Posted: Monday November 5, 2012 10:50AM ; Updated: Monday November 5, 2012 10:50AM
Stewart Mandel

Bowl projections: Louisiana Tech lone hope for non-AQ BCS berth

Story Highlights

Louisiana Tech needs Nebraska to lose so that it finishes ahead of an AQ champ

Florida currently stands the best chance of earning the SEC's second BCS spot

Oregon State could make the Rose Bowl … but so could at-large team Notre Dame

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Colby Cameron and Louisiana Tech still have an outside shot at making a BCS bowl as the lone non-AQ at-large team.
Colby Cameron and Louisiana Tech still have an outside shot at making a BCS bowl as the lone non-AQ at-large team.

Some other sports websites run bowl projections every week of the season. No disrespect, but those folks are basically making blind guesses. I prefer to wait until the last month of the season to ensure that my projections are only semi-blind guesses.

Beyond the national championship race, there are three primary sources of intrigue for the BCS games this season. First of all, will there be a non-AQ participant? Louisiana Tech, No. 20 in the standings this week, may be that group's lone hope, but the Bulldogs need to beat 8-2 Utah State in two weeks, climb at least four spots and hope BCS No. 16 Nebraska loses so that Tech finishes ahead of an AQ champ.

Secondly, who will be the SEC's second participant? Assuming Alabama plays in the BCS championship game, the Sugar Bowl could feature any of these teams: 8-1 Georgia, 8-1 Florida, 7-2 South Carolina or 7-2 LSU. The Gators get my nod for now, but a loss to Florida State in their season finale would squash that.

Finally, will the Pac-12 place a second team besides Oregon in the top 14? Right now, Oregon State's No. 11 and is thus in line for the Rose Bowl. But if the Beavers, No. 14 Stanford, No. 18 UCLA and No. 19 USC all lose at least once more, none may finish high enough. In that case, if the Ducks move up, the folks in Pasadena would likely fill the Pac-12's spot with ... Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, further down the ladder, this is a particularly unusual year due in part to all the ineligible teams (Ohio State, Penn State and North Carolina). As of now, I have the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Conference USA, SEC and Army failing to fill a combined 10 spots. Those leagues' teams will be replaced in part by the MAC, which has only three partners of its own but could produce a record eight eligible teams, and the Sun Belt, which may have five eligible teams for two spots.

I'll fully admit: Those open spots have been filled in completely blindly.

Two things you need to know before reading the chart:

• After the No. 1 and 2 teams are slotted and replaced, the BCS at-large selection order this year is 1) Fiesta, 2) Sugar and 3) Orange. The highest-ranked champion from a non-automatic qualifier is guaranteed a BCS berth if it finishes in the top 12 or in the top 16 and ahead of an AQ-conference champion.

• Most bowls are not obligated -- I repeat, NOT OBLIGATED -- to choose in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "Big 12 No. 3" means "third selection of Big 12 teams," not "the Big 12's third-place team." Bowls often pick a team with an inferior record due to geography, anticipated fan travel, the need to avoid a regular-season rematch, or just plain politics.

BCS bowls
Jan. 1 Rose: Nebraska (Big Ten champ) vs. Oregon State (BCS at-large)
Jan. 1 Orange: Florida State (ACC champ) vs. Louisville (Big East champ)
Jan. 2 Sugar: Florida (BCS at-large) vs. Oklahoma (BCS at-large)
Jan. 3 Fiesta: Kansas State (Big 12 champ) vs. Notre Dame (BCS at-large)
Jan. 7 BCS championship: Alabama (BCS No. 1) vs. Oregon (BCS No. 2)
Other bowls
Dec. 15 New Mexico: Nevada (MWC No. 4) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12 No. 7)
Dec. 15 Idaho Potato: Utah State (WAC) vs. Northern Illinois (MAC No. 3)
Dec. 20 Poinsettia: San Diego State (MWC No. 2) vs. BYU (BYU)
Dec. 21 Beef 'O' Brady's: UCF (C-USA) vs. Miami (Ohio) (Big East*)
Dec. 22 New Orleans: Louisiana-Monroe (Sun Belt No. 1) vs. East Carolina (C-USA)
Dec. 22 Maaco: Boise State (MWC No. 1) vs. Washington (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 24 Hawaii: Fresno State (MWC) vs. San Jose State (C-USA*)
Dec. 26 Little Caesars: Toledo (MAC) vs. Western Kentucky (Big Ten No. 8*)
Dec. 27 Belk: Cincinnati (Big East No. 3) vs. Duke (ACC No. 5)
Dec. 27 Military: Western Michigan (ACC No. 8*) vs. Middle Tennessee (Army*)
Dec. 27 Holiday: USC (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. West Virginia (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 28 Independence: Louisiana Tech (ACC No. 7*) vs. Bowling Green (SEC No. 10*)
Dec. 28 Meineke Texas: Minnesota (Big Ten No. 6) vs. TCU (Big 12 No. 6)
Dec. 28 Russell Athletic: Rutgers (Big East No. 2) vs. Miami (ACC No. 3)
Dec. 29 Pinstripe: Pittsburgh (Big East No. 4) vs. Iowa State (Big 12 No. 7)
Dec. 29 Buffalo Wild Wings: Oklahoma State (Big 12 No. 4) vs. Northwestern (Big Ten No. 5)
Dec. 29 Alamo: UCLA (Pac-12 No. 2) vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 No. 3)
Dec. 29 Armed Forces: Marshall (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MWC)
Dec. 29 Kraft Fight Hunger: Arizona (Pac-12 No. 6) vs. Navy (Navy)
Dec. 31 Music City: Virginia Tech (ACC No. 6) vs. Tennessee (SEC)
Dec. 31 Sun: NC State (ACC No. 4) vs. Stanford (Pac-12 No. 4)
Dec. 31 Liberty: Tulsa (C-USA No. 1) vs. Ole Miss (SEC No. 8/9)
Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A: Clemson (ACC No. 2) vs. Texas A&M (SEC No. 5)
Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas: Kent State (Big Ten No. 7*) vs. La.-Lafayette (C-USA*)
Jan. 1 Capital One: Georgia (SEC No. 2) vs. Michigan (Big Ten No. 2)
Jan. 1 Outback: Wisconsin (Big Ten No. 3) vs. South Carolina (SEC)
Jan. 1 Gator: Michigan State (Big Ten No. 4) vs. Mississippi State (SEC No. 6)
Jan. 4 Cotton: Texas (Big 12 No. 2) vs. LSU (SEC)
Jan. 5 BBVA Compass: Ball State (Big East*) vs. Vanderbilt (SEC No. 8/9)
Jan. 6 Ohio (MAC) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt No. 2)

Teams in bold have accepted a bid.
* -- Replacement team for a conference without an eligible team.
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