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2011 Bowl Projections - Preseason Final

Take a deep breath. We've made it. It seems like every year the writers will make comments about "an ugly offseason" for college football. This really was one. But on the day after tomorrow, it's over. It's game time. The offseason guesses go away, and the in-season observations begin.

Until then, here are the last set of bowl picks for all 35 bowl games. I'm doing projections, not just an ordering of the current polling. That means that schedules and the craziness of a season are taken into account. I've also noted programs that I'm higher on that the general consensus. For example, I really like Virginia Tech this year. I'll also note a couple of teams that I'm down on - both in the B1G and across the country - such as, I'm not buying into Stanford. 

First, let's remember that there are rules:

  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.
  2. The order of BCS selection is 1) Replacement for #1 Team; 2) Replacement for #2 Team; 3) Fiesta Bowl; 4) Sugar Bowl; 5) Orange Bowl.
  3. Until a team is officially bowl banned, we assume that they can and will go. So, no USC. Ohio State, Oregon, North Carolina, <ahem>'re in consideration until otherwise notified.
  4. 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. 
  5. The Insight Bowl picks its Big Ten team ahead of the Gator Bowl this year.  It will rotate the other way next year.

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

First, the BCS and Big Ten bowl games...

Bcs_championship_logo2011_small_medium Virginia_tech_medium Alabama_medium

Virginia Tech runs the table. They're good enough, and their schedule is favorable enough to do so. 

Alabama drops one somewhere along the way, but with no other unbeaten teams, the one-loss SEC champion gets the bid into the title game.

Rosebowl_small_medium Ohio_st_medium Oregon_medium

I think Ohio State and Wisconsin both lose one game in the league, but Ohio State wins the tiebreaker due to the head-to-head win. The Leaders champ will win the B1G Title game.

Oregon is still the class of the Pac. The addition of two teams hasn't changed that. I don't see them running the table this year, though.

Fiestabowl_2006_medium Oklahoma_medium Wisconsin_medium

I know, everybody loves Oklahoma. They're a very, very good team. But I think that they drop one along the way and end up losing out to Alabama for the second berth in the title game.

11-1 Wisconsin. Again. They just lose the wrong one. After the Orange and Sugar make their replacement picks, The Fiesta snaps up the Big Ten. 

Sugarbowl_2006_sm_medium Mississippi_st_medium Boise_st_medium

And here's a second team that I'm buying. I think that Mississippi State finishes at 10-2 and second in the SEC West. In fact, if you have to pick a team that could trip up Alabama, a game in Starkville the week after the LSU showdown isn't a bad guess.

Boise State is going to lose to Georgia this Saturday. They'll win their next 11, and they'll get a bid into the BCS. The Sugar Bowl will have to choose between them and the Big East champ. 

Orangebowl_2010_small_medium Notre_dame_medium West_virginia_medium

Notre Dame? Yes. They'll be 10-2. Maybe 11-1. The schedule is favorable, the talent is there, and they have the coach to get it done.

Let's all be honest: no one knows what will happen in the Big East. You want to take South Florida, Pitt, or anyone else, I can't criticize. It's a sticky mess.

Capitalonebowl2002_small_medium Nebraska_medium Georgia_medium

Nebraska goes 10-2 and wins the Legends on a tiebreaker over Michigan. After losing the B1G championship game, they find themselves in the Capital One bowl.

Georgia has the exact same kind of season. They finish 10-2, win the SEC East, but lose the title game.

Outbackbowl_2010_small_medium Michigan_medium Lsu_medium

Michigan? It says here that they lose to Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State. That's it.

LSU? In the Outback? Here's a team that I'm down on. The offense was going to be questionable anyway. Add in the suspensions at wide receiver and quarterback, along with some very tough games early, and I could see the Tigers losing 3 SEC games (and maybe one to West Virginia or Oregon, too).

Insightbowl2002_small_medium Penn_st_medium Oklahoma_st_medium

And now we reach three interchangeable 8-win teams. Given the choice, the Insight takes Penn State.

I'm not as high on Oklahoma State as others are. Yes, their skill players are great. But, I'm not buying into them until they build a defense and show me that they can retool the OLine. In fact, I have Missouri finishing ahead of the Cowboys, but being passed over for the bowl to avoid a repeat trip.

Gatorbowl_2011_sm_medium Iowa_medium Auburn_medium

8-4 Iowa heads off to the Gator Bowl for the first time in over 25 years. 

Auburn finishes at 7-5, but the cache of being defending national champions gives them a bump in the selection order. They get picked over South Carolina.

Meineke_car_care_bowl_of_texas_small_medium Michigan_st_medium Texas_tech_medium 8-4 Michigan State has gone 9 years without a bowl win. That's tied for the 5th longest streak among the Big Six conferences. It would end against 6-6 Texas Tech.
Ticketcity_bowl_small_medium Illinois_medium Southern_methodist_medium

You can call this spot Illinois/Purdue. One of them is going to get to 7 wins. The other will end up with 4 or 5. I had it the other way until Purdue reminded me of their ACLs. Does 7 wins and another Texas Bowl keep Zook's job?

This will be the best non-champion that the C-USA West has to offer. I would expect SMU or Tulsa (assuming Houston lives up to expectations).

Littlecaesarsbowl_2009_sm_medium Northwestern_medium Miami_oh_medium 7-5 Northwestern will get passed over instead of a repeat bid to Dallas. I think that they'll see Miami, OH there, but Toledo, Ohio, and NIU are all distinct possibilities.
Dg_easy_meals_2011_rotelqueso_medium Purdue_medium Minnesota_medium

If you can't get to six wins, you get to be On the Couch with the Ro*Tel Queso Bowl. 

