Matchups starting to get settled with one week left
Posted: Monday November 26, 2007 11:21AM; Updated: Friday November 30, 2007 4:04PM
I'm going to be honest with you. All previous editions of these bowl projections were essentially a wild guess. There were simply too many games and too many potential scenarios remaining to nail down much of anything.
With all but a handful of teams' regular seasons now complete, however, I can confidently say the large majority of teams will wind up playing in the bowls to which they're projected below.
Obviously, this weekend's games will still impact many of the potential matchups, starting right at the top with the BCS Championship Game. For the purposes of these projections, however, I'm assuming that current No. 1 and 2 teams Missouri and West Virginia will meet in New Orleans and the higher-ranked teams win the other conference title games. (Obviously, no such assumptions are safe, particularly this season, but it simplifies the process.)
A few noteworthy items that came up during discussions with numerous sources:
If Missouri or West Virginia does lose this weekend and Ohio State moves up to the title game, the Rose Bowl would likely select fellow Big Ten team Illinois (9-3) as the Buckeyes' replacement. The 15th-ranked Illini still need to move up one more spot in the standings, which will likely happen if either No. 11 Boston College or No. 14 Tennessee loses in their conference title games.
Despite suffering its first loss against Missouri, 11-1 Kansas still seems like a solid bet to garner an at-large berth to the Fiesta Bowl. The fifth-ranked Jayhawks would be an obvious replacement if the Tigers move up to the title game. If that doesn't happen the Fiesta wouldn't have qualms with an Oklahoma-Kansas matchup since the teams did not meet during the regular season.
No. 4 Georgia (10-2) and No. 12 Hawaii (12-0 if it beats Washington this weekend) are near-mortal locks for the Orange and Sugar bowls, respectively.
If Boston College (10-2) beats Virginia Tech in Saturday's ACC title game, the Eagles are headed to the Orange Bowl; if they lose, they will likely fall to the Champs Sports Bowl, which holds the conference's fourth pick, because Clemson (9-3) would bring far more fans to Atlanta's Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Gator Bowl has made it clear it will not select the ACC runner-up due to that team having played in Jacksonville a month earlier.
If the Big Ten does not get a second BCS berth, Michigan (8-4) will likely slide to the Champs Sports Bowl as well. The Capital One is a sure thing to snap up Illinois, Wisconsin (9-3) is more appealing to the Outback and the Alamo is believed to be leaning toward Penn State (8-4) because it has not played there since 1999; the Wolverines were in San Antonio two years ago.
Arkansas (8-4) likely earned itself a Cotton Bowl bid with its upset of top-ranked LSU. The Razorbacks have a longstanding history with that game and will be no less appealing than any of the other SEC teams available to the Cotton. While Texas-Arkansas would be the sexy, "rivalry" pick, the Cotton is more likely to choose the loser of Saturday's Missouri-Oklahoma Big 12 title game.
Cincinnati is causing headaches for the Big East's bowl partners. The Bearcats finished 9-3 and ranked in the top 25 but have little to no history or indication that their fans will travel en masse. USF (9-3), Connecticut (9-3) and possibly Rutgers (7-4) could all go higher in the pecking order.
Miami of Ohio (6-6) is in an unusual position. The RedHawks won their division and are facing Central Michigan in the MAC championship game this weekend; however if they lose, they won't be bowl eligible. The conference is reportedly appealing to the NCAA for a waiver, though the league has enough eligible teams to fill its three spots either way.
Finally, there will likely be at-large spots to fill in the Texas Bowl (in place of the Big 12) and Armed Forces Bowl (in place of the Pac-10). The Texas Bowl has an agreement with the Mountain West for just such an occasion, and that conference does have an extra seven-win team (TCU or New Mexico), while the Armed Forces Bowl figures to be where a surplus seven-win team from the Big Ten (in my projections, Purdue) lands.
There was no room for 6-6 teams South Carolina, Northwestern, Iowa, Ohio and Louisiana-Monroe. The loser of Saturday's de facto Sun Belt title game between Troy (8-3) and Florida Atlantic (6-5) will likely be left out as well.
As always, here are a couple of 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."
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 (or if it can guarantee a spot elsewhere for the 7-5 team). 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 comment on the projections.)