Summer Bowl Projections

I hadn't planned on another set of bowl projections before the final pre-season projections.  But then, USC went and got suspended.  And then, the Big ten went and got Nebraska.  And then, the Pac-10 went and got Utah and Colorado. And then the Dallas Football Classic finally drew a logo.  And so there has been enough change that I think my projections need to shift as well.

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Sharp, isn't it.

Before we start, in all of the hubbub about expansion, I don't know that anyone wrote about the winners and losers in the bowl business.  And let's be clear, there were both. 

The biggest winner is the BCS and bowl system. Four super-conferences would have made a playoff system almost a foregone conclusion. Six BCS conferences, and a Mountain West that is still going to be close to getting in, will muddy things enough to keep the status quo for a while. The Pizza Pizza Bowl is a big winner. When the Big Ten added an 8th slot (9th when the Big Ten sends two to the BCS), I said that the Big Ten would never fill it. One more team means a much better chance that they will. All of the Big Ten Bowls benefit from the addition of a national power with a big, traveling fan base. 

The Big 12 Bowls are the big losers here. Nebraska brought butts to their seats and eyes to their broadcasts. Even worse, two fewer teams means that there is no way that the conference will be able to fill all of its slots in the future. The league has eight agreements (nine, if Texas and Oklahoma both go to the BCS). They won't fill all of those with only ten teams. That means that you shouldn't expect to see the Big Ten play a Big 12 team in the Dallas Football Classic. Nor should you expect many Big 12 teams in Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl. Those two bowls are the biggest losers, as they'll now be picking from the remnants of MAC, C-USA, and Sun Belt squads. The Holiday Bowl is losing out here, too. Lack of funding has pushed the bowl further down the Big 12's pecking order. But after 2010, it's going to get ugly. The Holiday Bowl, which had the third Big 12 pick in 2009, will have the 5th pick starting this year. If Texas and Oklahoma both go to the BCS, they'll have the 6th. Who will that be in 2011? Likely a 7-5 Missouri or Kansas State squad. Not exactly a big draw. One other set of losers: the mid-tier Big Ten teams. Nebraska, and it's national reputation and history of traveling will likely be chosen above Purdue, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois (and yes, Iowa) when the bowls have the choice.

Now on to the picks. Here are the RULES FOR 2010.

  1. The best teams don't always go to the best games.  In the end, butts in the seat and eyes to the television are the biggest factors. (This isn't new)
  2. The order of BCS selection is 1) Replacement for #1 Team; 2) Replacement for #2 Team; 3) Sugar Bowl; 4) Orange Bowl; 5) Fiesta Bowl. (This is new)
  3. If a Big Ten or Pac-10 team qualifies for the BCS Championship Game, the Rose Bowl will be required to take a non-automatic qualifier.  This will only be required of the Rose Bowl the first time it occurs over the next four years. (This is new and huge)
  4. The Gator Bowl picks its Big Ten team ahead of the Insight Bowl this year.  It will rotate the other way next year. (This is new)
  5. For the full rules on BCS selections, look here

Let's emphasize number 3 a bit more.  If Ohio State (or Wisconsin...or Iowa...) runs the table and qualifies for the BCS Championship game, the Rose Bowl WILL NOT be able to pick the Big Ten runner-up to match against the Pac-10 champion (like it did with Illinois in 2007 and Michigan in 2006) IF (and only if) there is a non-BCS conference team in the Top 12 of the final BCS standings, the non-BCS team will have to be selected.  Had this rule been introduced in 2006, Boise State would have played USC in the Rose Bowl, not Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.  Had the rule been introduced in 2007, Hawaii would have played USC in the Rose Bowl, not Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.  This will happen ONLY THE FIRST TIME that both a) the Rose Bowl loses a Pac-10 or Big 10 team and 2) a non-BCS team finishes in the Top 12 of the BCS standings occur in the same season.

Got it?  Good.  Let's get on to the projections.

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Here's the thing. You don't really expect the Big 12 to let Nebraska go undefeated now, do you? Not after they up and leave. If the conference will add a second in a championship game so that Texas can kick a field goal, you know that they'll find a way to see one of the 10 remaining teams (I.e. Texas or Oklahoma) wins the league this year. Just be ready for the screw job. It's coming at you, Big Red.

