FAQs
Common misconceptions with bowl selection; more
Posted: Wednesday November 7, 2007 12:08PM; Updated: Wednesday November 7, 2007 3:42PM
Over the past several years, the first Monday in November has become something of my own, personal Groundhog's Day.
Each year on that day, I take my first stab at projecting the season's 32 bowl matchups. Each year, I include the requisite explainer at the top about how the bowl-selection process works. And each year, within minutes of the piece going up, I start receiving an endless stream of confused and/or angry e-mails from people who either A) skipped right past the explainer and straight to the picks or B) read the explainer -- but still can't figure out how the whole shebang works.
Believe me, I don't fault anyone for struggling to comprehend the bowl business, because, much like the sport itself, there's very little order or logic to the proceedings. So, I've decided to make it my new, personal mission to ensure every last college football fan in America can learn how the bowl-selection process works.
The following is an "FAQ" of sorts, using actual questions I've received over the past 48 hours. Please, for the sake of enlightenment -- and to lighten my inbox -- take a moment to read and absorb the following answers. Then spread your newfound knowledge by forwarding this article to every friend and family member you know who's a college football fan.
Q: Isn't the Rose Bowl supposed to match the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions? Why on earth do you have a Big East team (West Virginia) there???
A: If it were solely up to the Rose Bowl, there would in fact be a Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup in Pasadena every year, as was the case for more than half a century (1947-2001). However, in the age of the BCS, if the Rose Bowl loses one of the two leagues' champions to the national title game (like, theoretically, No. 1 Ohio State), the team it chooses as a replacement must be ranked in the top 14 of the BCS standings. It appears unlikely at this point that Michigan, were it to lose its final game to the Buckeyes, would qualify as such, and even if it did, the Rose Bowl would have a hard time justifying an Oregon-Michigan rematch if the Ducks win the Pac-10.
Q: How can you say Hawaii deserves a Sugar Bowl berth?? Their schedule is a joke!!!!
A: I'm saying no such thing. But if the 8-0 Warriors, currently 16th in the BCS standings, do finish 12-0, it's pretty safe to assume they'll move up at least four spots over the next four weeks. Under the new BCS qualification rules that went into effect last season (and allowed Boise State to reach the Fiesta Bowl), a top 12 champion from a non-BCS conference is guaranteed an at-large berth. The Sugar Bowl, which has last pick of at-large teams this season, would get Hawaii.
Q: Have you lost your mind, Mandel? You think Virginia Tech is going to finish fifth in the ACC????? The Hokies are way better than Clemson, Virginia ...
A: I can't emphasize this point enough -- outside of the BCS, bowls DO NOT HAVE TO PICK IN ORDER OF CONFERENCE STANDINGS. Here's a point-by-point breakdown of how I arrived at the Virginia Tech-Music City Bowl projection:
I have Boston College winning the ACC championship and going to the BCS.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl, which has second pick, just hosted the Hokies last season. Clemson, due to its close proximity and reputation for fan travel, would be an ideal fit here if the Tigers finish at least 9-3.
If we're assuming the Hokies play in the ACC title game, then their fans would have just traveled to Jacksonville a month earlier and would be unlikely to return in droves. The Gator Bowl will want to avoid this after its experience with Georgia Tech last season. The choice here is Virginia -- the Cavaliers fans are enjoying their best season in years.
Finally, we come to the Champs Sports Bowl. Here, I have to admit: I messed up. The Orlando game would presumably kill to host Florida State, which, at the time of these projections, was coming off a big win over BC; however, I failed to notice that FSU, at 3-3 in the ACC, is two games behind the Hokies (4-1) in the conference loss column. By ACC rules, Champs Sports would be obligated to take Virginia Tech.
(As you can see, I myself get confused about all this from time to time.)
Q: Why would the Outback Bowl take Penn State over Illinois if they both have the same record and Illinois beat Penn State head-to-head?
A: Because they can. Remember -- it's about filling seats, and the team with the larger fan base is always going to hold an advantage when choosing between two similar candidates.
Q: But isn't that unfair???
A: A ha! Now you understand the bowl business.