With the season wrapping, we're updating our BCS and non-BCS bowl projections
Texas Tech and Florida are still on track to play in the BCS championship game
Penn State and Ohio State are both headed to the BCS, as is ACC rep. Maryland
The first BCS bowl invite will be awarded Saturday when either Penn State (by beating Michigan State) or Ohio State (by beating Michigan and hoping Penn State loses) earns the Big Ten's Rose Bowl berth. But who will the Nittany Lions or Buckeyes face in Pasadena? And what becomes of the other Big Ten team(s)?
It all depends on USC and Oregon State. If the Beavers win out against Arizona and Oregon, they're going to Pasadena, plain and simple. If Oregon State trips up and USC handles Notre Dame and UCLA, the Trojans take the Beavers' place.
An 11-1 USC team would at the very least earn a BCS at-large berth, most likely to the Fiesta Bowl, unless, of course, the Trojans move up to the national-championship game. Whichever team, Ohio State or Penn State, does not wind up in the Rose Bowl better hope Oregon State loses. Assuming the Big 12, SEC and a non-BCS team claim three at-large berths, the Trojans would squeeze out the Buckeyes or Nittany Lions.
There's also the possibility that if Michigan State beats Penn State, giving both 10-2 records, the Spartans would head to the BCS over the Nittany Lions. It only seems fair. But the bowl business is about ticket sales, not fairness, and JoePa would be the far bigger draw.
Some other storylines to keep an eye on:
If Utah (11-0) beats BYU (10-1) this weekend, the eighth-ranked Utes will likely wrap up a BCS berth. The Las Vegas Bowl, with first choice of Mountain West teams, plans to select the Cougars for a fourth-straight season, win or lose. If Utah loses, it likely falls to the Poinsettia Bowl, which is where Boise State appears headed if it doesn't make the BCS.
Maryland (7-3, 4-2) is now my projected ACC champ and Orange Bowl participant. I'm sure it will be somebody else by next week (and the week after that, and ...)
Rutgers, once 1-5, has won four-straight games to improve to 5-5 and seems a good bet to win its last two against Army and Louisville (both at home), as well. The Scarlet Knights would likely squeeze steadily sinking USF (6-4, 1-4 Big East) out of the Big East bowl lineup, much to the chagrin of the new St. Petersburg Bowl, played in the Bulls' backyard.
In case you missed it, Houston, behind QB Case Keenum's six touchdown passes, beat Tulsa -- yes, that Tulsa -- 70-30 on Saturday, creating a three-way tie for first in Conference USA's West Division between Houston, Tulsa and Rice. Tulsa previously beat Rice, which hosts Houston in two weeks. I'm going with the Cougars as the league's Liberty Bowl representative for now.
Bowling Green (5-5, 3-3 MAC) is now my projected favorite to win the conference's East division. Assuming the Falcons finish above .500, they would be guaranteed a spot in one of the MAC's three bowl games, which would likely leave 9-2 Western Michigan without a spot. Fortunately for the Broncos, there figures to be plenty of at-large spots available elsewhere.
The Sun Belt has said Troy (the team that blew a 31-3 lead at LSU) will not be obligated to play in the New Orleans Bowl should it win the league title. It would likely fill the SEC's vacant spot in the PapaJohns.com Bowl, allowing a second Sun Belt team to play in New Orleans.
Finally, I had a couple bowl selection orders backward last week (they change from year to year). The Alamo Bowl has fourth choice of Big Ten teams this year and the Champs Sports fifth, while the Las Vegas Bowl has fourth choice of Pac-10 teams and the Emerald Bowl fifth.
Here are a couple of other items to keep in mind when perusing this chart:
Bowls are not obligated to choose their teams in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "ACC No. 3" means "third choice of ACC teams" -- not "the ACC's third-place team."
Finally, a bowl can only select a 6-6 team from a conference if no 7-5 team from that league is 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.
Teams in bold have accepted bowl invitation.