Saturday, November 15, 2008

General Bowl Predictions

Looks like a Disney New Years for UGA. Dawg fans hoping for the Cotton Bowl need to learn the rules. The BCS will likely take both Alabama and Florida. Capital One picks first of the remaining SEC teams. Even if we lose to Tech, I don't see the erstwhile Citrus Bowl picking 3-loss LSU over us. But if they did take the Bayou Bengals, the Cotton can't take an SEC East team until the Outback Bowl chooses one first. Thus, LSU and presumably South Carolina would have to be more attractive than Georgia for us to go to Dallas.

For the best possible bowl matchup, Dawg fans should root for both Oregon State and USC to win out. If those two "top" Pac-10 teams win the rest of their games, both will go to the BCS, leaving the Big 10 with only 1 BCS team, and the Dawgs would face the Buckeyes or Penn State (if they lose to Michigan State). If one or both of those Pac 10 teams lose, that would open the door for a Big 10 non-champion to go to the Fiesta, and Georgia would probably face Michigan State in Mousetown.

Here's how I see things shaking out for the BCS and SEC tie-in bowls:

BCS Championship: Texas Tech v. Florida
Rose Bowl: Oregon State v. Penn State
Fiesta Bowl: Texas v. Southern Cal
Sugar Bowl: Alabama v. Cincinnati
Orange Bowl: Maryland v. Utah

Capital One Bowl: Georgia v. Ohio State
Cotton Bowl: LSU v. Oklahoma
Outback Bowl: South Carolina v. Michigan State
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Vanderbilt v. some ACC chump
Liberty Bowl: Kentucky v. some Conference USA chump
Music City Bowl: Ole Miss v. some ACC chump
Independence Bowl: Non SEC v. some irrelevant chump Bowl: Non SEC v. some irrelevant chump

Yep. I predict the SEC will be 2 teams shy of fulfilling their contractual tie-ins. The only teams not listed above that could become bowl eligible are Auburn if they beat Alabama (yeah, right), and Arkansas if they beat both Mississippi State and LSU (unlikely).

I heard Kirk Herbstreit on the radio last week say that he thinks his Buckeyes would go to the Sugar to face the loser of the SEC Championship Game. That statement shows his fundamental misunderstanding of how the BCS works.

There are ten BCS slots. 6 are automatic conference champs (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac 10, and SEC). We can safely assume that the SEC and the Big XII will each get an extra BCS team. That leaves two spots, and this year, one is reserved for Cinderella. Because of the mediocrity of the ACC and Big East, it is all but certain that there will be a BCS buster this year. Even if Utah, Boise, and Ball State each lose all of their remaining games, BYU would very likely be in the Top 16 and ranked above the champion of one or both the ACC and Big East. (BYU and Utah's only remaining game is against each other). That leaves the last spot for either a second Pac 10 team or a second Big 10 team, but not both.

It's possible for Ohio State to go to the Rose or Fiesta, but the Sugar is simply too long a shot. If Penn State loses to Michigan State, and Ohio State beats Michigan, then the Buckeyes go to Pasadena. If that doesn't happen, Ohio State should hope for an Oregon State loss, sending USC to the Rose, raising the chance for the Buckeyes to be selected by the Fiesta.

For Ohio State to go to the Sugar, the Fiesta would have to decide not to take Ohio State, and instead choose either a BCS party-crasher (the highest ranked of Utah/Boise/Ball St./BYU) or the Big East champ (likely the winner of Pitt v. Cincy). Not bloody likely.

Let me explain my predictions above, and it may shed some light on the procedure, for Herbsreit's edification:

#1 and #2 go to the BCS championship. The bowl that "loses" the #1 team picks next. I predict Texas Tech to win the Big XII and be #1 in the final BCS standings. The Fiesta would pick Texas for their first slot. Assuming Florida wins the SEC and sits at #2, the Sugar picks next to replace the SEC champ, and they will take Alabama.

The Rose Bowl will have the Pac 10 champ against the Big 10 champ. Oregon State controls its own destiny. The road is tough with its final two games against teams with winning records (which are rare in the Pac 10). First they play at Arizona (6-4), then finish the season at home in the Civil War against archrival Oregon (8-3). Making things even tougher, the Ducks have a week off to prepare while the Beavers duel in the desert with the Wildcats. Still, I think Jaquizz and the boys will win their way to Pasadena to face Paterno and PSU.

The ACC champ automatically goes to the Orange. I'm guessing Maryland, but it could just as easily be any of a bunch of other equally mediocre teams.

The final three slots are on a yearly rotation, with this year the order being Fiesta, Sugar, Orange. The Big East champion must be selected at some point, as must the highest ranked team from a non-BCS conference if they are in the top 12 or in the top 16 and ahead of a BCS conference champ, which I predict will be Utah. The Fiesta also could select an at-large team, i.e., any team in the top 14 whose conference does not have two teams already slotted. If what I predict above is correct, then USC and Ohio State are really the only contenders for the last at-large bid. USC is ranked much higher, beat tOSU head-to-head, and its fan-base is closer to Glendale, so I see the Trojans getting the nod to face Texas. (This is what sends the Buckeyes to Orlando to face Georgia).

