Uncertainty. Any time someone looks to the future, there is uncertainty. Each week that I make my bowl projections, there is the unknown of how teams will perform. When I have made these ridiculously early projections in the past, there has been uncertainty as to what players will and will not return to college. But this year adds a whole new level of uncertainty. Namely, where is West Virginia going to be playing in 2012?
I like the Mountaineers a lot for 2012 (and did before they hung 70 on Clemson), but their likelihood of getting to a BCS game is dependent upon where they're playing. In the Big East, West Virginia could run the table and find themselves in the title game. In the Big 12, they could lose three games. With the Big East winning the first legal skirmish (but it's hardly over), I'm presuming that they'll be kept in the Big East through at least the 2012 season.
In the Big Ten, this may be a huge year for Purdue and Illinois. Who? Hear me out about the Leaders Division. Wisconsin, even with the return of Montee Ball, looks to be down from last year. They won't be bad, but they won't be dominant. Ohio State is barred from the B1G Title Game. Penn State is still recovering with a first-time head coach and a mid-level team returning. When will there be a better time for one of those two programs to rise up and earn a berth in the B1G Championship Game? Seriously, 5-3 with the right tiebreaks might get you to the game.
In the Legends Division, we're looking at three key games: Michigan at Nebraska, Nebraska at Michigan State, and Michigan State at Michigan. Maybe Iowa can sneak in and cause some trouble, but I expect that those three teams will rise head and shoulders above the rest of the division. As for what happens, let's get to the projections.
But first, let's remember that there are rules:
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.
The order of BCS selection (and we're bringing the title game back to South Beach this season) is 1) Replacement for #1 Team; 2) Replacement for #2 Team; 3) Fiesta Bowl; 4) Sugar Bowl; 5) Orange Bowl.
Until a team is officially bowl banned, we assume that they can and will go. So, no Ohio State. And Miami, Oregon, North Carolina...you're in consideration until otherwise notified.
If a Big Ten or Pac-10 team qualifies for the BCS Championship Game, the Rose Bowl will NOT be required to take a non-automatic qualifier. This was only required of the Rose Bowl the first time (2010 season) it occurred over the current four-year contract.
The Gator Bowl is supposed to be selecting ahead of the Insight Bowl in 2012. However, I have seen reports indicating that the Insight agreed to pass on Ohio State in 2011 in return for the earlier selection in 2012 and 2013. I'm picking as if that is the case.
Got it? Good. Let's get on to the projections.
The Big Ten gets back to the B1G Time. Michigan upsets a young/reloading Alabama defense in Dallas to start the season. It marches through the rest of the conference undefeated, with scares against Nebraska and Ohio State.
Oklahoma, behind the two-headed QB play of Landry Jones and Blake Bell, run through their slate undefeated as well. This leaves LSU, the 12-1 SEC champ frozen out of the BCS title game.
Sparty goes to the Rose Bowl! But not as a B1G Champion. Is Sparty happy? Is Sparty ever happy? I think that Michigan State drops two games, and gets picked as an at large to the Rose Bowl. I can't emphasize enough how much I love the MSU defense.
Well, look what the cat dragged in. USC finishes 12-1, and beats Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. This is a huge year for USC. After 2012, the bite of the scholarship sanctions will start to be felt. It really is BCS Title or bust for them.
Texas is able to capitalize on a down Big 12 to get to 10-2 and a return to a BCS Bowl. In the Fiesta, they'll see a match with SEC East Champion Georgia, who finishes up at 11-2 thanks in part to the easiest schedule in the SEC.
Here lies the streak of SEC Championship, dead at six. Killed by its own superiority, as no team can run the table this year. Mind you, if not for unbeaten teams from the B1G and Big 12, LSU would go to the title game. It will hold the trump card over all 1 loss teams. Unfortunately for the SEC, this year the chips don't fall the right way.
Oregon loses two games - both to USC - and finds itself in VERY hostile territory.
Florida State should be the best team in the ACC next year. I've wrongly thought that too many consecutive times to pick them winning the ACC next year. Virginia Tech returns to losing Orange Bowls after their one season detour losing a Sugar Bowl.
West Virginia goes 11-1. Again, I am making this projection with them as a Big East team after the recent temporary injunction. They can be scary good if the defense can hold up just a little bit.
I hope you liked Orlando, Huskers. A 9-3 season sends Nebraska back to Magic Kingdom.
Arkansas looks like a 10-2 team to me. If you want a sleeper that could represent the SEC in the BCS title game, here it is.
I think that Wisconsin ends up 9-4 with a loss to Michigan in the B1G title game. Yes, 5-3 wins the Leaders this season. By the way, the loser of the B1G title game can fall no further than the 4th post-BCS selection.
South Carolina ends up as a team that is much better than its final record. It's brutal schedule forces them down the SEC pecking order.
I have Illinois pegged at 8-4. They have enough talent, that if they made a good coaching hire, I could see them slipping into Indianapolis. The schedule is rough, but manageable.
Again, the Big 12 bowls are a bit messy without knowing if they'll have 9 or 10 teams. Figure on an 8-4 Big 12 team getting the nod.
I think that Iowa goes 8-4. The non-conference schedule is marshmallow soft, and they avoid Wisconsin, Ohio State and Illinois again. The Insight passes on them only to avoid a third consecutive trip.
I suspect that Tennessee has another mediocre year, but catches enough breaks on an easy schedule to finish 7-5. I don't know that Derek Dooley makes the trip with the team.
Penn State finishes at 7-5. I don't expect it to be a happy year in State College.
Texas Tech manages to get to 6-6 and is the last Big 12 team to claim a bowl spot.
Purdue also manages to get to 7 wins. That gets them a one bowl upgrade from last season. If the defense can make any strides from last year, be wary of the Boilers as a sleeper pick for Indy.
When the Big 12 can't fill this slot (and it won't), the agreement is for a C-USA team to fill in. Look for the best non-champion team from the Western Division to get the call.
Minnesota? Yes, Minnesota. It says here that the Gophers get to six wins. Jerry Kill can coach and the non-conference slate is easy enough to see it happen.
You're throwing darts if you're trying to pick a MAC team at this point, but I'll guess Toledo.
If you can't get to six wins (or if you get busted by the NCAA), you'll find yourself on the couch with the Queso Bowl.
I think that Ohio State could go 10-2 or 9-3. Their absence makes a winning bowl record by the Big Ten even less likely.
Indiana is still Indiana. Maybe they get a conference win this season, maybe they don't.
I think Northwestern falls. They, along with Penn State, are the two teams that I think take the biggest step back in 2012. They could go 5-7, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them at 4-8.
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.