Bowl projections: Louisiana Tech lone hope for non-AQ BCS berth
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
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.
Teams in bold have accepted a bid.
* -- Replacement team for a conference without an eligible team.