Does Danny Hope survive if Purdue is 5-7, with at least two more ACL injuries?

Minnesota will finish with 3-4 wins, but they're on the right track. 

Indiana is the worst team in the league. By a lot. I give them a better chance of finishing with 2 wins than 5 wins.

And on to the rest of the bowls...

Newmexicobowl_2011_small_medium Wyoming_medium Oregon_st_medium Wyoming and Oregon State both slip in with 6 wins. We're only 109 days away from the start of bowl season!
Idahopotato_bowl_medium Nevada_medium Toledo_medium

In a post-Boise world, there are three good WAC teams. Here's the first.

As mentioned earlier, Toledo is one of the Big Four in the MAC.

Neworleansbowl_2010_small_medium Florida_international_medium Uab_medium

I've got FIU repeating. I also see Mario Cristobal leaving for greener pastures after this season.

UAB heads down to New Orleans after finally notching six wins.

Stpetersburgbowl_2010_small_medium Central_florida_medium Syracuse_medium

UCF is still good. I could see them at 8 wins.

Syracuse is just good enough to bowl. Maybe seven wins, but that might be stretching it.

Poinsettiabowl_small_2006_medium San_diego_st_medium Fresno_st_medium San Diego State will be OK, even after Brady Hoke's departure. Fresno is the second good WAC team, and quite likely the league champ. Next year when these two meet, it will be as conference opponents.
Lasvegasbowl_maaco_2009_sm_medium Texas_christian_medium Washington_medium TCU will take a step back, but they still should be the second best team in the Mountain West. I like Washington to continue to build momentum. They're not ready to win the Pac-12 North, but they aren't that many years from it. 
Hawaiibowl_2003_medium Hawaii_medium Southern_mississippi_medium Hawaii is the third good WAC team, and they'll happily stay home. Southern Miss is a good squad, in a C-USA that may have a deeper Top 4 than the Mountain West. 
Independencebowl_2009_sm_medium Boston_college_medium Air_force_old2_medium

Boston College will be good enough to get to a bowl, but expecting more than 7 wins is asking too much.

Air Force gets to a bowl again. They win the Commander in Chief's Trophy, too.

Belkbowl_2011_small_medium Georgia_tech_medium Louisville_medium This is what was formerly known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Georgia Tech and Louisville both exceed the predictions to get here.
Militarybowl_2010_small_medium Virginia_old5_medium Navy_medium Virginia wins six and gets back into a bowl game. They'll face Navy, who'll be in this game as long as they win six.
Holidaybowl_2010_small_medium Stanford_old8_medium Missouri1_medium

Oklahoma State and Stanford are the two teams in the Top 10 that I think will be outside the Top 20 at the end of the season. Too many losses on the O-Line and defense.

Missouri, on the other hand, will be better than people are thinking. That defense is very real. It wouldn't surprise me to see them jump up to the Cotton or Alamo Bowl.

Champssportsbowl_2004_medium Florida_st_medium South_florida_w_medium

Florida State, at 10-3, is better than this. They get screwed over by the system, when the Chick-Fil-A decides it doesn't want a UF-FSU rematch.

South Florida finishes second in the Big East and LOVES the opportunity to take on FSU in a bowl. 

Alamobowl_2007sm_medium Texas_am_medium Arizona_st_medium Texas A&M is the third pick out of the Big 12. Arizona State, who wins the Pac-12 South, is the second selection from the Pac-12.
Armedforcesbowl_logo_medium Byu_medium Tulsa_old13_medium

Unless BYU gets to a BCS game, or fails to win 6, they'll be in Fort Worth.

With games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Boise State, Tulsa is playing the most ridiculous nonconference schedule in the country. Good for them. 

Pinstripebowl_2010_sm_medium Pittsburgh_medium Baylor_medium

Pitt has some struggles as it grows into Todd Graham's system. They'll be dangerous in 2012, though.

Baylor squeezes out a sixth win somewhere. 

Musiccitybowl_2010_small_medium South_carolina_old13_medium North_carolina_medium South Carolina finishes at 8-4. North Carolina ends at 7-5. It's a nice matchup that should happen during the season.
Sunbowl_2010_small_medium Maryland_medium Utah_medium Both these teams are ones that could move up and win their division. I'm not picking it, but it wouldn't shock me.
Libertybowl_2004_medium Houston_old8_medium Tennessee_medium Houston is the Class of a very deep C-USA. your odd fact of the day, the ride from Houston to Memphis is only four hours longer than the ride from Knoxville to Memphis.
Fighthungerbowl_small_medium Army_old6_medium Ucla_old_medium

If Army gets six wins, they be in San Francisco. 

Is six wins and a low level bowl against Army enough to save Rick Neuheisel's job?

Chickfila_bowl_sm_medium Florida_medium Clemson_medium

I don't know that anyone really knows what to make of the Florida team. I'm guessing 8-4, but if they were two games off in either direction I wouldn't be shocked.

Doesn't it seem like Clemson is in this game every other year? Well, they've gone 6 times in the last 18 seasons. 8 wins should make it 7 in 19. They get picked instead of a UF/FSU rematch.

Cottonbowl_2007_sm_medium Texas_medium Arkansas_medium

Texas wins 9. Maybe 10. There is too much talent to see a collapse two years in a row.

Arkansas is good, but takes a small step back to 9 wins.

Compassbowl_small_medium Kentucky_w_medium Cincinnati_medium These teams haven't played each other in 15 years? Why not? Let's see it happen in Birmingham if it can't in Lexington or Cincy.
Godaddybowl_medium Troy_medium Northern_illinois_medium Troy finishes as runner-up in the Sun Belt. NIU is the runner-up in the MAC West.