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Bowl Projections, week 13, 2011 (for Chaos!)

All projections below are solely the opinion of the author. Projections should not be taken as an indication the author has the slightest idea what will happen in college football this season, because he does not, and neither does anyone else. Therefore projections for this week will assume the chaos continues, because no one outside of Alabama wants to see an SEC rematch for all the marbles, and at this point it seems as good a guess as any.

Bowl If the season ended today Projection
BCS Championship #1 LSU (SEC)  vs #2 Alabama (SEC/at-large)
Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Oklahoma State (B12)
Rose #10 Oregon (P12) vs #14 Michigan State (B10)
Oregon (P12) vs Michigan State (B10)
Fiesta #4 Oklahoma State (B12) vs #6 Stanford (P12/at-large)
Michigan (B10/at-large) vs Stanford (P12/at-large)
Sugar #9 Oklahoma (B12/at-large) vs #8 Houston (CUSA/top non-AQ) Georgia (SEC) vs TCU (MWC/top non-AQ)
Orange #5 Virginia Tech (ACC) vs NR West Virginia (Big East) LSU (SEC/at-large) vs West Virginia (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: After this week's chaos, Alabama has returned to #2 in the BCS rankings and is a good bet to stay there if you think this season will return to rationality. However, we've clearly entered an alternate football universe where the bizarre is routine. Given that, we can expect Arkansas to upset LSU next week, Auburn to win the Iron Bowl, and Georgia to win the SEC championship game.

In the midst of chaos, one of the constants of the college football universe is that Virginia Tech will win the ACC. And someone has to win Bedlam since the NCAA foolishly allows regular season overtime. So they get to play for everything.

Rose Bowl: Michigan State leads the Big Ten, and it's late enough in the season that I've started to take actual conference standings into account in the 'if the season ended today' column; Oregon lost to USC, but they currently hold the tiebreaker over Stanford and they aren't losing to Oregon State, not even this year. And all of Sparty's fans seem confident of a loss in a rematch with Wiscy, so chaos demands that they be projected to win it.

Fiesta Bowl: Since both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma lost, Oklahoma State moves out of the BCS title game 'if the season ended today', and into the Fiesta Bowl. Stanford stays on the other side. But in the projections, Oklahoma picks up a third loss, which should allow Michigan to slip into the top 14 and slide Oklahoma out.

As an aside, right now, there are very few options for the at-large BCS spots. Alabama owns one due to finishing #2. Houston owns one due to the top non-AQ conference champion rule. Bedlam seems like it decides whether the Big 12 or Big 10 gets two BCS teams (Michigan and the Big Ten champion should be 10-2; unless Iowa State pulls a second major upset in a row, the Big 12 will have 11-1 Oklahoma State and 9-3 Oklahoma -- probably out of the BCS -- or it will have both at 10-2 and in the BCS). And that leaves the last has to the 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, but they're both in the title game right now, and Oklahoma is the highest-ranked mega-draw team available as a replacement. 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 #20 right now after upsetting Boise (how did they fall a spot this week?). So the Frogs get the projected non-AQ BCS spot this week. And chaos demands that Georgia win the SEC championship game, so they go here in the projections.

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech moves to the winner of the ACC 'if the season ended today' even though Clemson's loss had no impact on the participants in the ACC championship game. But the Hokies are ranked higher, and will get a shot to win the conference without requiring any bizarre upsets (though they could be a victim of one).

If chaos prevails, Virginia Tech is swept all the way to the title game, while LSU (after losing to Arkansas) ends up here. If the season ended today, I think WVU wins the Big East on a BCS ranking derived from top-25 position in the human polls. Actually winning the Big East would take a bit of crazy since it's hard to get to the tiebreakers to favor them, but when chaos threatens in the Big East, West Virginia is the default pick.

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

Champs Sports: Notre Dame. I don't see ND beating Stanford (though after the near-miss at USC, blowout loss to Oregon, and close scrape with Cal, they may be vulnerable), but they did win their other remaining games (even if some were closer than ND would like). WVU could get a look here if tiebreakers don't go there way, but probably not.

Belk:Louisville. That one is easy.

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

Liberty/Compass: Cinci.

Beef: Pitt.

Filling some other conference's unused spot: Syracuse. Cinci looked terrible without Collaros last week, so we have a very real chance to win.

No Bowl: USF, UConn. It's hard to see them getting to bowl eligibility given their remaining schedules.

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