Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Picture Me Bowling

We're close enough to the end of the regular season to start taking a look at some bowl predictions. Much will change between now and the end of the season, and these predictions probably won't be worth much next month. But we can still learn a few things and know what to look for as the regular season enters its final stretch.

I've brushed up on my BCS Bowl selection procedures, so we'll take a look at the BCS bowl games first. While many of these teams still have some tough contests remaining, we'll go ahead and project these as if the season ended today.

The first thing that happens is the top two teams in the BCS standings are slotted for the BCS Championship Game. So we have:

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

Next, the conference champions with BCS bowl tie-ins are slotted. So we'd have the following:

Rose Bowl: Oregon (PAC-10 champion) vs. Iowa (Big-10 champion)
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech (ACC champion)

After that, we look to see what other teams will make it into the BCS.  The champion of the Big East conference receives an automatic bid to the BCS, despite not having a bowl tie-in.  So that ensures that Cincinnati will play in one of the bowls.

We then look to the champions of the conferences that do not receive an automatic bid. If the champions of one of these "non BCS" conferences is ranked 12th or higher in the BCS, then they receive an automatic bid as well. However, the rules state that only one such team receives the automatic bid. Both TCU and Boise State are ranked in the Top 12 of the BCS; however, TCU is ranked slightly higher right now and they would get the nod. Boise State could still be selected as an at large team if one of the bowls chooses them.

The bowls then start selecting teams. Any bowl that loses their automatic tie-in to the BCS Championship game gets to select first.  In this case, the Sugar Bowl lost SEC Champion Florida and the Fiesta Bowl lost Big-12 Champion Texas. Since Florida is ranked #1 in the BCS standings, the Sugar Bowl would select first. The Sugar would likely try to replace Florida with another SEC team, and I think they would select Alabama. The Big-12 doesn't have any suitable replacements for Texas, so the Fiesta would look elsewhere. The decision would likely be between 1-loss Penn State or 2-loss USC.  Due to Penn State's rabid fan base and reputation for traveling well, I think the Fiesta Bowl would go with the Nittany Lions.

After those selections have been made, the bowls then choose in a pre-determined order. The order for this year's games is Orange, Fiesta, then Sugar. The Orange Bowl probably goes for the bigger name in USC ahead of TCU, Cincinnati, or other at large teams such as undefeated Boise State. A local 2-loss Miami team could be an attraction as well.

The Fiesta picks next and must now choose between Cincinnati and TCU, who are both guaranteed a spot somewhere. TCU is a more regional choice, and I believe the Fiesta will go with them ahead of Cincinnati. The Sugar is then left with Cincinnati to fill their second spot.

The lineup will look like:

BCS Championship Game: Florida (SEC champion) vs. Texas (Big-12 champion)
Rose Bowl: Oregon (PAC-10 champion) vs. Iowa (Big-10 champion)
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech (ACC champion) vs. USC (at large)
Fiesta Bowl: Penn State (at large) vs. TCU (at large)
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (at large) vs. Cincinnati (Big East champion)

It's sad that the BCS bowl selection procedure is so short sighted.  College football gets robbed of a potential Penn State vs. Alabama or Alabama vs. USC match-up. But...it is what it is.

So where does this leave LSU and the rest of the SEC? I'll give my best shot at the SEC bowls too.

The Capital One Bowl in Orlando selects first after the BCS selections are complete. The Capital One Bowl must select the team with the best overall record or a team within one win of the team with the next best overall record. Right now, the Capital One Bowl would be forced to select LSU since nobody is within one game of LSU's 7-1 record. This bowl pairs the SEC with the Big-10, and Ohio State is currently the favorite to come here. If Ohio State beats Penn State on Saturday and proceeds to win out, then the Buckeyes likely go to the BCS and Penn State likely goes to Orlando.

