What have we learned so far this college football season? Among other things, Texas and USC are as overrated as ever, Alabama's not perfect, Oregon's still a juggernaut, and Louisville is going to blow everything on its helpless schedule to bits.
So how does this affect the postseason outlook? It's time to begin weekly updates to our bowl projections. Below is the updated chart, followed by some explanations. And let's discuss in the comments. (For your reference, the preseason version.)
|Bowl||Selection (not always official order)||Team||Team|
|1/6/2014||BCS National Championship (Pasadena)||BCS 1 vs. BCS 2||Alabama||Oregon|
|1/3/2014||Orange (Miami)||ACC 1 vs. At-large 1||Clemson||Michigan*|
|1/2/2014||Sugar (New Orleans)||SEC 1** vs. At-large 2||Georgia||Florida State*|
|1/1/2014||Rose (Pasadena)||Pac-12 1** vs. Big Ten 1 (At-large 3)||Ohio State||Stanford|
|1/1/2014||Fiesta (Glendale, AZ)||Big 12 1 vs. At-large 4||Oklahoma State||Louisville*|
|1/5/2014||GoDaddy (Mobile, AL)||MAC 2 vs. Sun Belt 2||Bowling Green||Western Kentucky|
|1/4/2014||BBVA Compass (B'ham)||SEC 9 vs. AAC 5||Vanderbilt||Houston|
|1/3/2014||Cotton (Arlington)||Big 12 2 vs. SEC 3||Baylor||LSU|
|1/1/2014||Capital One (Orlando)||Big Ten 2 vs. SEC 2||Northwestern||Texas A&M|
|1/1/2014||Gator (Jacksonville)||Big Ten 4 vs. SEC 6||Michigan State||Ole Miss|
|1/1/2014||Heart of Dallas||Big Ten 7 vs. Big 12 8||Arkansas State***||Toledo***|
|1/1/2014||Outback (Tampa)||Big Ten 3 vs. SEC 4||Wisconsin||Florida|
|12/31/2013||Chick-fil-A (Atlanta)||ACC 2 vs. SEC 5||Miami||South Carolina|
|12/31/2013||Independence (Shreveport)||SEC 10 vs. ACC 7||Louisiana-Lafayette***||Pitt|
|12/31/2013||Liberty (Memphis)||C-USA 1 vs. SEC 8||East Carolina||Missouri|
|12/31/2013||Sun (El Paso)||ACC 4 vs. Pac-12 4||Maryland||UCLA|
|12/30/2013||Alamo (San Antonio)||Big 12 3 vs. Pac-12 2||Oklahoma||Washington|
|12/30/2013||Armed Forces (Ft. Worth)||MWC 3 vs. C-USA 3/Navy||Fresno State||Navy|
|12/30/2013||Holiday (San Diego)||Pac-12 3 vs. Big 12 5||Arizona State||Texas Tech|
|12/30/2013||Music City (Nashville)||ACC 6 vs. SEC 7||Boston College||Auburn|
|12/28/2013||Belk (Charlotte)||AAC 3 vs. ACC 5||UCF||Georgia Tech|
|12/28/2013||Buffalo Wild Wings (PHX)||Big 12 4 vs. Big Ten 5||TCU||Nebraska|
|12/28/2013||Pinstripe (New York)||Big 12 7 vs. AAC 4||Kansas State||Cincinnati|
|12/28/2013||Russell Athletic (Orlando)||AAC 2 vs. ACC 3||Rutgers||North Carolina|
|12/27/2013||Kraft (San Francisco)||Pac-12 6 vs. BYU/ACC 9||Utah||BYU|
|12/27/2013||Military (Annapolis)||ACC 8 vs. C-USA 5||Virginia Tech||Tulsa|
|12/27/2013||Texas (Houston)||Big 12 6 vs. Big Ten 6||Texas||Notre Dame***|
|12/26/2013||Little Caesars (Detroit)||MAC 1 vs. Big Ten 8||Northern Illinois||Troy***|
|12/26/2013||Poinsettia (San Diego)||MWC 2 vs. Army||Boise State||Buffalo***|
|12/24/2013||Hawaii||MWC 5 vs. C-USA 2||Wyoming||Marshall|
|12/23/2013||Beef O'Brady's (St. Pete.)||AAC 6 vs. C-USA 4||?||Rice|
|12/21/2013||Idaho Potato (Boise)||MAC 3 vs. MWC 6||Ohio||UTSA***|
|12/21/2013||Las Vegas||MWC 1 vs. Pac-12 5||Utah State||Arizona|
|12/21/2013||New Mexico (Albuquerque)||MWC 4 vs. Pac-12 7||San Jose State||USC|
|12/21/2013||New Orleans||Sun Belt 1 vs. C-USA 6||ULM||Middle Tennessee|
*: BCS non-AQ.
**: Selection order altered by BCS National Championship teams.
***: Filling another conference's unfilled spot.
?: You tell me who else is finishing with six wins.
Bowl slots aren't always determined exactly by conference standings. Conferences and bowls work together to come up with the matchups most likely to make money.
