Week 12 Bowl Projections
By Matt Smith
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The SEC is now back in the driver’s seat to potentially win a seventh national title.
Saturday wasn’t chaos; Saturday was just college football. We saw a similarly shocking weekend at this exact same time in 2011, so is it really appropriate to call such a topsy-turvy day chaotic anymore? Monikers aside, the SEC is now back in the driver’s seat to potentially win a seventh national title. The presumed Alabama-Georgia showdown in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1 is now a national semifinal barring a major upset on rivalry weekend. Down the ladder a bit, Ole Miss and Missouri let bowl eligibility slip through their fingertips, and now head into the final weekend facing do-or-die games for bowl bids. The ACC finally saw some clarity, as now only two teams remain in the mix for the Orange Bowl, while Virginia Tech stayed alive for the postseason. Let’s look at the bowl picture for the ACC and SEC after Week 12, as well as the full BCS bowl slate.
BCS Championship Game (Miami Gardens, Fla.) – Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Both the Irish and Crimson Tide now control their own destiny for the national title. Notre Dame must defeat a fledgling USC team next week in Los Angeles, while Alabama needs to beat Auburn at home and Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Should the Irish fall, Florida is next in line to play the Alabama-Georgia winner, but the Gators will be underdogs next Saturday at Florida State. Kansas State and Oregon can’t be eliminated quite yet even after stunning losses over the weekend, as both could still finish as one-loss conference champions.
Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.) – Kansas State vs. Oregon
The expected national title game just a few days ago will now be rerouted from South Florida to Arizona. Kansas State will rebound to defeat Texas and lock up the Big 12 title. Oregon can still win the Pac-12 if UCLA beats Stanford and the Ducks win the Civil War, but the call here is the Cardinal take care of business in Pasadena next Saturday. At 11-1, Oregon will still be fairly attractive for the Fiesta Bowl, who would pick second after the Sugar Bowl replaces the SEC champion. Oklahoma is still in play here, as are Clemson, Oregon State and Stanford
Sugar (New Orleans, La.) – Texas A&M vs. Clemson
This spot likely belongs to Florida if it beats Florida State and fails to make it to Miami, but if the Gators fall, it’s likely a battle between the Aggies and LSU. The current sentiment is for Johnny Manziel Mania to trump the in-state team, with Texas A&M playing in its first major bowl game since 1998. Clemson appears to be in great position for an at-large bid, but Oklahoma is also extremely attractive for the Sugar Bowl. This could go either way. For now, we’ll say the lure of Manziel vs. Tajh Boyd is too good to pass up.
Orange (Miami Gardens, Fla.) – Florida State vs. Rutgers
It will be another Orange Bowl lacking sizzle, as the bowl is more or less locked in to the Big East champion. Florida State’s national title hopes are still flickering ever so slightly, but the team’s first ACC title in seven years would still be a significant accomplishment. The ‘Noles will likely be more than a two-touchdown favorite over Georgia Tech in two weeks in Charlotte. The Big East race is down to two teams after Rutgers eliminated Cincinnati on Saturday. Louisville at Rutgers on Nov. 29 will decide the conference crown.
Rose (Pasadena, Calif.) – Nebraska vs. Stanford
Stanford’s stunning upset in Eugene puts it in control of its Pac-12 title destiny. It’ll take two wins over UCLA, next week on the road and six days later in Palo Alto. If the Bruins upset the Cardinal next weekend, Stanford will need Oregon State to defeat Oregon to win the Pac-12 North. Nebraska now just needs a win at Iowa to lock up the Legends Division title and face Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game with a Rose Bowl bid on the line. The Badgers and Michigan are the only other teams still in the running, but the ‘Huskers appear to be the class of the league (among bowl-eligible teams, at least).
Capital One (Orlando, Fla.) – Georgia vs. Michigan
The SEC Championship Game loser is unlikely to earn a BCS at-large berth, especially if it’s the Bulldogs. Any of the SEC heavyweights could still end up in this spot, but an 11-2 Georgia team is the favorite for now. Michigan needs to defeat 11-0 Ohio State and have 4-7 Iowa upset Nebraska to get to the Big Ten title game, a far-fetched scenario given the recent play of the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes. If the Wolverines do fall short, they’ll probably land in Orlando regardless of how they fare next Saturday in Columbus.
