Bowl Projections, Week 8 2012

It's that time of year again. The first BCS rankings are out, there's an aisle of Halloween candy at the grocery store, and my BCS projection series starts. And like most years, the initial BCS standings would produce some truly strange final results, and my projections have at least one element that seems sort-of crazy. Due to a lot of SEC in the top 14 right now, there weren't actually any options for who the BCS at-large teams were was only one choice to made (which Pac 12 team got an at-large spot -- Oregon State and USC would both be eligible).

Bowl If the season ended today Projection
BCS Championship #1 Alabama (SEC) vs #2 Florida (SEC/automatic at-large as #2)
Alabama (SEC) vs. Oregon (P12)
Rose #3 Oregon (P12) vs #28 Michigan (B10)
Oregon State (P12/at-large) vs Michigan (B10)
Fiesta #4 Kansas State (B12) vs #11 USC (P12/at-large)
Kansas State (B12) vs Notre Dame (IND)
Sugar #5 Notre Dame (IND) vs #9 Oklahoma (B12/at-large)
Florida (SEC/at-large) vs Boise State (MWC/auto-bid)
Orange #14 Florida State (ACC) vs #15 Rutgers (Big East)
Florida State (ACC) vs Cincinnati (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. In my estimation, what bowls value is, in order
  1. Protecting relationships with conferences
  2. Out of town fans in the seats
  3. Local fans in the seats
  4. TV viewers
  5. Novelty
  6. 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, Alabama and Florida are #1 and #2, so they would meet in the BCS championship if the season ended today. However, they would meet in the SEC Championship game if they avoid losing until that point and last year notwithstanding, the loser should fall out of the top 2.

As for my projection - I'm going with the totally expected Alabama vs Oregon. Neither has played the toughest schedule so far, but they're destroying all who oppose them.

Rose Bowl: The current BCS rankings have the Ducks third and out of the title game. If Ohio State did not have a post-season ban, they'd be about fifth and slotted here with an outside chance at a BCS title game appearance given sufficient chaos. Instead, Michigan looks the least bad of Big Ten teams who can go to bowl games, even according to the BCS.

In my projections, I (like almost everyone in the country) have the Ducks in the title game. Oregon State is the replacement rather than USC both because losing twice to Oregon rather than once will hurt the Trojans' ranking, and because Beavers fans will actually have to travel to LA.

Fiesta Bowl: In both scenarios, Kansas State goes to the Fiesta Bowl as the Big 12 champion.Oklahoma looked very good last week, but since they've already lost to Kansas State, the Wildcats would need two Big 12 losses to finish behind the Sooners. If the season ended today, the only teams eligible for the other spot would be Oregon State, USC, Oklahoma, and Rutgers (Notre Dame is gone to the Sugar as Alabama's replacement with Florida unavailable). Since Oklahoma would be a repeat of a Big 12 conference game, no one wants to watch Rutgers, and Kansas State brings fans but not TV ratings, USC is the choice here.

In my projections, though, we don't have a second SEC rematch, so Notre Dame is available, and snatched up at the first reasonable opportunity.

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. #5 Notre Dame is a huge draw and the highest-ranked team available. Since the Fiesta doesn't want a Big 12 rematch, Oklahoma is available as the opponent, setting up for a very high-profile Sugar Bowl despite no SEC teams involved.

In my projections, the projected Florida/Alabama loser goes here, though it's quite possible by the time the end of the regular season rolls around, UGA, South Carolina, Florida, and LSU may have beat each other in ways that mean one of the division runner-ups looks better to the Sugar Bowl. Meanwhile, an 11-1 Boise State sneaks into the top 16, and with the Big Ten (and possibly Big East) champions outside the top 16, that's good enough.

Orange Bowl: Not surprisingly, FSU is leading the ACC at the present time; it's October. On the other side, the Orange Bowl picks last again this year, and with Rutgers as the current Big East leader in the BCS rankings (no matter how foolish this seems to anyone who has actually seen Rutgers play), they go on the other side here.

Despite NC State having shown that FSU is not 'back', I can't default to projecting Virginia Tech to win the ACC this year after they've lost to UNC, Cinci and Pitt. And the Seminoles already have a head-to-head win over the only plausible alternative in Clemson. So FSU stays the projected ACC champ. On the other hand, the Bearcats have actually looked a lot better than Louisville and Rutgers in my book, so I have them taking the final spot.

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