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Home | Sports |

Expert Analysis: College football bowl projections, trying to clear up the mystery


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Mike Huguenin is the epitome of a Gamedayr. He has spent over 28 years in sports journalism, with notable stints at Yahoo! Sports/Rivals.com, NY Times, The Sporting News, and Orlando Sentinel.  On Gamedayr, Mike provides expert analysis on Heisman updates, weekly game news, bowl projections and college basketball.

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Generally, as a season progresses, the bowl picture becomes clearer. That’s not the case this season; this week, there is a lot of mystery, from who will be in the BCS games to how many unfilled slots there will be in the “lesser” bowls.

The ACC, Big East, Big Ten and SEC seem likely to fall short of filling all their bowl slots. The same goes for Conference USA. That’s a boon for the Mid-American and Sun Belt, which could have a combined 12 teams in the postseason.

[2013 BCS Championship game race: Who is the best one loss team in the country?]

Baylor, Michigan State, Missouri, Ole Miss, Purdue, Virginia Tech and West Virginia are among the major-conference schools that need one more win to become bowl-eligible, which means there is a lot of nail-biting going on among bowl organizers. It’s not that far-fetched to think there will be two or three bowl slots filled by teams with losing records, simply because there might not be enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all 70 postseason slots. Miami’s decision Monday morning to self-impose a postseason ban increases that possibility. In addition, the postseason bans of North Carolina, Ohio State and Penn State – all of whom have the requisite six wins – because of NCAA probation is wreaking havoc on some potential bowl matchups.

The BCS spots obviously also bear watching. Will the ACC, Big 12 or Pac-12 get two spots? The SEC is going to get two, while it’s an extreme long shot that either the Big East or the Big Ten gets more than one.

[Related: 2012 Heisman Trophy watch list from a fan’s perspective, Week 13]

A few notes about these projections: Once again, there are 35 bowls, though there have been some name changes from last season. And a bowl’s tie-in with a league doesn’t necessarily mean it will get the third- or fourth-, etc., place team from the league; instead, it means it gets the third or fourth, etc., selection from that league.

BCS MATCHUPS

Rose Bowl
Site: Pasadena, Calif.
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 5 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS vs. BCS (Big Ten vs. Pac-12)
Projection: Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Note: Neither is anything close to a lock. Wisconsin must win the Big Ten championship game or risk falling to the Outback Bowl.

Orange Bowl
Site: Miami
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS vs. BCS
Projection: Florida State vs. Louisville
Note: If the ACC champ is not in the BCS championship game, it is contractually obligated to go to the Orange Bowl. As for Louisville, no BCS bowl really wants anything to do with any Big East team.

Sugar Bowl
Site: New Orleans
Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS vs. BCS
Projection: Clemson vs. Georgia
Note: If the SEC champ isn’t in the national title game, it is contractually obligated to play in this contest. The projection here is that the SEC title game loser heads to New Orleans. Clemson’s BCS hopes would be greatly strengthened by a victory over archrival South Carolina on Saturday.

Fiesta Bowl
Site: Glendale, Ariz.
Date: Jan. 3
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS vs. BCS
Projection: Oklahoma vs. Oregon
Note: The Big 12 champ is contractually obligated to the Fiesta if it is not in the national title game, which means Oklahoma must beat Oklahoma State and TCU and have Texas beat Kansas State. Oregon needs to beat Oregon State to all but nail down a BCS berth.

National championship game
Site: Miami
Date: Jan. 7
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2
Projection: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Note: Well, that’s the pick this week, at least. USC certainly has the talent to beat Notre Dame on Saturday, but if Trojans QB Matt Barkley doesn’t play, that outcome becomes a long shot. Alabama should crush Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but Georgia in the SEC championship game would pose a much greater test.

THE OTHER BOWLS

New Mexico Bowl
Site: Albuquerque
Date: Dec. 15
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mountain West #5 vs. Pac-12 #7
Projection: Nevada vs. Arizona State

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Site: Boise, Idaho
Date: Dec. 15
Time/TV: 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American #3 vs. Western Athletic #1
Projection: Toledo vs. Utah State

Poinsettia Bowl
Site: San Diego
Date: Dec. 20
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BYU if bowl-eligible vs. Mountain West #2
Projection: BYU vs. San Diego State State
Note: BYU has nailed down its spot in this game. This would be a home game for San Diego State.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl
Site: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big East #6 vs. Conference USA
Projection: Ohio U. vs. UCF
Note: Projection is Big East won’t be able to fill its slot.

New Orleans Bowl
Site: New Orleans
Date: Dec. 22
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Sun Belt #1
Projection: East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Las Vegas Bowl
Site: Las Vegas
Date: Dec. 22
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mountain West #1 vs. Pac-12 #5
Projection: Boise State vs. Washington

Hawaii Bowl
Site: Honolulu
Date: Dec. 24
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mountain West #4
Projection: San Jose State vs. Fresno State
Note: Projection is that Conference USA won’t have enough bowl-eligible teams. San Jose State, which already has won nine games, would slide into that spot.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Site: Detroit
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #8 vs. Mid-American #1
Projection: Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois
Note: Projection is Big Ten won’t be able to fill its slot. Arkansas State could win the Sun Belt, and matching up the Red Wolves against the Huskies would make for a good game.

