Bowl Projections: Uncertainty awaits the SEC title game loser
If Alabama beats Georgia, the Bulldogs could be in for a major bowl fall
Projected Texas-Texas A&M Cotton Bowl now seems unlikely to happen
Kent State could still make the Orange Bowl, sending Louisville to Sugar
I'm sneaking in one more Bowl Projections update before this weekend's championship games, based on conversations and reports over the past few days.
First of all, the intriguing Texas-Texas A&M Cotton Bowl I've been projecting over the past couple of weeks almost certainly will NOT happen (to the relief of the teams). That's because the Capital One Bowl, with first choice of SEC teams after the BCS, has apparently caught Johnny Football Fever and will take the Aggies off the board.
The question then becomes: What happens to the Alabama-Georgia loser? The Cotton Bowl would likely snap up the Tide, but it's possible the Dawgs could slip all the way to the Chick-fil-A Bowl if the Cotton takes LSU and the Outback, which hosted Georgia last year, takes South Carolina. The SEC is hoping to avoid that scenario, so I'm going on the assumption that it convinces the Cotton to take the title game loser either way.
Louisville, meanwhile, unofficially clinched a BCS berth with Thursday's dramatic win over Rutgers. It finished in a three-way tie for first in the Big East (which could become a four-way tie with a Cincinnati win this weekend), but all tiebreakers involve the BCS standings, and the 10-2 Cards will be the highest ranked of the bunch. Their likely destination is the Orange Bowl.
Kent State could still move into the top 16, in which case Louisville would replace the second Big 12 team in the Sugar and the Orange would get the Flashes.
Finally, I altered the Conference USA pecking order based on my belief that UCF will upset Tulsa in Saturday's league title game. That impacts the destinations for all other C-USA teams but SMU (which already accepted the Hawaii Bowl).
Should Pittsburgh (against USF) or Connecticut (against Cincinnati) become bowl-eligible this weekend, they would likely bump one of the MAC's at-large teams out of a bowl. And the MAC's commissioner is not pleased that the NCAA granted Georgia Tech a waiver to participate at 6-7.
As always, remember:
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.