After the Fiesta picks, the Sugar has only two options. It must pick either (1) the "Cinderella" which will probably be Utah or (2) the Big East champ, which I predict will be Cincinnati with a win over Pitt. Even though Utah would be ranked ahead of the Bearcats, simple economics come into play. Although "Mormon" and "Bourbon" loosely rhyme, the two don't really go together, and Utah fans won't spend as much in the French Quarter as the Big East blue-collar boozers. If, however, Florida loses to Alabama, the Sugar Bowl may select Utah over the winner of Pitt/Cincy to set up Urban Meyer against his old team, but I doubt that is enough of a pull to overcome the money matters.

Whichever of those two that the Sugar doesn't pick will face the ACC champ in the Orange Bowl.

Are there other possibilities? Sure. In my list above, Bama and Florida are interchangeable, depending on the outcome in Atlanta. The SEC champ's opponent is still up in the air, too. If the Big XII South representative wins the conference championship game in Kansas City, they'll win the opportunity to play for the Crystal Pigskin. I predict Texas Tech, but if Oklahoma beats the Red Raiders and Okie State, the Big XII South will decided by highest BCS ranking among Texas Tech, Texas, and Oklahoma. My guess is Texas would then sneak in to play Mizzou, but Oklahoma might overcome their head-to-head loss to Texas with an impressive final-week win over Oklahoma State. Regardless of who wins that mysterious tiebreaker, if the Big XII North can pull out the upset in KC, that would pull the pin on this year's BCS exploding shit grenade. USC could then sneak back into the title game, unless the Beavers prevent the Trojans from winning their conference, in which case Penn State may have new life. But why not let an undefeated Utah jump all 1-loss teams to face the SEC champ in that scenario?

So there's still a lot yet to be seen, including whether Kirk Herbstreit will ever learn the rules. I'm looking forward to some colossal games in the coming weeks, particularly Oklahoma v. Texas Tech and Florida v. Alabama, as well as the State Championship game in Athens on 11/29.


The Wrangler said...

At least it appears Schlabach and Feldman pay some attention to the BCS rules. Although Feldman is taking a gigantic leap to think the Fiesta loved the Boise-Okie game enough to select another BCS Buster over USC. And Schlabach is not taking the Mormon factor into account. Feldman's not completely lucid though. I guess he predicts Georgia to lose to GT, resulting in the Capital One taking LSU, and the Outback taking (at least) 4-loss South Carolina, leaving Georgia available to the Cotton.

One question though, is there any back office negotiation on these? E.g., if the Cotton was dying to show Stafford's last college game, on his home turf, against another top NFL draft pick QB in Bradford, could they offer dolla dolla bills to the Cap1 and Outback?

If things play out as expected, I think a Cap1 game against tOSU or PSU would be a great game to watch on TV (I have a good reason not to go, but I think other UGA fans will not travel well this year). Still, other than the BCS title game and the possible USC-Texas matchup, it would be the next-best bowl game. Yet another downside of the BCS system is artificially creating prestige for shitty matchups. Cincy-MD would be good for a Tuesday night matchup in the fall, instead, we get it as one of the supposedly best 5 bowl games.

Kyle W. said...

It might not take dolla dolla bills, Wrangler. The General has, uncharacteristically for him, overlooked a key phrase in the SEC bowl-picking rules: "The Outback, Chick-fil-A and AT&T Cotton Bowls will work with the conference office to determine picks 3-5." (Emphasis added.)

Now, that could mean that the SEC office can help the Outback and Cotton decide which East and West teams, respectively, to choose. But my more conspiratorial reading is that the SEC has some leverage with the various bowl committees and could pull some strings. So the Wrangler's suggestion that the Cotton might want to host Stafford's last game might be on target. The Outback Bowl could certainly count on LSU fans to travel en masse--Google Maps tells me it's only a few more hours' drive from Baton Rouge to Tampa than it is from Athens, and airplanes will not yet have been outlawed by Jan. 1. Finally, I think it highly unlikely that LSU would really fight to go play in windy Dallas against a Big 12 team that might very well kick their butts rather than balmy Tampa against a significantly easier BigEleven opponent.

All of this will of course be moot if the Dawgs take care of bidness in a couple of weeks. Then let's just hope we get Ohio State or Penn State rather than Michigan State.

The General said...

The "will work with" clause doesn't seem to trump the veto power that the Cotton and Outback have over each other with respect to their divisional ties. I think it's more of a catchall so they can avoid, say, rematches of regular season games.

I wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a cash transaction, but I think Stafford's Magic Kingdom passport is already punched.

chg said...

I don't think the BCS is criticized enough for allowing weak sister conference champs from the ACC and Big East a free pass. No one from either of those conferences has any business sniffing the Outback Bowl, let alone sullying bowls that once had some semblance of prestige. There should be a way one of them could periodically get foisted on the Rose Bowl rather than tramping ruining the Sugar.