Military Bowl
Site: Washington, D.C.
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 3 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #8 vs. Army if bowl-eligible
Projection: Central Michigan vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Note: Army won’t be bowl-eligible, and the projection is the ACC won’t be able to fill its slot. Central Michigan (5-6) must beat an awful Massachusetts team on Saturday to become bowl-eligible.

Belk Bowl
Site: Charlotte, N.C.
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #5 vs. Big East #3
Projection: Wake Forest vs. Cincinnati

Holiday Bowl
Site: San Diego
Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 9:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #5 vs. Pac-12 #3
Projection: Iowa State vs. UCLA

Independence Bowl
Site: Shreveport, La.
Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 2 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #7 vs. SEC #10
Projection: Louisiana Tech vs. Bowling Green
Note: Projection is that neither league will be able to fill its slot.

Russell Athletic Bowl
Site: Orlando
Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #3 vs. Big East #2
Projection: Virginia Tech vs. Rutgers
Note: This had been known as the Champs Sports Bowl. Virginia Tech must beat archrival Virginia on Saturday to become bowl-eligible; Rutgers, meanwhile, is the Big East leader and still has a solid shot at a BCS bid.

Texas Bowl
Site: Houston
Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #6 vs. Big 12 #6
Projection: Minnesota vs. Texas Tech

Armed Forces Bowl
Site: Fort Worth, Texas
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 11:45 a.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA vs. Mountain West #3
Projection: Rice vs. Air Force
Note: Air Force already has accepted a bid. Rice must win at UTEP on Saturday to become bowl-eligible. SMU could nab this spot out of CUSA if it upsets Tulsa on Saturday.

Pinstripe Bowl
Site: New York
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 3:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big East #4 vs. Big 12 #7
Projection: Syracuse vs. West Virginia
Note: West Virginia (5-5) needs one more win for bowl eligibility; it has Iowa State on the road this week and finishes with Kansas at home on Dec. 1.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Site: San Francisco
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 4 p.m., ESPN2
Matchup: Pac-12 #6 vs. Navy if bowl-eligible
Projection: Arizona vs. Navy
Note: Navy has locked up its spot.

Alamo Bowl
Site: San Antonio
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big 12 #3 vs. Pac-12 #2
Projection: Kansas State vs. Oregon State

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Site: Tempe, Ariz.
Date: Dec. 29
Time/TV: 10:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #5 vs. Big 12 #4
Projection: Michigan State vs. Oklahoma State
Note: This previously was known as the Insight Bowl. Michigan State (5-6) must win at Minnesota on Saturday to become bowl-eligible.

Music City Bowl
Site: Nashville
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Matchup: ACC #6 vs. SEC #7
Projection: Georgia Tech vs. Vanderbilt

Sun Bowl
Site: El Paso, Texas
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 2 p.m., CBS
Matchup: ACC #4 vs. Pac-12 #4
Projection: Duke vs. USC

Liberty Bowl
Site: Memphis
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Conference USA #1 vs. Big East #5 or SEC #8
Projection: Tulsa vs. Ole Miss
Note: Ole Miss has to beat archrival Mississippi State on Saturday to become bowl-eligible.

Chick-fil-A Bowl
Site: Atlanta
Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: ACC #2 vs. SEC #5
Projection: NC State vs. South Carolina

Heart of Dallas Bowl
Site: Dallas
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: Noon, ESPNU
Matchup: Big Ten #7 vs. Big 12 #8
Projection: Purdue vs. TCU
Note: This contest formerly was known as the TicketCity Bowl. Purdue must beat archrival Indiana on Saturday to become bowl-eligible.

Gator Bowl
Site: Jacksonville
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN2
Matchup: Big Ten #4 vs. SEC #6
Projection: Northwestern vs. Mississippi State

Capital One Bowl
Site: Orlando
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ABC
Matchup: Big Ten #2 vs. SEC #2
Projection: Nebraska vs. Florida

Outback Bowl
Site: Tampa
Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big Ten #3 vs. SEC #3
Projection: Michigan vs. LSU

Cotton Bowl
Site: Arlington, Texas
Date: Jan. 4
Time/TV: 8 p.m., Fox
Matchup: Big 12 #2 vs. SEC #4
Projection: Texas vs. Texas A&M

BBVA Compass Bowl
Site: Birmingham, Ala.
Date: Jan. 5
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Big East #5/6 vs. SEC #9
Projection: Ball State vs. Western Kentucky
Note: Projection is neither league will be able to fill its slot.

GoDaddy.com Bowl
Site: Mobile, Ala.
Date: Jan. 6
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mid-American #2 vs. Sun Belt #2
Projection: Kent State vs. Middle Tennessee State

Keep Reading >> 2012 Heisman Trophy watch list from a fan’s perspective, Week 13

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