Week Eleven Bowl Projections
By Matt Smith
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The SEC in in serious danger of not having a team in the BCS Championship Game for the first time in seven years.
And then there were three. After Texas A&M’s shocking upset of Alabama and Louisville’s meltdown in the Carrier Dome, only a trio of bowl-eligible teams remain unbeaten – Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon. As for the SEC, the league is now facing the real possibility of not having a team in the BCS Championship Game for the first time in seven years. The ACC had a wild Saturday, as Georgia Tech put up 68 points on North Carolina in Chapel Hill, while Virginia stunned Miami (FL) with a late rally. With just three weeks until everything is settled, let’s look at the bowl picture for the ACC and SEC.
Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.) – Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M
This could be really, really fun. With Kansas State off to the BCS Championship Game, the Fiesta Bowl will choose to replace the Wildcats with Oklahoma, after losing Notre Dame to the Rose Bowl as Oregon’s replacement. The Fiesta Bowl will get another pick immediately after Oklahoma, and will snatch up the red hot Aggies to set up a rematch of former Big 12 South rivals. Should Stanford remain in the Top 14 of the BCS Standings and go to the Rose Bowl, expect Notre Dame to land here against the Aggies.
Sugar (New Orleans, La.) – Alabama vs. Clemson
The Crimson Tide could still work their way back into the national title picture, but for now will have to settle for a trip to New Orleans for the second straight year. Alabama will clinch the SEC West as long as it beats hapless Auburn in the Iron Bowl in two weeks. Clemson appears to be in great position for an at-large bid, but it could hinge on whether or not the Pac-12 has a second BCS-eligible team. For now, we’ll say that 9-3 Stanford and 9-3 Oregon State just miss the cut-off, allowing the Tigers to have a chance to avenge a blowout loss to Alabama in the 2008 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
Orange (Miami Gardens, Fla.) – Florida State vs. Cincinnati
It will be another Orange Bowl lacking sizzle, as the bowl is more or less locked in to the Big East champion now that Louisville is no longer undefeated. Florida State’s national title hopes are all but gone, but the team’s first ACC title in seven years would still be a significant accomplishment. The ‘Noles need to only to beat Maryland on Saturday to lock up the Atlantic Division title. The Big East remains a three-horse race between Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers. Should Cincinnati defeat the Scarlet Knights later this month, the Bearcats would win the league if Rutgers beats Louisville on Nov. 29. If Rutgers wins, its Thursday night clash with the Cardinals in Piscataway will be winner-take-all for the league championship.
Capital One (Orlando, Fla.) – Georgia vs. Michigan
Despite locking up their second straight SEC East crown with a resounding 38-0 rout at Auburn, the Bulldogs fall out of the BCS after Texas A&M’s win in Tuscaloosa. Georgia will likely face Alabama for the SEC title, and if two of the three unbeatens falter, the Dec. 1 game in the Georgia Dome could be for a berth in the BCS Championship Game. Michigan might have seen its Big Ten title hopes fall by the wayside with Nebraska’s win over Penn State, as it’ll need to win out and get some help to win the Legends Division. If they fall short, a 9-3 or 8-4 Wolverines team probably lands here.
Cotton (Arlington, Tex.) – LSU vs. Texas
LSU struggled early vs. Mississippi State in a classic letdown situation, but played a strong second half to pull away from the struggling Bulldogs. The Bayou Bengals are still in the BCS mix, but for now are slotted to make their second trip to the Cotton Bowl in three years. The Longhorns appear to finally be playing like Texas should play, winning at Texas Tech and blowing out Iowa State in the past two weeks. Should it defeat TCU on Thanksgiving Night, Texas is likely to return to Dallas for a rematch of the 2003 Cotton Bowl.
Outback (Tampa, Fla.) – Florida vs. Wisconsin
Florida slides back one slot after needing a blocked punt return for a touchdown in the final seconds to escape against Louisiana-Lafayette. If they can get out of their recent funk and defeat Florida State in Tallahassee, the Gators could be headed to the Fiesta Bowl. With a loss, it’ll be a second trip to Tampa on New Year’s Day in the last three seasons. Wisconsin clinched the Leaders Division title on Saturday with a blowout of Indiana. 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. Miami (FL)
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 Miami. The ‘Canes let one get away on Saturday at Virginia, and will now need to beat Duke in two weeks in Durham to win the Coastal Division. The teams haven’t met in over 20 years when both programs were independents. Miami could still self-impose a postseason ban, but for now the 'Canes remain in the projections.
Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.) – Mississippi State vs. Northwestern
Mississippi State is in danger of falling out of the New Year’s Day bowl after three straight losses, but should still be in good shape to land in Jacksonville if it can beat Arkansas at home next weekend. If not, Vanderbilt could be in play here. However, the Commodores have already played Northwestern, who will likely be the Big Ten selection here if it can defeat Michigan State on Saturday. If the ‘Cats get the call, a 7-5 Mississippi State could jump an 8-4 Vanderbilt to avoid a rematch. If Michigan State can sneak into this slot, the Commodores could be their opponent.
Russell Athletic (Orlando, Fla.) – N.C. State vs. Rutgers
N.C. State got back on track over the weekend with a comfortable win over Wake Forest after being blown out by Virginia a week ago. The Wolfpack hang on to the ACC No. 3 slot this week, but Duke could pass them if it wins out. Rutgers climbs up a spot this week after Louisville’s loss, and could still get to the Orange Bowl if it defeats both Cincinnati and Louisville. The Scarlet Knights and Bearcats meet this Saturday in Cincinnati. It’s fairly simple for Rutgers. If it defeats both the Bearcats and Cardinals, it’ll be in the Orange Bowl. If it splits, it’ll be here. With two losses, it’ll drop down to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
Sun (El Paso, Tex.) – Virginia Tech vs. Stanford
Virginia Tech’s supposedly vaunted defense has been one of the season’s major disappointments, and the Hokies find themselves at 4-6 heading into two seemingly winnable games against Boston College and Virginia. They’ll need to win both to become bowl-eligible. Stanford will have its say in the Pac-12 race next week at Oregon, but will have to settle for a second trip to the desert in four years. Arizona, Oregon State and UCLA are all prime candidates to visit El Paso as well. The Pac-12 bowl picture is the most muddled of any conference at this point. If Stanford doesn’t land here, Duke could take the Hokies’ spot. The Blue Devils and Cardinal have already met this season.
Belk (Charlotte, N.C.) – Georgia Tech vs. Louisville
The Yellow Jackets stunned North Carolina to climb within a win over Duke next week of returning to the postseason. If that does happen, and Duke loses its finale to Miami, Georgia Tech shoud jump the Blue Devils for this slot. Louisville can still get to the Orange Bowl if it wins out, but could drop back to the Belk Bowl for the second straight year if it loses to Rutgers in the season finale. Virginia Tech and Duke could flip-flop spots with the Sun Bowl depending on matchups.
Music City (Nashville, Tenn.) – Vanderbilt vs. Duke
The Commodores get the bump to their hometown bowl this week after a big comeback win at Ole Miss. Missouri could still land here if Vanderbilt drops one or both of its final two games, since Commodores fan won’t do much for the hotel and entertainment businesses in Nashville. Duke proved it remains far from the elite of the ACC in blowout losses to Florida State and Clemson. That said, any wins the rest of the way are just icing on the cake after getting to six wins last month, and the Blue Devils could still win the Coastal Division if they defeat Georgia Tech and Miami (FL) in their final two games..
Liberty (Memphis, Tenn.) – Ole Miss vs. UCF
The Rebels remain in the projections this week despite falling to Vanderbilt. The Egg Bowl now appears much more winnable with Mississippi State struggling, which the Rebels will have to win barring a major upset at LSU on Saturday. It’ll take all 12 games, but the call is for Hugh Freeze’s team to get to six wins. UCF is the class of Conference USA and the favorite to make its second trip to Memphis in three years. Tulsa should be the other representative in the C-USA Championship Game and could land here as well. If the Golden Knights don’t win Conference USA, Missouri could take this spot. The Tigers already defeated UCF this season, and a rematch is unlikely.
BBVA Compass (Birmingham, Ala.) – Missouri vs. Ohio
Missouri outlasted Tennessee in four overtimes to move within one win of its seventh straight bowl appearance. With the finale at Texas A&M, the win likely has to come this week in Columbia on Senior Day vs. Syracuse. Missouri could move up to the Liberty Bowl if UCF is not in the game or if Ole Miss is not bowl-eligible, but for now are headed to Legion Field in Birmingham. The Big East is unlikely to have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill its tie-in, so expect a MAC team (which has a secondary tie-in with the bowl) to land here. Bowling Green, Kent State and Toledo could also be candidates in addition to the Bobcats, who have dropped two of three after a 7-0 start.