Week Ten Bowl Projections
By Matt Smith
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The ACC and SEC are still on track to put a total of four teams in BCS bowl games.
Well, that was a fun weekend. We witnessed a legendary drive from A.J. McCarron and Alabama, a statement win by normally flaky Georgia and whatever you’d like to call N.C. State’s performance against Virginia. The results, however, did little to clarify the bowl picture, although Alabama and Georgia appear to have locked up their respective division titles. Let’s take a look at where the SEC and ACC teams stand in regards to the postseason after Week 10.
BCS Championship Game – Alabama vs. Oregon
Neither team brought their “A” game to Saturday night road tests, but both survived; the Tide in far more dramatic fashion than the Ducks, who answered every punch USC threw at them with an even stronger blow. Alabama needed all 60 minutes to get out of Baton Rouge with its record still unblemished, and now gets a tricky home game against surging Texas A&M. Oregon will have to keep its eye on Kansas State in the BCS Standings, but it appears that it still controls its own destiny to get to Miami.
Sugar – Georgia vs. Clemson
While things did not break Georgia’s way with regards to its national title hopes, it now stands just a win over 2-7 Auburn away from heading back to the SEC Championship Game. This spot will come down to LSU, Florida and the loser in Atlanta. Should Florida lose to Florida State, Georgia should land in a BCS bowl regardless of what happens against the Tide. The Tigers should be 10-1 heading into their season finale vs. South Carolina with a chance to beat their bitter rival to earn a BCS at-large berth (should Florida State not lose another ACC game). That likely will be enough to set up a preview of the 2013 season opener in New Orleans. Clemson could end up in the Fiesta Bowl, but New Orleans appears probable at this point.
Orange – Florida State vs. Louisville
It will be another Orange Bowl lacking sizzle, as the bowl is more or less locked in to the Big East champion now that Boise State is out of the picture. Florida State’s national title hopes are all but gone after their loss to N.C. State, but the team’s first ACC title in seven years would still be a significant accomplishment. The ‘Noles need to only to beat two teams with a losing record - Virginia Tech and Maryland - to lock up the ACC Atlantic Division title. The Big East remains a three-horse race between Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers, with the Cardinals the front-runner. Should Cincinnati defeat the Scarlet Knights later this month, the season finale on Nov. 29 between Louisville and Rutgers could be meaningless. If Rutgers remains unbeaten in conference, the Thursday night clash in Piscataway will decide the champion.
Capital One – Florida vs. Michigan
Florida is likely out of the SEC East race, but could still make a BCS bowl and has an outside chance of crawling back into the national title picture. Even with the loss to Georgia, an 11-1 Gators team would be very attractive for the Sugar Bowl. With a second loss in Tallahassee to Florida State, they’ll likely end up in Orlando. Michigan might have seen its Big Ten title hopes fall by the wayside with Nebraska’s win over Michigan 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 – LSU vs. Texas
LSU did everything it could to lose to Alabama, but the Tide refused to take it until the final minute. The Bayou Bengals must now regroup for three games (Mississippi State, Ole Miss, at Arkansas) that should all be wins but could be tricky if the Tigers don’t recover from this past Saturday night. The Longhorns showed some rare resolve by going out to Lubbock and upsetting Texas Tech as a sizable underdog. Should it win its next two games (home vs. Iowa State and TCU), Texas should return to Dallas for a rematch of the 2003 Cotton Bowl.
Outback – South Carolina vs. Wisconsin
I’ve had the Gamecocks landing in Tampa even when they were ranked No. 3, and now that appears like the likely scenario. They rested this week after a difficult October, and now face Arkansas and Wofford at home before going to Clemson. Wisconsin also had the weekend off as they prepare for a likely winner-take-all Leaders Division game with Indiana (seriously). 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 – Texas A&M vs. Miami (FL)
The Aggies were one of the most impressive teams of the weekend, going to Starkville and blowing out Mississippi State. They now have a chance to make a major statement next week in Tuscaloosa. Regardless of what happens against Alabama, Texas A&M has locked up a decent bowl game, and its fans should flood Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. The ‘Canes rolled past Virginia Tech on Thursday night, and have a great opportunity to finish 8-4 and win the ACC Coastal Division with only Virginia, USF and Duke remaining. Miami won both legs of a home-and-home against the Aggies in 2007 and 2008. Clemson and N.C. State are also still in play for the ACC spot here.
Gator – Mississippi State vs. Northwestern
Jacksonville seemed like the most logical landing spot for the loser of the Texas A&M-Mississippi State game heading into the weekend, and the Bulldogs proved that they belong only in a mid-level bowl, not a major one, after losing in convincing fashion. Tennessee or Vanderbilt could climb to this spot with strong November finishes. Northwestern is never a great draw for bowls, but if they keep winning, they should be playing in Florida on New Year’s Day. One win in their final three games should be enough to get the ‘Cats to Jacksonville.
Russell Athletic – N.C. State vs. Cincinnati
N.C. State forgot to show up on Saturday against Virginia, as the 2-6 Cavaliers rolled to a 33-6 win in Raleigh. The Wolfpack drop down a rung from the Chick-fil-A Bowl to a meeting with the Bearcats, whom they played in both 2010 and 2011. Cincinnati kept its slim Big East title hopes alive with a narrow win over Syracuse on Saturday. If they can beat Rutgers at home in a few weeks, they should earn the trip to Orlando, which has the No. 2 selection of Big East teams. If the Bearcats don’t land here, it will either be Rutgers or Louisville.
Sun – 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 4-5 heading into a Thursday night home game with Florida State. Even with a loss to the Seminoles, they should still get bowl-eligible with Boston College and Virginia still to play. Stanford will have its say in the Pac-12 race, 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 – Duke vs. Rutgers
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. Rutgers can still get to the Orange Bowl if it wins out, but it’ll need to defeat Cincinnati on the road to set up a showdown with Louisville for the conference title. If the Scarlet Knights fall to the Bearcats, they’ll likely end up in Charlotte against the Blue Devils in late December. Virginia Tech and Duke could flip-flop spots with the Sun Bowl depending on matchups.
Music City – Tennessee vs. Arizona State
Derek Dooley might not be the head coach by New Year’s Eve, but that shouldn’t deter Volunteers fans from filling up LP Field in Nashville. Tennessee could win out and get to 7-5 after a narrow escape vs. Troy, but that may not be enough for Dooley to survive. The ACC will be unlikely to fill this slot if it receives two BCS bids, so a Pac-12 team could land here. Arizona State has now dropped three straight after falling to Oregon State. Playing Washington State at home should allow them to get to six wins, but they are likely to be at the bottom when the Pac-12 bowls make their selections. They’ll gladly accept an at-large bid to Nashville.
Liberty – Ole Miss vs. UCF
The Rebels finally get the bump to the postseason this week, although it’s not because of how they played in a blowout loss at Georgia. The Egg Bowl now appears much more winnable, so Ole Miss now has two toss-up games at home with Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, of which it’ll need to win one to go bowling. It might take until Thanksgiving weekend, but the call is for Hugh Freeze’s team to get to six wins. UCF is the class of Conference USA and is 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.
BBVA Compass – Vanderbilt vs. Toledo
The Commodores stand 5-4 after a 40-0 shutout of hapless Kentucky, and now need just one win in their final three to lock up their second straight bowl appearance. If they can get to seven or eight wins, they could move up the ladder, but for now they’re slotted 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, Miami (OH) and Ohio could also be candidates in addition to the Rockets.