The Outback Bowl in Tampa and Cotton Bowl in Dallas then pick next.  If the two bowls want the same team, then the Outback Bowl gets preference for an SEC East team and the Cotton Bowl gets preference for an SEC West team. Right now, I'll say that Tennessee looks headed for the Outback Bowl. The Cotton Bowl will choose between Ole Miss, Auburn, and Georgia but I'll go with Auburn since Ole Miss just went there last year. The winner of the Auburn / Georgia game may have some bearing on this decision, but the Cotton rarely chooses an SEC East team. Wisconsin is a likely opponent in the Outback bowl and Oklahoma is the likely opponent in the Cotton.

The Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta selects next, and they'll be choosing between Georgia and Ole Miss. I think they'll go with the home team and select Georgia who could face a number of ACC teams. The best bet
is either Miami or Virginia Tech. I'll go with Miami. 

The Liberty Bowl in Memphis and the Music City Bowls in Nashville select next. If they choose the same team, the team actually gets to decide which bowl to attend. Ole Miss would like to play in nearby Memphis, so I'll put them there. The winner of this weekend's Arkansas / South Carolina game could have the upper hand for the Music City Bowl. I'll go with Arkansas. The Liberty also hosts the  champion of Conference USA; therefore, Ole Miss would likely face Houston in the Liberty while Arkansas will face an ACC opponent in the Music City. The ACC is so jumbled, it's impossible to know but I'll pick one out of a hat and say that Arkansas will face Clemson.

The Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA chooses next and they'll select South Carolina. They'll match up against a Big-12 team and a team like Kansas, Missouri, or Texas A&M are likely candidates. I think we'll see South Carolina vs. Texas A&M.

The Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham selects next, and Kentucky will be the only bowl eligible team remaining (if they make it). They'll be matched up against the Big East and a possible opponent is South

That gives us an SEC bowl lineup that looks like this:

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

So can LSU make it to a BCS bowl if they lose a game and finish 10-2?  It's possible.  Here's what has to happen: Either Florida or Alabama has to lose a regular season game, and then they have to lose again in the SEC Championship Game. That team and LSU will both have two losses, but the other team (either Florida or Bama) would be coming off a loss in Atlanta. That may make LSU the more attractive option for the Sugar Bowl. Then again, it may not. But it's the only possible scenario that LSU makes a BCS bowl without winning the SEC Championship.

On the flip side, if LSU wins the remainder of their games but loses the SEC Championship Game, they could be passed over by the BCS for a 1-loss Alabama team. In fact, they almost certainly would.  
It will be interesting to see how teams jockey for position down the stretch of this season.  I'll try to update these each week, but without the lengthy explanations.


Anonymous said...

You're right about the short-sighted nature of the selection system. I swear I've seen half of these games before. They need to juggle the conference tie-ins around every so often to get different match ups. (Except for the Rose Bowl of course. God forbid anybody change that game.)

Plus, how could the Orange Bowl take a USC team with two losses, ranked out of the BCS top ten, and who did not even win their conference, over teams ranked higher than them in all the polls? Hell, why not take Notre Dame? What qualifies a team as "at large"?

Saturday Night Slant said...

The bowl match-ups are stale, especially the SEC vs. Big-10 games on New Year's Day. I really wish all the bowl games would work to get some new tie-ins to shake things up. And I'm sure SEC fans wouldn't mind traveling to some different venues. Agree 100%.

If you're ranked in the Top 14 of the BCS standings and finish the season with at least 9 wins, then you qualify as a candidate to be selected as an "at large" BCS team. The bowl does not have to select the higher rated team...they can choose whoever they want that meets the criteria.

USC is currently ranked 12th in the BCS standings. I think there would be some pressure to take an undefeated Boise St. team who would probably be ranked around 6th, but none of the bowls are going to want them. USC is just a better draw for TV, and it makes for a more attractive game.

If a team cracks the Top 4 of the final BCS standings, they are in automatically. So that's something to watch. If Boise can work their way up that high, then they'll get in...or if they pass TCU, then they'll take TCU's spot.

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