Week Six Bowl Projections
By Matt Smith
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The bowl picture has changed drastically as a result of last week’s results.
Saturday’s plethora of upsets whittled down the field of national title contenders, as Florida State and Texas both bowed out. The bowl picture has changed as a result of last week’s results, so let’s look at the potential pairings after six weeks.
BCS Championship Game – Alabama vs. Oregon
Despite three of the top five teams falling, there were no changes among the top two this week, with the Crimson Tide idle and the Ducks rolling over Washington. Even with a loss, the Crimson Tide could still make their way back to the National Title Game. Oregon has to win them all, but appears to be far and away the class of the Pac-12 at the season's midpoint.
Sugar – Georgia vs. Clemson
The Bulldogs were humbled in Columbia, but are still in a good position to win the SEC East. South Carolina will be underdogs the next two weeks at LSU and Florida. Should the Gamecocks falter, Georgia would be back in control of its own destiny. Clemson’s schedule is a cakewalk until the season finale vs. South Carolina, so 11-1 is not out of the question. That should be enough to set up a preview of the 2013 season opener in New Orleans.
Orange – 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. Florida State’s national title hopes came to an abrupt end with a late loss to N.C. State, but they’re still the favorite to win the Atlantic Division (although the ‘Noles do not control their own destiny, as Jimbo Fisher claimed). A pesky, well-coached Cincinnati team will ride a light schedule all the way to Miami.
Capital One – Florida vs. Nebraska
The Gators may be disappointed to end up in Orlando after a 5-0 start, but with the SEC only being allowed two teams in the BCS, someone will get the short end of the stick. Nebraska might be the best bowl-eligible team in the Big Ten, but a tricky schedule that includes road trips to Iowa, Michigan State and Northwestern in division play will cost them the Legends title. These teams last met in the 1995 National Championship Game, a 62-24 ‘Huskers rout.
Cotton – LSU vs. Texas
The teams last met in this very bowl a decade ago. They’ll meet again in a new venue this time around, however, having played at the original Cotton Bowl in 2003. LSU remains a national title contender, but they appear a step below the truly elite teams with a sputtering offense. The loser of Saturday’s Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma becomes the favorite to land here, with Kansas State having just played in the game last season.
Outback – South Carolina vs. Michigan State
The team which finishes third in the highly competitive SEC East race likely ends up in Tampa. The Gamecocks need to at least split their next two games at LSU and at Florida to likely avoid falling to this slot. Michigan State is a disappointing 4-2, but should right its ship and get to eight or nine wins, good enough for a second straight trip to the Outback Bowl.
Chick-fil-A – Mississippi State vs. N.C. State
It’s been awhile since the Bulldogs have been to Atlanta, 13 years in fact, and they seem like the logical choice here should they finish in the eight or nine-win range. N.C. State should land here if the league can earn two BCS bids to bring its season full circle, having begun it in the Georgia Dome with a loss to Tennessee. Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) are both still in play for the ACC spot here.
Russell Athletic – Miami (FL) vs. Louisville
Call this the Teddy Bridgewater Bowl, as the Miami native spurned his hometown Hurricanes after Randy Shannon was fired to sign with the Cardinals. Charlie Strong has had many battles with Miami on the recruiting trail from his days at Florida, and has continued to have a presence in the Sunshine State since coming to Louisville.
Sun – Virginia Tech vs. Oregon State
Virginia Tech’s supposedly vaunted defense has been one of the season’s major disappointments, and the Hokies find themselves at 3-3 after six weeks. They could still right their ship and get to the ACC Championship Game, but the schedule becomes daunting later this month. Oregon State will have its say in the Pac-12 race, but will have to settle for a third trip to the desert in seven years. Stanford and Arizona State are both prime candidates to visit El Paso as well.
Gator – Tennessee vs. Iowa
Jacksonville seems like the most logical landing spot for the Volunteers, whether or not Derek Dooley survives the season. They could sneak into the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but a January bowl would make for a nice end to the season. Iowa has some work to do to get here, but with its rabid fanbase, the Hawkeyes are always attractive to bowl executives. Seven wins might be all it takes.
Belk – Georgia Tech vs. Rutgers
The Yellow Jackets are in a tailspin at 2-4 after an embarrassing home loss to Middle Tennessee and a late fade at Clemson, but with a workable schedule in the second half of the season, they should be able to at least get to six wins. Rutgers appears to be in a three-way fight with Louisville and Cincinnati for the Big East crown, so the last place finisher of the three-way battle likely lands in Charlotte.
Music City – Texas A&M vs. Duke
The Aggies needed a late rally to hold off a feisty Ole Miss team on Saturday night, but now begin a brutal stretch that has them facing three unbeaten teams and LSU over the next five weeks. 7-5 sounds about right in Kevin Sumlin’s first year, which should land them in Nashville. Duke is 5-1, needing only one more win to become bowl-eligible. If it comes this week in Blacksburg, don’t be shocked.
BBVA Compass – Vanderbilt vs. Toledo
The Commodores take Missouri’s spot in the SEC bowl picture after defeating the Tigers over the weekend in Columbia. They’ll earn a short trip down I-65 to Birmingham. The Big East is unlikely to have enough teams to fill its slot here, so expect a MAC team (which has a secondary tie-in with the bowl) to land here. Kent State and Western Michigan could also be candidates in addition to the Rockets.