With the season wrapping, we're updating our BCS and non-BCS bowl projections
With Texas Tech's loss, Oklahoma and Florida will now likely play for the title
The Fiesta Bowl could host a 2006 title-game rematch between USC and Texas
NOTE: A previous version of this column incorrectly interpreted selection rules regarding Big East teams and Notre Dame. Several Big East bowl projections, as well as Notre Dame's, have since been changed.
Oregon State kicker Justin Kahut's game-winning field goal against Arizona on Saturday sent a ripple across the entire bowl landscape. With a win on Saturday against rival Oregon, the 8-3 Beavers will wrap up an improbable Rose Bowl berth -- which will then cause a domino effect on the rest of the bowl lineup.
Here's a look at the potential winners (besides the Beavers themselves) and losers of an Oregon State victory Saturday:
WINNER: The Fiesta Bowl. This is where USC (9-1) will likely end up if Oregon State goes to the Rose Bowl. If Oklahoma winds up beating out Texas for a BCS title berth, the Fiesta could potentially stage a dreamy Texas-USC rematch, and these two might even be ranked No. 3 and 4.
LOSER: The Rose Bowl. While a visit from Joe Paterno and Oregon State's first trip since 1965 will thrill the folks in Pasadena, putting on a rematch of a regular-season game that Penn State won 45-14 isn't exactly their ideal scenario.
WINNER: The other Big Ten bowls. A second BCS berth for the Pac-10 would bump Ohio State out of the BCS and give every Big Ten bowl a better choice than they anticipated. In fact, the Capital One Bowl would likely pit this season's preseason No. 1 and 2 teams, Georgia and OSU.
LOSER: The other Pac-10 bowls. Barring upsets by 4-6 Arizona State and UCLA, the Pac-10 will only have five bowl-eligible teams. The Holiday Bowl will be stuck with an 8-4 team (either Cal or Oregon), and the Emerald, Hawaii and Poinsettia Bowls will all be without a league team.
Some other storylines to keep an eye on:
Now that Notre Dame appears headed toward a 6-6 finish, the Gator Bowl will set its sights instead on a Big 12 team. Word is the Gator is eyeing 7-4 Nebraska (assuming it beats Colorado) and its massive horde of traveling fans.
The Sun Bowl will covet the Irish even at 6-6, but cannot take them over a Big East team if the Big East produces six seven-win teams. I'm projecting Rutgers to become that sixth team, in which case Notre Dame falls to any bowl with an open spot. On a purely speculative whim, I'm placing them in the Texas Bowl, for now.
I told you I'd have yet another new projected ACC champ this week. This week's curse belongs to Boston College (8-3), which wraps up its division with a win over Maryland (7-4) on Saturday. If the Eagles lose, Florida State (8-3) goes to Tampa instead to face either 7-4 Virginia Tech (if it beats Virginia on Saturday) or 8-3 Georgia Tech.
How are these for some "storyline" matchups? We could be seeing Bobby Bowden vs. Steve Spurrier in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Georgia Tech facing Nebraska (just as it did when it won its 1990 national title) in the Gator Bowl and an Outback Bowl pitting two of Nick Saban's former employers (Michigan State and LSU).
Ball State (11-0) is closing in on an undefeated season. Should the Cardinals follow traditional MAC protocol, in which the league champion goes to the Motor City Bowl, their reward for going 13-0 would be ... a date with 7-5 Minnesota.
Buffalo (7-4) earned its trip to the MAC title game with last week's overtime win over Bowling Green. As per conference rules, the division champion Bulls are now assured their first bowl berth in school history, which, conveniently, could be just across the border in Toronto.
Unless NC State (5-6) beats Miami to become bowl eligible, the inaugural EagleBank Bowl is looking at a regular-season rematch of Navy-Wake Forest. (The Midshipmen won 21-14.)
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