TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 05: Mark Barron #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide yells at Tyrann Mathieu #7 of the LSU Tigers during the first quarter of the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 5, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Last weekend's craziness actually simplified the BCS title race, but everything that comes after the championship is a mess.
Well that didn't take long. A week ago we observed that the only things standing between college football and sheer chaos were Les Miles' team and Les Miles' old team. By Friday night, his old team had fallen in Ames. Hello, pure, unadulterated ridiculousness.
Notice I said "ridiculousness" and not "chaos." Technically, that's because the chaos has already taken place. Because not only Oklahoma State, but also Oklahoma lost last weekend -- both in games called by Joe Tessitore, which is the funnest tidbit of all time -- the BCS title picture has actually become quite clear. It's everything after the BCS title game that has gotten murkier.
Once again, we will use momentum-based projections to project the rest of this year's regular season games. Some notes:
- BYU, Arkansas State and UL-Lafayette are the first teams to officially accept bowl bids. This is exciting, as it means that we are two Northern Illinois wins (over Eastern Michigan, then Ohio in the MAC title game) away from a Northern Illinois-Arkansas State GoDaddy.com Bowl that ends 118-116 in 13 overtimes. (And if NIU does lose to EMU, then the same scenario plays out with Toledo instead.)
- Here are some key SEC projections: LSU beats Arkansas by 11, and Alabama beats Auburn by 14. That means it's LSU-Georgia in the SEC title game; LSU wins by six. Which would mean it's official: your BCS title game will then be an Alabama-LSU rematch.
- Rutgers is your new projected Big East champion (thanks to this weekend's win over Cincinnati), while Virginia Tech holds off Virginia (by one) and Clemson (by five) to win the ACC. Wisconsin beats Penn State (by seven) this weekend, then avenges their loss to Michigan State (by three) to win the Big Ten. Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma by 0.1 to win the Big 12, and Houston wins out. Oregon beats a surging Utah team to win the Pac-12. (That's right, Utah starts 0-4 and wins the damn Pac-12 South.)
- That means you've got the following automatic BCS bowl bids:
No. 1 LSU (13-0)
No. 2 Alabama (11-1)
Big 12 Champion Oklahoma State (11-1)
ACC Champion Virginia Tech (12-1)
Big Ten Champion Wisconsin (11-2)
Pac-12 Champion Oregon (11-2)
Big East Champion Rutgers (9-3)
Conference USA Champion Houston (13-0)
- That leaves two at-large BCS bids, likely going to some combination of these four teams: Stanford (11-1), Boise State (11-1), Kansas State (10-2) and Michigan (10-2). Ten-win South Carolina, Arkansas and Georgia teams are out because the SEC has filled their two-team allotment (the only way they get a third is if Georgia or the SEC West Champion win the SEC title game and two other SEC teams are still in the national title game). Ten-win USC is out because they aren't going to any bowl. Depending on how the BCS Top 14 plays out (you must be a Top 14 team to be eligible for an at-large bid), it is possible that a nine-win team like Oklahoma, Penn State, Nebraska or Clemson can also get involved, but for these projections we will stick to the ten-wins-or-better pool. Stanford gets one of those two slots, and we'll say that Michigan gets the other spot despite ranking a decent amount below both Boise State and Kansas State. (Ah, the power of an enormous, well-traveled fan base.) There isn't a clear-cut case for any of these four teams, however.
- We have a couple of bowl selections with some serious domino-effect possibilities. Does the Capital One Bowl go with a 10-2 Arkansas team or 10-3 Georgia? If Arkansas, then Georgia probably goes to the Outback, 7-5 Auburn to the Cotton Bowl. That leaves the Chick-Fil-A Bowl with an almost guaranteed rematch of some sort. Either they get Clemson-South Carolina (the two are playing this weekend), Florida State-South Carolina (the two played in last year's Chick-Fil-A Bowl) ... or they go with a 6-6 Florida team instead of the 10-2 Gamecocks. We're going with Clemson-South Carolina because who wouldn't want to watch those teams hate each other all over again?
Meanwhile, if the Capital One goes with Georgia, then Arkansas goes to the Cotton, South Carolina to the Outback, and 7-5 Auburn quite possibly plays Clemson in the Chick-Fil-A; that would be the third time these teams have played in 16 months, and they open against each other next year.
