This year I've decided to combine my 'Bowl Projections' series with my 'If the season ended today' series, both to cut out the redundancy between them and because I think that by having them both in the same article, I can better explain the difference between the two. The disadvantage of this is that the combined article can't be out until the BCS rankings are out.
|Bowl||If the season ended today||Projection|
|BCS Championship||#1 2 LSU (SEC) vs #2 Alabama (SEC/automatic at-large as #2)
||LSU (SEC) vs. Wisconsin (B10)
|Rose||#8 Stanford (P12) vs #6 Wisconsin (B10)
||Oregon (P12) vs Michigan State (B10/at-large)
|Fiesta||#3 Oklahoma (B12/at-large) vs #13 Nebraska (B10/at-large)
||Oklahoma (B12) vs Stanford (P12/at-large)
|Sugar||#4 Oklahoma State (B12/automatic at-large via 3/4 rule) vs #15 WVU (Big East)||Alabama (SEC/at-large) vs WVU (Big East)
|Orange||#7 Clemson (ACC) vs #5 Boise State (MWC/top non-AQ)
||Clemson (ACC) vs Boise State (MWC/top-non-AQ)
- Protecting relationships with conferences
- Out of town fans in the seats
- Local fans in the seats
- TV viewers
- Providing a good game (note that this is sixth on the list)
However, the bowls have various agreements to take certain teams under certain rules, so Ohio State and USC don't just play in the Rose Bowl every year no matter what happens in the regular season.
Unless it's extremely improbable (or impossible) that the highest-ranked team in the BCS standings can win a conference, the highest-ranked team in a conference is considered its projected champion for the purposes of the 'if the season ended today' projection.
Also worth noting, the selection order for the BCS bowls this year is Fiesta, Sugar, Orange.
BCS Championship: In the initial BCS standings, LSU and Alabama are #1 and #2, so they would meet in the BCS championship if the season ended today. Since they play each other in a few weeks and only one of them can win the SEC, it seems extremely likely the voters would deny a rematch even if they end up #1 and #2 in the computer rankings at the end of the season.
As for my projection - I'm a little more impressed by LSU so far, so I like them to beat Alabama. And I think Oklahoma (and Oklahoma State) are far more likely to suffer a random loss down the line than Wisconsin, which both has been more dominant and is in a conference with fewer teams capable of knocking them off.
Rose Bowl: Stanford and Wisconsin are your current leaders, and with neither going to the BCS title game, that sets up the Rose Bowl.
In my projection, though, I don't have either of them. Wisconsin because, as per above, I think they will be in the BCS title game. And Stanford I think will lose to Oregon, at least if LaMichael James and Darron Thomas are back by then.
Fiesta Bowl: In both scenarios, Oklahoma goes to the Fiesta Bowl as the Big 12 champion. 'If the season ended today', the Fiesta's options for the opponent are Big East champion WVU, top non-AQ champion Boise State, or any other school in the top 14. #5 Boise and #10 Oregon would be considered, but I don't think there's any way the Fiesta Bowl would pass on the opportunity to host an Oklahoma / Nebraska game.
In my projections, I have Stanford here. It's possible they're left out of the BCS entirely if they don't win the Pac 12 or finish in the top 4 due to a small fan base, but I think if the Fiesta has a highly ranked Oklahoma team, they'll take a top-10 Cardinal.
Sugar Bowl: 'If the season ended today', the Sugar needs a replacement for the BCS title game participant, and can't select an SEC team because two are in the title game. #4 Oklahoma State (in via the 3/4 rule) is probably the best choice to anchor the Sugar in that scenario. I may be wrong about this, but I think a one-loss WVU team is more attractive to a bowl east of the Mississippi than Boise State, so the 'eers go here.
In my projections, the LSU/Alabama loser goes here. It seems unlikely another SEC team will catch up to the LSU/Alabama loser in the standings, and if it's close, the LSU/Alabama loser might get the nod anyway. WVU still goes ahead of Boise.
Orange Bowl: This one I have the same way in both my projections and 'if the season ended today'. Clemson is the ACC leader now, and as much as I'm tempted to use my default Virginia Tech wins the ACC projection, I can't quite talk myself into it at this point. They play Boise, because Boise automatically qualified, and since WVU won the Big East, Boise gets picked last.