Updated look at championship game, BCS and beyond
Posted: Monday November 12, 2007 11:51AM; Updated: Monday November 12, 2007 8:30PM
First, a clarification, one I probably should have made clear last week. These are not bowl predictions. Contrary to what many of you apparently believed (judging by my e-mails), by no means am I attempting to predict the result of every remaining game the rest of the season.
These projections are merely meant for you to get a sense of what teams would be playing where if the season ended today. I use the highest-ranked AP team in each conference as the projected champion, then use the current standings in each league as a rough pecking order by which the bowls would select their teams.
Take Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game, for example. We know the winner will go to the Rose Bowl. As of my writing this on Sunday night, I honestly have no idea who I will pick to win that game. Fortunately, I have until Friday's Weekend Pickoff to decide. (In the meantime, the seventh-ranked Buckeyes will serve the role of "Big Ten champ" in this week's projections).
What I do know is that Saturday's game will have profound bowl-lineup implications ... for the loser. Had Ohio State entered Saturday's showdown undefeated, it would likely have been BCS-bound, win-or-lose against the Wolverines. The Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls, however, would be unlikely to give an at-large berth to a team on a two-game losing streak.
Should the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes, Ohio State would likely slip to the Outback Bowl. The Capital One Bowl is also a possibility, but that's currently where I'm projecting Florida to land, and the folks in Orlando would try to avoid a Gators-Buckeyes bowl rematch. I've got the Capital One going with the "Ron Zook against his old team" matchup, instead.
If you think that's a steep price for Ohio State to pay, it's nothing compared to how far an 8-4 Michigan team would fall should it lose to the Buckeyes. In all likelihood, a victory Saturday will mean the difference between going to the Rose Bowl ... or going to the Champs Sports Bowl. If Illinois, Penn State and Wisconsin all finish 9-3, they would all be more attractive than a Wolverines team that both started and finished its regular season with consecutive losses.
Speaking of which, there's one correction I need to note from last week regarding the Big Ten's bowl lineup: Unbeknownst to me, the Champs Sports and Alamo Bowls now alternate from year to year between having the conference's fourth and fifth choices. Last year, it was Champs fourth, Alamo fifth, so this year it's the opposite. My apologies for the confusion.
As always, here are a few facts to be aware of when reading these projections:
Bowls are not obligated to choose their teams in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "Big Ten No. 3" means "third choice of Big Ten teams" -- not "the Big Ten's third-place team."
Only teams currently .500 or better were considered (except for 5-6 Nebraska and 5-6 Colorado, one of which will be bowl eligible after they face each other Nov. 23).
Note that a bowl can only select a 6-6 team from a conference if no 7-5 teams from that league are still available. Similarly, bowls seeking an "at-large" team to replace a conference that did not produce enough eligible teams cannot choose a 6-6 team if there is a 7-5 team available. (Feel free to react.)