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.