Posted: Monday August 29, 2011 12:28PM ; Updated: Monday August 29, 2011 12:55PM
Stewart Mandel

Alabama, Oklahoma headline preseason bowl projections

Story Highlights

The Big Ten now has six rabid fan bases that any bowl would crave

Pac-12 should easily fill its seven berths, even with USC ineligible

Current projections do not include a non-AQ team in a BCS bowl

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On the heels of TCU's Rose Bowl win, we could see a BCS slate devoid of a non-AQ team.
On the heels of TCU's Rose Bowl win, we could see a BCS slate devoid of a non-AQ team.

In doing this year's preseason bowl projections, I found it interesting how much conference realignment played a factor.

With Nebraska joining the Big Ten, that conference now has six rabid fan bases -- the Huskers', Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa -- that any bowl would crave. At least some of those teams are bound to go 8-4 or 7-5 in a given year, which means a second-tier bowl like the Insight could land a marquee matchup like Texas-Penn State.

Meanwhile, with Boise State moving to the tougher Mountain West (and opening with Georgia), it's conceivable that no non-AQ team will finish undefeated this year, something that hasn't occurred since 2005. Perhaps a one-loss team will still finish ranked high enough (top 12, or top 16 if higher than the lowest-ranked BCS champ) to earn an at-large berth, but for now I'm not projecting a non-AQ team in a BCS bowl.

And whereas last year the Pac-10 only qualified four teams for bowl games, leaving a whole bunch of empty spots, this year's Pac-12 should have no trouble filling its seven berths, even with USC ineligible.

Remember, 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." In certain instances, a team was moved higher or lower to avoid a regular-season rematch or repeat trip to the same bowl. Also, while most conferences have a defined selection order, others (Conference USA, WAC) work more flexibly with their bowl partners.

BCS Bowls
Date Predicted matchup
Jan. 2 Rose: Nebraska (Big Ten champ) vs. Oregon (Pac-12 champ)
Jan. 2 Fiesta: Notre Dame (BCS at-large) vs. Wisconsin (BCS at-large)
Jan. 3 Sugar: South Carolina (BCS at-large) vs. Florida State (BCS at-large)
Jan. 4 Orange: Virginia Tech (ACC champ) vs. USF (Big East champ)
Jan. 9 BCS Championship: Alabama (BCS No. 1) vs. Oklahoma (BCS No. 2)
Other Bowls
Date Predicted matchup
Dec. 17 New Mexico: Air Force (MWC No. 4) vs. Oregon State (Pac-12 No. 7)
Dec. 17 Idaho Potato: Nevada (WAC) vs. Miami of Ohio (MAC No. 3)
Dec. 18 New Orleans: FIU (Sun Belt No. 1) vs. Southern Miss (C-USA)
Dec. 20 Beef 'O'Brady's: Tulsa (C-USA) vs. Cincinnati (Big East)
Dec. 21 Poinsettia: San Diego State (MWC No. 2) vs. Fresno State (WAC)
Dec. 22 Maaco: Boise State (MWC No. 1) vs. Washington (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 24 Hawaii: Hawaii (WAC) vs. UCF (C-USA)
Dec. 26 Independence: TCU (MWC No. 3) vs. NC State (ACC No. 7)
Dec. 27 Little Caesars: Ohio (MAC No. 2) vs. Northwestern (Big Ten No. 8)
Dec. 27 Belk: Pittsburgh (Big East No. 3) vs. North Carolina (ACC No. 5)
Dec. 28 Military: Boston College (ACC No. 8) vs. Navy (Navy)
Dec. 28 Holiday: Arizona State (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Oklahoma State (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 29 Champs Sports: West Virginia (Big East No. 2) vs. Miami (ACC No. 3)
Dec. 29 Alamo: Stanford (Pac-12 No. 2) vs. Texas A&M (Big 12 No. 3)
Dec. 30 Armed Forces: SMU (C-USA) vs. BYU (BYU)
Dec. 30 Pinstripe: Syracuse (Big East No. 4) vs. Baylor (Big 12 No. 7)
Dec. 30 Music City: Georgia Tech (ACC No. 6) vs. Auburn (SEC No. 7)
Dec. 30 Insight: Texas (Big 12 No. 4) vs. Penn State (Big Ten No. 4)
Dec. 31 Meineke Texas: Michigan (Big Ten No. 6) vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 No. 6)
Dec. 31 Kraft Fight Hunger: Arizona (Pac-12 No. 6) vs. Northern Illinois (Army*)
Dec. 31 Sun: Clemson (ACC No. 4) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 4)
Dec. 31 Liberty: Houston (C-USA No. 1) vs. Tennessee (SEC No. 8)
Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A: Maryland (ACC No. 2) vs. Mississippi State (SEC No. 5)
Jan. 2 TicketCity: Purdue (Big Ten No. 7) vs. Marshall (C-USA)
Jan. 2 Capital One: Georgia (SEC No. 2) vs. Iowa (Big Ten No. 2)
Jan. 2 Outback: Ohio State (Big Ten No. 3) vs. LSU (SEC)
Jan. 2 Gator: Michigan State (Big Ten No. 5) vs. Florida (SEC No. 6)
Jan. 6 Cotton: Arkansas (SEC) vs. Missouri (Big 12 No. 2)
Jan. 7 BBVA Compass: Louisville (Big East) vs. Arkansas State (SEC No. 9*)
Jan. 8 Toledo (MAC No. 1) vs. Troy (Sun Belt No. 2)

* Replacement for conference without enough eligible teams
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