Another weekend in the books means further clarity to our BCS bowl projections.
The biggest change is, after Auburn’s miraculous win over Georgia, we are now prepared to project the Tigers into the Sugar Bowl. There are still scenarios (that we will address) that could leave Auburn out of the BCS if it loses to Alabama or in the SEC Championship Game. Still, the Tigers seem the most likely bet to be New Orleans-bound.
Elsewhere, Clemson has likely put itself a win over South Carolina away from securing an at-large berth. The Tigers of the ACC would be difficult to pass over if they finish 11-1 with their only loss coming to No. 2 (or No. 1) Florida State.
Stanford’s loss changes the BCS picture around a little bit and actually makes the Orange Bowl picture a little murkier. However, the Cardinal is still likely BCS-bound if it beats California and Notre Dame.
Here is how we project this year’s BCS bowl projections:
BCS Championship Game
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Florida State
Further automatic bids would go as follow:
Pac-12 champion goes to the Rose Bowl
Big Ten champion goes to the Rose Bowl
Big 12 champion goes to the Fiesta Bowl
So we have another game set:
Ohio State (Big Ten) vs. Oregon (Pac-12)
By virtue of losing the No. 1 team in the BCS standings, the Sugar Bowl would get the first choice of at-large teams. The bowl’s relationship with the SEC would likely create an automatic acceptance of the second-ranked SEC team. Right now, we are prepared to project that team to be Auburn.
As we mentioned at the top, there are some teams that could supersede the Tigers – namely a 2-loss South Carolina or a 2-loss Texas A&M. If the Aggies run the table, the Sugar Bowl would have to seriously consider selecting them for what could very possibly be the final collegiate game for Johnny Manziel. South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney would bring some star power as well, but not enough to make the Gamecocks a slam dunk over Auburn.
A&M’s path is easiest: Beat LSU and Missouri on the road and the Sugar Bowl seems like a lock. South Carolina’s path includes beating Clemson. From there, the Gamecocks have two paths to New Orleans. The first would be beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, guaranteeing them the spot in the Sugar Bowl. The other would be to finish 10-2 and get the at-large nod over Auburn – assuming Missouri didn’t beat the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game.
It seems unlikely that the Sugar Bowl would select 2-loss Missouri over 2-loss Auburn.
If, however, Auburn beats Alabama and then loses in the SEC Championship Game, it would almost certainly fall to at least the Capital One Bowl.
The Sugar Bowl could throw a curveball by picking Oregon or Clemson, but seems most likely to stay in the SEC.
The second at-large selection goes to the Orange Bowl because it would lose the No. 2 team in the BCS standings. This is where one of the major changes comes into play.
Last week, Oregon seemed like a lock for this pick. Now the Ducks seem Rose Bowl-bound. The Orange Bowl will likely select between Clemson, Stanford and Wisconsin. The bowl is also in a great place to pick up a team that falls from the ranks of the unbeaten.
In the event that Ohio State lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, for instance, or if Baylor were to lose at Oklahoma State this week, the Orange Bowl seems a likely landing place.
Per BCS selection order, the Orange Bowl would get a second consecutive at-large pick.
Clemson still faces a huge test at the end of the season when it plays at South Carolina. However, if the Tigers knock off their second SEC team of the season, they are going to Miami. At this time, we are projecting Clemson to face Stanford, though Wisconsin can still make a strong case.
In a “season-ends-today” vacuum, though, the Orange Bowl is set:
Clemson (at-large) vs. Stanford (at-large)
So the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl get the final two at-large picks. One will have to take the American Athletic Conference champion (projected as UCF). The other selection will have to be Fresno State or Northern Illinois if the two of those teams continue winning.
Both face conference championship games, meaning they each could slip up against a formidable foe. However, both will be favored to win the remainder of their games.
The Sugar Bowl gets the next pick. UCF at least has a win over Louisville, perhaps making it slightly more attractive. The Sugar Bowl got burnt badly by Hawaii several years back, so look for it to avoid the non-AQ conference teams.
Here’s the Sugar Bowl projection:
Auburn (at-large) vs. UCF (American)
That leaves Fiesta Bowl with the highest-ranked non-AQ conference team. Northern Illinois scored a big win over Ball State on national television this week, which won over the computers. NIU has an average computer rank of 12th, better than Fresno State’s average rank of 16th.
The human polls, so far, make up the difference. The Bulldogs rank 14th in the Harris Poll and 16th in the Coaches Poll. Northern Illinois, on the other hand, ranks 18th and 21st in the polls, respectively.
Fresno State holds a fairly comfortable lead of nearly half a point in the BCS standings. Both teams rank far enough ahead of UCF to feel comfortable if they continue winning.
So the final projection:
Baylor (Big 12) vs. Fresno State (at-large, automatic bid)
Topics: AAC, ACC, Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, Baylor Bears, BCS, Big 12, Big Ten, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, Northern Illinois Huskies, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oregon Ducks, PAC-12, SEC, South Carolina Gamecocks, Stanford Cardinal, Texas A&M Aggies, UCF Golden Knights, Wisconsin Badgers