Bowl Projections, week 14, 2011 (the cold, dark hand of rationality)

Sorry for being late this week; Thanksgiving travel and general malaise delayed this writeup a day. Since the regular season (except for the Army-Navy game) concludes this weekend, and the final BCS standings will be announced at the same time as the bowl pairings, there will be no 'if the season ended today' projection next week, and I'll try to have the pure projection up as soon as possible. At this late a date, there's not a lot of difference here, mostly just the fallout of Oklahoma State probably beating Oklahoma and LSU probably beating Georgia.

As much as I would love to project anything other than the dull inevitability of an SEC rematch, this week we're going to have to.


If the season ended today Projection
BCS Championship #1 LSU (SEC)  vs #2 Alabama (SEC/at-large)
LSU (SEC) vs. Alabama (SEC/at-large)
Rose #9 Oregon (P12) vs #13 Michigan State (B10)
Oregon (P12) vs Michigan State (B10)
Fiesta #3 Oklahoma State (B12) vs #4 Stanford (P12/3-4 rule)
Oklahoma State (B12) vs Stanford (P12/3-4 rule)
Sugar #10 Oklahoma (B12/at-large) vs #6 Houston (CUSA/top non-AQ) Michigan (B10/at-large) vs Houston (CUSA/top non-AQ)
Orange #5 Virginia Tech (ACC) vs #23 West Virginia (Big East) Virginia Tech (ACC) 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: Alabama and LSU won easily in their season-ending SEC rivalry games, and it's unlikely even a loss in the SEC championship game would knock LSU out of the title game. Only the pollsters discovering new love for Oklahoma State after a Bedlam win can prevent a rematch, and I'm not going to project that anymore.

Rose Bowl: Michigan State leads the Big Ten, and will face Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game; Wiscy is favored, but even after the Badgers were somewhat more impressive last week, I like Sparty to go 2-0 against the B1G's geographic outlier in division maps. With USC banned from the post-season, the Pac 12 Championship game looks to be somewhat anti-climactic; Oregon should win easily.

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State still seems likely to win Bedlam to me. With a little love from the voters, they could make it to the BCS title game even if they do, but otherwise they go here (if they lose, there's a chance they'll be out of the BCS entirely, but I think Michigan would not move into the top 14 if Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State).

Sugar Bowl: The LSU/Alabama loser always figured as the likely team here, but they're both in the title game right now and look to stay there. Oklahoma is the highest-ranked mega-draw team available now as a replacement; if they lose to Oklahoma State and LSU beats Georgia, Michigan will hold that distinction. If the season ended today, they play CUSA champion and current highest-ranked non-AQ champion Houston, and while I believe a highly-ranked West Virginia team would jump Houston here, a squad on the fringes of the top 25 probably doesn't.

After winning its two toughest conference games easily, I'm now projecting Houston to finish the deal, win CUSA, and earn a BCS bid.

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech's victory over Virginia guaranteed a spot to play Clemson in the ACC championship game. Clemson won earlier in the year, but the Hokies are ranked higher, are playing better now, and are pretty much the default pick to win the ACC in any case.

By the 'highest ranked team in the BCS if it's not completely implausible' standard I use, WVU is the Big East champion if the season ended today; WVU over USF and Cinci over UConn have to be the expected outcomes at this point. Nonetheless, Louisville currently wins in more tiebreaker scenarios, and Cinci would win a two-way tie with Louisville.

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

Champs Sports: Notre Dame. Unless the Irish can sneak into a higher-profile bowl somehow, they're here. 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.

No Bowl: USF, UConn, Syracuse. It's hard to see them (or us) getting to bowl eligibility given their (or our) remaining schedules.

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