Cotton (Arlington, Tex.) – LSU vs. Oklahoma
LSU struggled vs. Ole Miss in a classic letdown situation, but played a strong fourth quarter to rally past the Rebels. The Bayou Bengals are still in the BCS mix, but are currently slotted to make their second trip to the Cotton Bowl in three years. Oklahoma falls out of the BCS picture this week with the Pac-12 now more likely to earn a second BCS bid. The Sooners could still win the Big 12 if they win out and Texas upsets Kansas State. If not, they may need South Carolina to defeat Clemson to get back in the BCS at-large mix. If neither happens, LSU and Oklahoma could meet for the first time since playing for the national title after the 2003 season.
Outback (Tampa, Fla.) – Florida vs. Wisconsin
Florida has been in a bit of a funk since suffering its only loss of the season to Georgia three weeks ago. If they can snap out of it and defeat Florida State in Tallahassee, the Gators could play for the national title. If they don’t climb into the top two, they’ll likely be headed to the Sugar Bowl. With a loss, it’ll be a second trip to Tampa on New Year’s Day in the last three seasons. Wisconsin had already locked up the Leaders Division title prior to losing to Ohio State, so the home defeat does not affect its Big Ten championship hopes. They could still end up in Pasadena again, but if they can’t come up with the conference title, Tampa would be a nice landing spot for Bret Bielema’s Badgers.
Chick-fil-A (Atlanta, Ga.) – South Carolina vs. N.C. State
The Gamecocks may have the widest range of bowl possibilities of any team in the country. BCS at-large hopes are still alive if they can win their fourth straight over Clemson in two weeks. At 9-3, with the top-heavy nature of the SEC, they might have to settle for a seemingly one-sided matchup with N.C. State. The Wolfpack move up a slot this week despite losing a shootout at Clemson, but they’ll need to avoid an upset against Boston College to feel secure about returning to Atlanta after starting their season there with a loss to Tennessee. N.C. State could be the only ACC team available here with fewer than six losses. Yikes.
Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.) – Mississippi State vs. Northwestern
Mississippi State was in danger of falling out of the New Year’s Day bowl after three straight losses, but is now in good shape to land in Jacksonville after defeating Arkansas to get to eight wins. Northwestern finally held on to a fourth quarter lead over the weekend, defeating Michigan State in East Lansing to move to 8-3. The Wildcats could still climb to the Outback Bowl if Wisconsin loses both to Penn State and in the Big Ten Championship Game, but their small fanbase hinders them in the selection process
Sun (El Paso, Tex.) – Virginia Tech vs. USC
Virginia Tech’s supposedly vaunted defense has been one of the season’s major disappointments, and the Hokies find themselves at 5-6 heading into a seemingly winnable game at home against Virginia. If they can claim the Commonwealth Cup for the 13th time in 14 years, they could be headed to El Paso for the first time ever. When USC began the season ranked No. 1, the Trojans never thought they would fall all the way to the Sun Bowl. If they can’t upset now-No. 1 Notre Dame, they’ll finish a shocking 7-5. A win over the Irish could move them up to the Holiday Bowl, while the Pac-12 failing to get a second BCS berth could drop USC all the way to the Las Vegas Bowl.
Belk (Charlotte, N.C.) – Georgia Tech vs. Cincinnati
The Yellow Jackets are now bowl-eligible (probably) after defeating Duke. They still could end the season with a losing record if they qualify for the ACC Championship Game and lose, but should get a waiver from the NCAA, as UCLA did a year ago, to play in a bowl game. The Jackets of course could still get to the Orange Bowl, and if they at least play for the conference title, will fall no further than the Sun Bowl. The Bearcats saw their Big East title hopes go by the wayside in an ugly home loss to Rutgers, and now seem all but certain to land in Charlotte if they can defeat Connecticut and finish 9-3.
Music City (Nashville, Tenn.) – Vanderbilt vs. Duke
The Commodores remain slotted in their hometown bowl this week after a rout of Tennessee. It’s not a great fit, since Vanderbilt fans won’t be buying many hotel rooms in Nashville, but it may be the only option that the bowl has. Duke has now dropped three straight games and is likely headed here if it loses to Miami (FL) and finishes 6-6. A win over the Hurricanes could bump the Blue Devils up to the Belk Bowl.
Liberty (Memphis, Tenn.) – Ole Miss vs. Tulsa
The Rebels remain in the projections this week despite falling to LSU. The Egg Bowl is now a must-win next week for Ole Miss when Mississippi State comes to Oxford. The call is for Hugh Freeze’s team to get its sixth win by knocking off the rival Bulldogs. Tulsa is the class of Conference USA and the favorite to make its first trip to Memphis since 2005. After defeating UCF at home on Saturday, the Golden Hurricane will likely have to repeat that feat in two weeks in the Conference USA Championship Game, which Tulsa would host. The Golden Knights need only to defeat 3-8 UAB next week to earn a rematch.