- The next interesting selection: the Holiday Bowl. In the scenario below, Oklahoma and Kansas State go to the Cotton and Alamo Bowls in some order (we're going with KSU in the Cotton, OU in the Alamo). Next, 9-3 Baylor gets snatched up by the Insight Bowl. That leaves the Holiday to choose between the following four teams: 7-5 Missouri, 7-5 Texas A&M, 6-6 Texas (A&M is projected to beat Texas this weekend), and 6-6 Iowa State. This is interesting because a) Missouri will have gone 3-0 versus these three teams, and b) Missouri is almost always passed over for bowls because of their reputation for poor travel. (This is a self-fulfilling reputation, as somewhat demoralized Mizzou fans almost never travel well to the lesser bowl that ended up selecting them.)
If the Holiday selects Missouri, then the Texas Bowl happily gets either Texas or Texas A&M, and the Pinstripe Bowl likely goes with the other, leaving Iowa State to scramble for a leftover bowl bid elsewhere. (There could be pressure for the Pinstripe to pick Iowa State instead of out-the-door A&M, but the Aggies likely travel well enough to overcome that pressure.) However ... if the Holiday goes with A&M/Texas, then the Pinstripe probably does go with Iowa State, and Missouri is digging around for a bowl bid after being passed over for three teams it just beat. Ah, politics.
I contacted the Holiday Bowl to attempt to gauge how much head-to-head results factored into the selection process, but at this stage, I predictably only got confirmation that all four of these teams would be under consideration.
And here are your projections:
|17-Dec||Gildan New Mexico||Wyoming (8-4)||Temple (8-4)|
|17-Dec||Famous Idaho Potato Bowl||Toledo (8-4)||Utah State (7-5)|
|17-Dec||R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl||Northwestern (6-6)||UL-Lafayette (8-4)|
|20-Dec||Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl||South Florida (7-5)||Florida Int'l (8-4)|
|21-Dec||SDCCU Poinsettia Bowl||Boise State (11-1)||Louisiana Tech (8-4)|
|22-Dec||Maaco Bowl Las Vegas||TCU (10-2)||Washington (6-6)|
|24-Dec||Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl||Nevada (7-5)||SMU (7-5)|
|26-Dec||Advocare Independence Bowl||San Diego St. (8-4)||N.C. State (7-5)|
|27-Dec||Little Caesars Pizza Bowl||Purdue (6-6)||Ohio (9-4)|
|27-Dec||Belk Bowl||Virginia (8-4)||Cincinnati (9-3)|
|28-Dec||Military Bowl||Wake Forest (7-5)||Air Force (7-5)|
|28-Dec||Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl||Missouri (7-5)||California (7-5)|
|29-Dec||Champs Sports Bowl||Florida State (8-4)||Notre Dame (8-4)|
|29-Dec||Valero Alamo Bowl||Oklahoma (9-3)||Utah (8-5)|
|30-Dec||Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl||BYU (9-3)||East Carolina (6-6)|
|30-Dec||New Era Pinstripe Bowl||Texas A&M (7-5)||West Virginia (8-4)|
|30-Dec||Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl||North Carolina (7-5)||Mississippi St. (6-6)|
|30-Dec||Insight Bowl||Baylor (9-3)||Penn State (9-3)|
|31-Dec||Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas||Texas (6-6)||Ohio State (6-6)|
|31-Dec||Hyundai Sun Bowl||Georgia Tech (8-4)||Arizona State (6-6)|
|31-Dec||AutoZone Liberty Bowl||So. Miss (10-3)||Pittsburgh (6-6)|
|31-Dec||Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl||Iowa State (6-6)||UCLA (6-6)|
|31-Dec||Chick-fil-A Bowl||South Carolina (10-2)||Clemson (9-4)|
|2-Jan||TicketCity Bowl||Illinois (7-5)||Tulsa (8-4)|
|2-Jan||Outback Bowl||Nebraska (9-3)||Georgia (10-3)|
|2-Jan||Capital One Bowl||Michigan St. (10-3)||Arkansas (10-2)|
|2-Jan||Progressive Gator Bowl||Iowa (7-5)||Florida (6-6)|
|6-Jan||AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic||Kansas State (10-2)||Auburn (7-5)|
|7-Jan||BBVA Compass Bowl||Louisville (6-6)||Tennessee (6-6)|
|8-Jan||GoDaddy.com Bowl||N. Illinois (10-3)||Arkansas St. (10-2)|
|2-Jan||Rose Bowl||Wisconsin (11-2)||Oregon (11-2)|
|2-Jan||Tostitos Fiesta Bowl||Oklahoma St. (11-1)||Stanford (11-1)|
|3-Jan||Allstate Sugar Bowl||Michigan (10-2)||Houston (13-0)|
|4-Jan||Discover Orange Bowl||Virginia Tech (12-1)||Rutgers (9-3)|
|9-Jan||Allstate BCS National Championship Game||LSU (13-0)||Alabama (11-1)|