For example, I have South Carolina finishing ahead of Florida in the SEC East, which would put the Cocks into the Chick-fil-A if we went strictly by regular-season wins and losses. But a Miami-Florida rematch must be avoided, for our eyeballs' sake.
For another example, Wisconsin topping Northwestern wouldn't necessarily mean Wisconsin getting a better bowl. The Big Ten and SEC will likely want the Badgers to avoid LSU, since those two teams have a two-year series starting next season.
Texas, which plummets from the Fiesta to the Texas. You know you want to see Texas play in the Texas. USC also slides from the Alamo all the way to the Pac-12's last spot, since I'm expecting this to be a Trojans team with a furious fan base and an interim head coach come December. Kind of the same case for both teams here.
Probably Florida State, which I had in the Russell Athletic and now have in a BCS game. The ACC is a tough call, as always, but not for its usual reasons. I expected Miami to be good (they were already in the Chick-fil-A), but if all breaks right, the conference could have three big-name schools assemble legit 10-win seasons. Plus its customary herd of .500-ish teams.
Also Washington, which I had in the New Mexico before the year began, is now an Alamo team. The Huskies have switched with USC, basically. Is this an overreaction to one big win? Probably. But it's the best guess I've got at this point.
BCS National Championship
Like you and yours, I'm concerned by Alabama's offense, specifically its offensive line. But let's ride with the Tide for at least one more week. A win of any sort, no matter how ugly, over Texas A&M in College Station will ensure a title run is on the table, while a loss answers the question the other way.
On the other side, I'm feeling even more confident in Oregon after a 59-10 splattering on the other side of the country against a Virginia team that beat BYU the week prior. The Ducks still have to beat Stanford, though.
The first major change of the year: Texas is so very out. The Horns are coming nowhere near the Big 12 title, as this is exactly the same squishy, submissive team as it was last year.
This slides in Oklahoma State, which still has offensive issues to figure out, as the next Big 12 team up. I considered Baylor (which has yet to play serious competition), Oklahoma (which also has major offensive issues), and TCU (likewise), but settled on the Cowboys for now. For now. The wild west is wide open.
The Pokes were a BCS at-large in my original projection, so that opens another spot in the BCS. Also, Boise State is no longer projected as a non-BCS qualifier, and I'm not seeing anybody else from a mid-major set to make it in, though the Mountain West and MAC each has multiple contenders.
The Sugar Bowl gets first at-large pick this year if Alabama finishes the season ranked No. 1. Let's say it takes SEC runner-up (again!) Georgia, which should've gone instead of Florida last year, based on how each team fared in January.
If Oregon's ranked No. 2, the Rose goes next. Let's keep conference ties intact -- an 11-win Stanford team is a suitable replacement for Oregon.
The Orange comes next. If the Wolverines can get to 10 wins (and look at that schedule the rest of the way), they're pretty much in, due to their massive fan base and national brand.
For the Sugar's second pick, how about Florida State? We didn't know how freshman quarterback Jameis Winston would fare after a hyped offseason, but he so impressed that we're all aboard here. The Noles have a friendly schedule and are a huge television draw.
Last is Louisville, whom I'd actually projected as the Orange's pick last time around. The Teddy Bridgewater story will be great for TV, and Cards fans will show. But an entire season of the media hammering Louisville's schedule will dull the glow of Louisville's bowl prospects somewhat. Blame the American Athletic Conference, not Louisville.
If the Big Ten can't fill all its slots (due in part to sending Michigan to a BCS bowl and Penn State being banned from the postseason), Notre Dame will surely be the one to fill the void. The Irish have used up all their trips to Big East bowls, and they aren't yet on the ACC's travel package. That means they're in the same boat as all those MAC and Sun Belt teams, just waiting for a vacancy. Luckily for Notre Dame, they'll get the best pick. You could do worse than a trip to Texas to finish off the Horns.
After that, it's teams from conferences without sufficient bowl ties filling in the rest. There's also an open Beef O'Brady's spot, because I'm not seeing another team get to 6-6 at this point. Assuredly, somebody will, but let's not slap a name there just to plug a hole.
The best non-BCS games
LSU-Baylor in Dallas. Les Miles vs. Art Briles. Offense vs. defense. Explosions. TURNT.
Likewise, Ole Miss vs. Nebraska and Northwestern vs. Texas A&M could be screamingly exciting.
Also also, for those who like POINTZ, don't overlook Texas Tech-Arizona State. It was pointed out I had TCU-Michigan State rematching in the Buffalo Wild Wings. I've swapped Michigan State and Nebraska. The Huskers have more fans and a more television-friendly offense, but that defense could mean losses this year.
The rivalry series between Utah and BYU is on rocky footing, with 2014 and 2015 scheduled to be the first Holy War break since World War II. How about a trip west to San Francisco to fill the gap?
Bowling Green vs. Western Kentucky should be excellent, even if Bobby Petrino's gone. It will also crown the nation's best town named Bowling Green.
Admit it: you kind of want to watch Boston College vs. Auburn. This would've been the last game you ever would've wanted to see last year, but things change.