Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bowl Outlook

First, I offer my apologies for not posting anything all week.  My 30th birthday along with a midterm took priority.  But to make it up to everyone, I'm offering up a Friday tri-fecta of posts.  I hope you find the time to enjoy reading all three. 

Here is our weekly outlook for the bowl games. Below is a recap of how each conference race is shaping up.

Florida and Alabama will play in the SEC Championship Game. The winner is likely headed to the BCS Championship Game while the loser will likely go to the Sugar Bowl.

Georgia Tech has clinched the Coastal Division Title and will play in the ACC Championship Game. In the Atlantic Division, Clemson can win the division with a win over Virginia this Saturday. Even if they lose, they can still win the division if Boston College loses one of their two remaining games against North Carolina and Maryland. Boston College can win the division by winning those two games and having Clemson lose to Virginia. In all likelihood, we’re looking at a Clemson vs. Georgia Tech ACC Championship Game.

Big East
Though the Big East doesn’t formally play a Big East Championship Game, they will be essentially playing one on December 5 when Cincinnati and Pitt square off. Cincinnati plays Illinois this weekend in a non-conference game and Pitt plays West Virginia. Regardless of what happens, their game on December 5 will be for a conference championship and a spot in a BCS bowl game.

Texas needs to win one of their two remaining games (Kansas, Texas A&M) to clinch the Big-12 South. Oklahoma State is mathematically still alive. They need Texas to lose both games, and they need to win against Colorado and Oklahoma. I think it’s safe to assume that Texas will represent the Big-12 South in the Big-12 Championship Game. The Big-12 North is a bit more competitive. Nebraska is currently atop the standings but Kansas State is just one game behind. Those two teams play this weekend, and the winner will win the division.

The Big-10 is easy since Ohio State has already won the conference. A lot of intigue remains in terms of BCS at-large spots, and I’ll go into that below.

The PAC-10 is very much up for grabs with several teams having a legitimate chance to win the conference. Oddly enough, USC isn’t even in the mix at this point. Here is what each team needs in order for them to win the conference:

Oregon: (@Arizona, vs. Oregon State) - The Ducks currently sit atop the standings with a 6-1 league record. If they win their remaining games, then they win the PAC-10. If they lose to Arizona and defeat Oregon State, then they’ll need losses from Arizona and Stanford in order to win the league.

Arizona: (vs. Oregon, @ Arizona State, @ USC) – Arizona needs to win their remaining games in order to win the PAC-10. While it’s good to control your own destiny, Arizona has a tough road ahead and I’d be shocked if they can win out.

Oregon State: (@Washington St, @ Oregon) – Oregon State controls their own destiny and wins the PAC-10 if they win their last two games. It’s pretty safe to assume they’ll beat Washington State. So we could have a de-facto PAC-10 championship game when the Beavers play the Ducks on Thursday night, December 3.

Stanford: (vs. Cal, vs. Notre Dame) – Stanford needs to beat Cal, and then they need some help. They need Oregon to lose a game, but they don’t want them losing to Oregon State. Their situation is tricky. They need Arizona to defeat Oregon and then for Arizona to lose another game. They then need Oregon to beat Oregon State.
So how are these races going to affect all the bowl games? We’ll once again run through the exercise of the BCS bowl selection process and see what we come up with.

First, the top two teams are slotted for the BCS title game:

BCS Championship Game: Texas (Big-12 Champion) vs. Florida (SEC Champion)

Then, the conference champions with automatic tie-ins are sent to their respective bows. So we get:

Rose Bowl: Oregon (PAC-10 Champion) vs. Ohio State (Big-10 Champion)
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech (ACC Champion)

Next, the bowl games that lost their automatic tie-ins to the BCS Championship Game get first selection. Since the Sugar Bowl lost Florida, who is ranked ahead of Texas, they pick first. They’ll make the easy selection and pick Alabama.

The Fiesta Bowl picks next, and their selection is currently very much up in the air. It seems that a 10-2 Iowa or a 10-2 Penn State team are the favorites. I have been thinking that Penn State would get the nod due to them being a bigger national draw; however, the rumblings seem to have the Fiesta Bowl favoring Iowa. Iowa’s fan base travels just as well as Penn State’s, and the Hawkeyes did beat Penn State on the field. A serious wild card is Oklahoma State, who quietly sits at #12 in the BCS…ahead of both Iowa and Penn State. The Fiesta would love to replace Texas with another Big-12 team. However, Oklahoma State closes their season with a trip to Oklahoma which will be tough for them. If they win that game, they’re almost certain to head to the Fiesta Bowl. If they lose, it’s looking more and more like Iowa will be the selection.

The Orange picks next, and I think it will be tough for them to pass up TCU, who will be ranked no lower than fourth in the BCS standings. I think the Orange would pass on Cincinnati, who came to the Orange Bowl last year and only brought about 12,000 fans. If Pitt wins the Big East, they may be an option.

The Fiesta is up again, and it will be tough for them to pass up Boise State who will be ranked around sixth in the BCS. It would be hard for them to justify skipping over a team ranked so high. However, if they chose Penn State with their first pick, then a Penn State / Pitt match-up has to look attractive to them. As things stand now, I see an Iowa vs. Boise State match up.

The Sugar is then forced to select the Big East Champion to play Alabama, which I’m projecting to be Pittsburgh.

Thus, we’re left with:

BCS Championship Game: Texas (Big-12 Champion) vs. Florida (SEC Champion)
Rose Bowl: Oregon (PAC-10 Champion) vs. Ohio State (Big-10 Champion)
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech (ACC Champion) vs. TCU (at large)
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (at large) vs. Pitt (Big East Champion)
Fiesta Bowl: Iowa (at large) vs. Boise St. (at large)

Onto the SEC bowl games:

It looks like this week’s LSU/Ole Miss game may be for a spot in the Capital One Bowl. The loser could head to the Cotton Bowl. Here’s what I see:

Capital One Bowl: LSU vs. Penn State
Outback Bowl: Tennessee vs. Wisconsin
Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Georgia vs. Clemson
Music City Bowl: Arkansas vs. North Carolina
Liberty Bowl: Auburn vs. Houston
Independence Bowl: South Carolina vs. Texas A&M Bowl: Kentucky vs. South Florida


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