The shakeup of shakeups leaves the nation with a new No. 1 team – expected to be Florida State when the BCS rankings are released later tonight.
Auburn’s upset of Alabama likely gives Ohio State a shot in the BCS National Championship Game – as long as the Buckeyes handle business against Michigan State.
If the Spartans throw the BCS into further turmoil, it would open the door for another one-loss team – most likely the winner of the Missouri-Auburn SEC Championship Game.
Meanwhile, the loser of the SEC Championship Game sadly has no chance of advancing to a BCS bowl.
Wisconsin’s inexplicable home loss to Penn State ends any hopes it had to score an at-large bid to the BCS. That outcome negated Clemson’s loss to rival South Carolina. The Tigers still seem destined for the Orange Bowl.
Here is how we project this year’s BCS bowl projections:
BCS Championship Game
No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Ohio State
Further automatic bids would go as follow:
Pac-12 champion goes to the Rose Bowl
SEC champion goes to the Sugar Bowl
Big 12 champion goes to the Fiesta Bowl
No game aside from the BCS National Championship Game is set after the automatic teams are placed. Because Florida State will likely be the No. 1 team in the new rankings, the Orange Bowl will get the first selection.
The Orange Bowl recently signed a 12-year deal with the ACC to automatically get the conference champion into the bowl unless the champ reaches the College Football Playoff. In that case, the bowl would take the second-ranked ACC team (or third if two ACC teams make it).
As a result, the Orange Bowl has loyalty to the ACC. Clemson lost its regular-season finale to rival South Carolina, but is fortunate to play in a league with no other viable at-large option (assuming Duke loses to Florida State).
So in this case, we’re projecting the Orange Bowl to select Clemson with the first at-large pick.
The next at-large selection goes to the Rose Bowl, which would lose Big Ten champ Ohio State to the national title game.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl – the single bowl most rooted in tradition. With such a landmark contest, it seems impossible the Rose Bowl would select anyone other than a team from the Big Ten with its at-large choice.
We are going to assume Ohio State beats Michigan State, leaving the Rose Bowl to choose between the Spartans and Wisconsin. Since the Badgers lost at home to Penn State to end the season, Michigan State seems the likely choice.
There, Michigan State will play the winner of this week’s Arizona State-Stanford Pac-12 Championship Game. The loser of the conference title game has limited opportunity to reach the BCS as an at-large bid.
Michigan State (at-large) vs. Stanford/Arizona State (Pac-12 champ)
The Orange Bowl gets the next at-large pick based on the rotation of at-large selections. With Clemson already a projected part of the game, the bowl already has its conference tie-in satisfied, leaving it open to select whoever it likes.
Two-time defending national champion Alabama seems like the obvious choice, setting up a tremendous ACC-SEC matchup.
Clemson (at-large) vs. Alabama (at-large)
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 likely have to be Northern Illinois if the Huskies beat Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game.
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 it might well avoid the non-AQ conference teams.
Whether Auburn or Missouri wins the SEC Championship Game is inconsequential from this standpoint: The winner will play in either the Sugar Bowl or the BCS National Championship Game; The loser won’t make the BCS.
In the unlikely event that Northern Illinois loses to Bowling Green, the Huskies would no longer have a ticket to the BCS. That would open up the Sugar Bowl to take an additional at-large team.
Oregon and Baylor would be at the top of the list for teams to receive at-large invitation consideration.
Here’s the Sugar Bowl projection:
Auburn/Missouri (SEC champ) vs. UCF (projected American champ)
That leaves Fiesta Bowl with the highest-ranked non-AQ conference team. Northern Illinois is sitting great in the computers and is well ahead of UCF. As long as the Huskies finish ranked ahead of the lowest-ranked champion from an AQ conference, they earn an automatic berth.
If NIU stumbles, UCF probably falls to the Fiesta Bowl.
So the final projection:
Oklahoma State (projected Big 12 champ) vs. Northern Illinois (at-large, automatic bid)
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