Tuesday, November 19, 2013

BCS Bowl Predictions

As this year begins to wind down, we can start to make some inferences about which teams will be playing in the BCS bowl games. Obviously, a lot can happen over the next few weeks which is why I'm going to be predicting the outcome of some future games here and not give you who would currently be playing where. If you are unfamiliar with the BCS system, don't fret because it actually can get a bit confusing. Basically, each BCS bowl is contractually obligated to take the winner of a specific conference. These are known as automatic berths (you have probably heard the B1G or SEC referred to as "AQ" (automatic qualifier) conferences). If a BCS bowl loses a qualifier to a national championship bound team, they get to select a replacement before any other moves are made. After that point, there is an order of the BCS bowls that determines which can pick the second team to play in their bowl. Like I said, this is kind of confusing so it is usually just easier to see it put into practice. But before we go ahead, just know that the order of selection for the second team is as follows: Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl.

National Championship Game
Alabama Crimson Tide versus Florida State Seminoles
Alabama has the greater likelihood of losing before reaching the national championship game, but I suspect they will be able to overcome Auburn. The Seminoles, meanwhile, only need to get past Idaho, a historically bad Florida squad, and then probably Duke (if your first reaction is "what the fuck?!", you're not alone) to get into the title game. This is easy to call as it is simply matching up #1 against #2. As long as each of these teams is able to win out, they will secure their trip to Pasadena.

Rose Bowl
Ohio State Buckeyes versus Oregon Ducks
Again, this is another bowl match up that is actually pretty easy to predict. In the history of forever in college football, the Rose Bowl has always been played between the winner of the Big 10 and the winner of the Pac 12. There have been a few exceptions along the way, but for the most part this was the paradigm. Prior to the season, I thought that Stanford would be able to repeat trips to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl, but a late season loss to USC has really crushed their chances. Now, Oregon looks to be the favorite as they will likely win the North and should have little trouble beating either UCLA or Arizona State in the Pac 12 Championship game. Meanwhile, Ohio State has a relatively clear path to the Rose Bowl. It is hard to envision them losing at home to Indiana or at Michigan this year given how badly the Wolverines have played all year. Michigan State's defense will provide a great challenge for OSU, but the Spartans offense has been anywhere for anemic to average this year. These teams met several years ago when each was sporting a troubled quarterback (OU: Jeremiah Masoli; OSU: Terrelle Pryor) but these teams are both very different than those teams. This could end up being the best BCS Bowl game.

Orange Bowl
Clemson Tigers versus Wisconsin Badgers
Here we have the first example of things not going according to the plan. Because the Orange Bowl takes the champion of the ACC, they get to replace Florida State automatically since the Seminoles are playing for the national championship. My guess is that Clemson will end the year with only one loss to the Noles, so they are the obvious selection to replace FSU. After that is established, the Orange Bowl also gets the first selection of an at-large team to play against Clemson. Given that fact, the Orange Bowl will most likely go with a Big 10 team with their next pick due to the popularity of the conference across the country and the lack of distance that would be traveled (think of Iowa playing Georgia Tech in 2010). I've seen a lot of experts putting Michigan State here, but I have a feeling that Wisconsin might get the nod over the Spartans. First of all, Wisconsin should only be a one loss team, but a mind numbing display of ineptitude by Pac 12 officials cost them a game at Arizona State. Second of all, I'm not sure if the Orange Bowl committee would want to select Michigan State as they could view it as a consolation prize. Georgia had only lost one game last year prior to the SEC championship and came within five yards of beating Alabama, and they were still relegated to a mid-tier bowl. Michigan State has been yearning for a chance in a BCS Bowl game, but I get the unfortunate feeling that they could be passed over yet again.

Sugar Bowl
Auburn Tigers versus Central Florida Knights
Okay, NOW is when things start to get a bit ridiculous. Central Florida plays in the American Athletic Conference, the abomination formerly known as the Big East. When the Big East was still in existence, they had a contract with the Orange Bowl that stipulated the winner of the Big East play in that bowl game against the winner of the ACC. With the realignment, the AAC (try and keep these straight here) no longer has any sort of loyalty to a specific bowl, but still gets an automatic qualification. Given the proximity of UCF to New Orleans where the Sugar Bowl is played, it is likely, albeit reluctantly, that the Sugar Bowl selects the Knights to satisfy the stipulations. UCF is a solid team that has knocked off Penn State and Louisville on the road, but the lack of a big name program is sure to upset the Sugar Bowl committee. Auburn, however, would be a tremendous catch for the Sugar Bowl. This would happen because the (presumed) SEC champion, Alabama, would be playing in the title game, giving the Sugar Bowl committee an early pick to replace them with another at-large SEC team. As I mentioned, the committee would probably be a bit reluctant to choose the loser of the SECCG (presumably Mizzou) because it would be viewed as a consolation prize. I'm not ruling it out of the realm of possibility, but again given the location of Auburn compared to New Orleans, Auburn would most likely get the nod as an at-large team.

Fiesta Bowl
Baylor Bears versus Fresno State Bulldogs
Welcome to last year's Orange Bowl. The first part of this is straight forward. Unless any combination of Alabama, Florida State, and Ohio State lose, Baylor is not getting into the title game. They are also the most likely to win the Big 12 (or is it Big 8?...Southwest Conference?....shit, I forget) which would make them an automatic qualifier for the Fiesta Bowl. But this is where we begin to delve into the realm of non-AQ schools making it into BCS bowl games. According to the official BCS regulations, a non-AQ school receives a BCS berth if they have won at least nine games and is ranked in the top 12 after the regular season is concluded. Fresno State currently sits at 15 in the BCS, but with multiple teams ahead of them likely to lose over the upcoming weeks, they should move up to the top dozen. This would put them in the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor who would be laughing right now if the Baylor football team read my blog. This is the same sort of nonsensical crap that gave us Florida State against Northern Illinois last year, and should only serve as a reminder that the entire BCS system is FUBAR.

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