And after that, one-loss SEC Champ  Alabama gets their turn to face Ohio State. I forgot, how do the Buckeyes fare against the SEC?

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I have no idea who will win the Pac-10. USC can't. Oregon cut their star quarterback...this feels like the kind of year when somebody has a big breakthrough. Maybe it's OSU. Maybe it's Cal, Stanford or Arizona. I think that UCLA and Washington are still a couple of years away, but I can't say that I would be shocked by them either.

The Rose Bowl gets hit with the non-AQ clause in year one of the four year agreement.  My guess is that even with a loss to Va. Tech, 11-1 Boise State still finishes as the highest non-AQ (and in the Top 12).  That means that the Rose Bowl will have to take them.

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The Sugar Bowl gets to replace Alabama with the first pick. This at large pick really comes down to the fact that I don't think that Florida wins the SEC East. If not Georgia, maybe it's (finally) the year that South Carolina breaks through. Either way, I think that Florida takes a (small) step back.

Iowa is the bridesmaid again. They'll lose to Ohio State and one other game, but 10-2 gets them (and 40,000 black and yellow fans) to New Orleans.

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I'm on the Florida State bandwagon.  This is the year that they get it all working together.

Nebraska will lose one Big 12 regular season game (probably to Texas) and the Big 12 Championship Game to Oklahoma. At least one of the losses will be suspicious.

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Oklahoma wins the final Big 12 title. I'm suspecting that they drop at least one game en route, though. That puts them behind Alabama in the BCS standings.

UConn? Really? Really. They were thisclose last season, losing five games by 15 total points. With West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh all debuting new QBs (and having to travel to Connecticut), I think that this is a Husky year. The Fiesta has last choice, and gets stuck with the Big East champ.

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If it's Orlando, it must be Wisconsin.  

Since Urban Meyer has decided to stick around, Florida won't fall too far. Let's peg them at 9-3 in a reloading year.

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Last year, I predicted 8-4 for Michigan and I was off by three games.  I'm doing it again. 

South Carolina? This is probably Spurrier's last best chance to make something of the program.  Unfortunately, all he can do is elevate them to the same level that Lou Holtz did.

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Last year I predicted 8-4 for Penn State, and I was off by two games.  I'm doing it again, with losses at Alabama, at Iowa, at Ohio State, and versus Michigan.  It's not as shocking this year, is it?

This is the 7th team out of the SEC (two in the BCS, Cap One, Outback, Cotton, Chik-Fil-A), so expect a 7-5 team. And no, I am not buying the Arkansas hype.

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Purdue is going to be improved this year. 7-5 sounds about right.

7 or 8 wins will be the number for the Big 12 representative. I'm guessing that's the Cowboys.

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Michigan State should be better than 7-5. Do you have confidence in them to prove that? I don't.

Baylor, with a healthy Robert Griffin, finally gets to a bowl.

DALLAS

FOOTBALL 

CLASSIC

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Northwestern's defense prevents this team from being any better than 7-5. The Classic replaces the old Motor City Bowl slot, and is supposed to pit the Big Ten against either the Big 12 or a West Division team from Conference USA. 2010 sees a C-USA team. By 2011, it will be all but impossible for it to be a Big 12 team.

Unless June Jones has SMU in the Liberty Bowl (as the C-USA Champion) expect the hometown Mustangs to christen this game

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So we still have Detroit, huh? It's a new slot for the Motor City Bowl. It doesn't matter this year. It will be 2011 before the Big Ten sends a team to Detroit.

The Sun Belt goes when the Big Ten can't. MTSU finally breaks through and takes the league. Troy gets to head North for this one.

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Sadly, all 11 Big Ten squads won't make it to bowl games. Those that don't will be "On the Couch with the Queso Bowl (sponsored by Ro*Tel)." Indiana seems destined for a 4 or 5 win season. I just can't find the 6th win for them.  

Illinois is looking at 2-4 at the halfway point (losing to Mizzou, Ohio State, at Penn State, and at Michigan State). That means they'd need to win their home games against Purdue, Indiana, and Minnesota and sneak one road win against Fresno State, Michigan, or Northwestern. Possible? Sure. But would you bet on Ron Zook?

Minnesota will be the worst team in the Big Ten. I see 1 Big Ten win for them - and that may be optimistic.

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