Bowl Projections, week 12 2011 (on the plus side, it's basketball season)

So two more undefeated teams fell this week, one of which I expected (Stanford) and one which I didn't (Boise). Oddly, that -- and other games this week that led me to adjust my projections -- created a surprising degree of agreement between 'if the season ended today' and the projection.

Bowl If the season ended today Projection
BCS Championship #1 LSU (SEC)  vs #2 Oklahoma State (Big 12)
LSU (SEC) vs. Oklahoma State (B12)
Rose #4 Oregon (P12) vs #15 Michigan State (B10)
Oregon (P12) vs Michigan State (B10)
Fiesta #5 Oklahoma (B12/at-large) vs #9 Stanford (P12/at-large)
Oklahoma (B12/at-large) vs Stanford (P12/at-large)
Sugar #3 Alabama (SEC/3-4 rule)  vs #11 Houston (CUSA/top non-AQ) Alabama (SEC/at-large) vs TCU (MWC/top non-AQ)
Orange #7 Clemson (ACC) vs NR Cinci (Big East) Virginia Tech (ACC) vs Cinci (Big East)

The "If the season ended today" projection is based on the current BCS standings, and my estimation of how bowl selection committees would react to the current standings if they were present at the end of the season.The 'projection' is how I think things will actually end up once the rest of the season is played, based on remaining schedule and my best guesses.

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 this week's BCS standings, LSU and Oklahoma State are #1 and #2,after LSU winning in overtime yesterday. So the current BCS rankings are no longer projecting the getting-less-unlikely-every-week rematch. And after the Cowboys blew out the team that knocked off Oklahoma, I'm finally giving them the benefit of the doubt and leaving them in the title game in my projections, too.

Rose Bowl: Oregon and Michigan State are your current leaders in the Pac 12 and Big Ten, and with neither going to the BCS title game, that sets up the Rose Bowl. For the first time this year, my projections for the Rose Bowl are matching up with the current highest-ranked teams. Oregon should win the Pac 12 (losing to anyone other than USC that's left on their schedule -- including whoever gets to pretend to Pac 12 South champion because USC is ineligible -- seems very unlikely). And between last week's loss and off-the-field issues I'd rather not write about, Penn State is no longer projected as Big Ten champion.

Fiesta Bowl: No shakeups at the top of the Big 12 this week; Oklahoma State is still in the BCS title game, so Oklahoma represents the Big 12 here. I have Stanford on the other side in both the snapshot and the projection, but if Nebraska ends up BCS eligible, it would be hard for the Fiesta Bowl to pass on an Oklahoma/Nebraska game.

As an aside, right now, there are very few options for the at-large BCS spots. Alabama owns one due to the 3/4 rule. Houston owns one due to the top non-AQ conference champion rule. The Oklahoma/Oklahoma State loser seems extremely likely to go the Fiesta (with the winner going to the BCS title game). And that leaves the last has to the ACC championship game loser, Stanford, or Boise State; the rest of the top 14 are eliminated due to the 2 teams per conference limit.

Sugar Bowl: The LSU/Alabama loser always figured as the likely team here, and now that the BCS rankings don't have them as 1/2 anymore, Alabama is slotted here if the season ended today. My projections go that way as well, though other scenarios are at least possible (LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina are still possible at least in theory, though South Carolina's chances rest on Georgia losing to Kentucky, and so perhaps ought not to count). If the season ended today, they play CUSA champion and current highest-ranked non-AQ champion Houston (remember that the BCS automatic bid for non-AQs goes to the highest ranked conference champion, and TCU would need to lose to two very bad teams to not win the Mountain West).

On the other hand, to win CUSA Houston has to win three games against the best other teams in the conference (well, there's one way they can win two out of three). I don't like their chances, and suspect a loss will have them behind TCU in the rankings if they thread the needle to win CUSA with one loss. And that TCU will manage to sneak into the top 16; they're #19 right now after upsetting Boise. So the Frogs get the projected non-AQ BCS spot this week.

Orange Bowl: Clemson is still the ACC leader 'if the season ended today', but with the Hokies only one spot back (and only needing to beat Virginia to get another shot at Clemson in the ACC championship game), my default "Virginia Tech always wins the ACC" projection is in play. Despite losing to WVU, Cinci is still in the driver's seat in the Big East and the highest ranked team even with Collaros out. They'd clearly be picked last, so they go to the Orange.

Non-BCS Big East bowls (projections for Big East schools only)

Champs Sports: Notre Dame. I don't see ND beating Stanford, but should win their other remaining games. WVU could get a look here, but probably not.

Belk:West Virginia. That one is easy.

Pinstripe: Rutgers. Mostly for variety. Will not sell as many tickets as we did.

Liberty/Compass: Louisville.

Beef: Pitt.

No Bowl: Syracuse, USF, UConn. It's hard to see any of this group -- including us -- getting to bowl eligibility. Sigh. Even with Pitt and Cinci missing their best players, the team we've seen against Louisville and USF will not beat them.

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