The SEC isn't out of the national title running, but it's likely gonna need two teams from among Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame to lose along the way. Take a look at their remaining schedules -- both the Ducks and Irish have very tough games left, while K-State's game against Texas seems to look a little more challenging by the week. And USC could end up knocking off both Oregon and Notre Dame. If that happens, the winner of Georgia-Alabama in the SEC Championship will likely sneak back into the title game.
But as it stands right now, you're looking at a classic contrast-of-styles championship game, but maybe not as drastic as you'd think. Oregon is flashy and K-State is GRITTY, but each pounds the ball on the ground, plays disciplined defense, sets up explosive plays through the air with its run threats, and has adopted the personality of its coach completely. This would be a very good game.
Complete projections for all 35 bowls:
Tie-ins breakdown via CBS Sports.
I see Oregon being ranked No. 1 by the end of the regular season if it manages to beat Stanford, Oregon State and USC or UCLA. That's still a very tough road, and we shouldn't count our Ducks before they ... win a bunch of hard games. But their No. 1 ranking would mean the Rose gets first choice, since it gave up the best team to Miami. And if Notre Dame's around, one-loss (still see them falling to USC) or not, you take Notre Dame, setting up a game all of the early '90s will come back to watch. And another good game.
The Fiesta likewise loses a team, and it doesn't really matter which they pick first, since they also get the first non-AQ pick. The top choices for that slot could include Clemson, Stanford, Texas A&M, LSU, Florida and maybe even Louisiana Tech. Let's say they grab an Oklahoma team with losses to two of the top three teams and the SEC East champion. Another fine game!
The Sugar gets Alabama automatically and has next pick. I see Clemson beating South Carolina at this point, which would make the Tigers an attractive pick and sort of give us the Alabama title game we'd expected all along -- the Tide's defense and physicality vs. a light-speed offensive attack (not that we didn't just see how that turns out yesterday).
The Orange goes last, and doesn't really get to make a choice. It will get the ACC champion, and the BIg East champion will still be available. Despite the loss on Saturday, I see Louisville topping that conference. Let's watch it anyway!
Other items of interest:
NORTHERN ILLINOIS-ULM HOLY MERCY
Yep, still have Texas and A&M meeting in the Cotton Bowl. They're both getting hotter as the season goes, making the reunion harder and harder to resist. At this point, the only thing I can see ruining it would be Texas declining and accepting a trip to the Alamo instead -- based on last week's response, the Aggies want this one much more than the Horns do. That should not surprise.
The ACC is a complete mess, but the Chick-fil-A offers a tiny bit of clarity by picking Miami over Duke, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and others. My thinking there: the Canes have a national brand name, it'll likely be the last Miami bowl game for a while, they have a semi-star player in Duke Johnson, and Atlanta has a weirdly large number of fans of the U.
RUTGERS AND DUKE IN A BOWL GAME, LET ALONE BOWL SEASON, HOLY MERCY
This is the second time I've had Stanford and Oklahoma State rematching their Fiesta Bowl from last year, and the second different bowl to provide the setting. Just can't keep these two apart.
Oregon State-Virginia Tech is like the dumbest possible pairing of deserves-a-decent-bowl with deserves-a-horrible-bowl in the same game. I hate it. You try to figure the ACC out!
Toledo-Western Kentucky sounds pretty great too. Lots of MAC and Sun Belt on here, as always, as Conference USA and the Big East, among others, will not be able to fill all their slots.
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