Another Look At The Bowls

LSU’s bowl picture became a bit clearer with their loss to Alabama on Saturday, and they now seem to be on a crash course with the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. With Penn State losing to Ohio State last weekend, the Nittany Lions appear to be the likely opponent. Here is the deal with the Capital One Bowl.

If LSU wins out and finishes 10-2, then they’re a lock to go to Orlando. In all likelihood, Alabama and Florida will finish their season undefeated which means that both will go to BCS bowl games. After the BCS bowls select their teams from the SEC, the Capital One Bowl must select the team with the best record or a team within one game of the team with the best record. In this scenario, LSU would be 10-2 and no other team would have less than four losses. That means they must select LSU. If the Tigers win out, can they do better than the Capital One? Yes, it’s possible.

LSU can potentially play in the Sugar Bowl, but it will take some help. LSU will need Alabama (at Miss State, at Auburn) or Florida (at South Carolina, vs. Florida State) to lose a game in the regular season. Then, that same team would have to lose again in the SEC Championship Game. The Sugar Bowl would then have to decide between a two loss LSU team that has won three games in a row and an Alabama or Florida team that has lost two of their last three. With other things being equal, history shows that the SEC Championship Game loser does not receive the benefit of the doubt. This scenario is not likely to occur, but the possibility does exist. Root hard against Alabama and Florida the rest of the way (as if I needed to tell that to any of you).

What if LSU loses a game? Things would then get a bit more interesting. If that loss were to Ole Miss, then it’s possible that LSU and Ole Miss would both be 9-3 with Ole Miss owning the head to head matchup. LSU would still be ranked higher than the Rebels in the polls and would probably be the more attractive match up to the Capital One Bowl…but they’d have a tough decision to make. It’s a good enough reason to root for Tennessee this weekend against the Rebels. Auburn also has just three losses right now, but LSU owns the head to head matchup against them. They also still have to play at Georgia and against Alabama. If they did manage to win out, they’ll have a lot of momentum and could end up in Orlando ahead of LSU.

Staying focused on the Capital One Bowl, let’s talk about the SEC’s opponent from the Big-10. Just like for the SEC, the Capital One Bowl gets first selection of Big-10 teams after the BCS bowls have made their selections. Ohio State’s big win over Penn State last weekend sets up a big showdown with Iowa this weekend for the Big-10 championship. The Buckeyes are a big favorite, and I think they’ll win the conference and go to the Rose Bowl. A strong possibility exists that three teams from the Big-10 will finish with identical 10-2 records. Iowa, Penn State, and Wisconsin will all finish that way barring an upset. The first question is whether any of these teams will be selected as an at large team for a BCS game. I don’t THINK they will but it depends on how high they can climb in the polls. So the Capital One Bowl will have a difficult decision. Penn State will likely be the highest ranked of the bunch, though not by much. However, Iowa beat Penn State on the field. My guess is that since Iowa will have two late season losses, they’ll be passed over by Penn State who hasn’t been to the Capital One Bowl since the 2002 season.

Enough of the Capital One Bowl…how did last weekend’s events shake up the BCS bowls and other SEC bowls? Quickly looking at each conference, here’s what’s at stake down the stretch of the season:

Big East
Cincinnati is undefeated. West Virginia has one conference loss. Pitt has one loss but is undefeated in the conference. Cincinnati hosts West Virginia this weekend. West Virginia hosts Pitt on November 27. Pitt hosts Cincinnati on December 5. Each of the three teams controls its own destiny for a Big East title. The possibility exists that while other conferences play their conference championship games on December 5, the Big East will be playing their own between Cincinnati and Pitt. Whoever wins their games will go to a BCS bowl game.

Big-10
The winner of this weekend’s Ohio State / Iowa game will most likely win the conference. The big question is whether any of the 2-loss teams will sneak into a BCS game as an at-large selection.

PAC-10
Oregon is in the driver’s seat for the PAC-10 title, but they have three very tough games remaining vs. Arizona State, at Arizona, vs. Oregon State. If they win two of those three, then I believe they’ll represent the PAC-10 in the Rose Bowl. If USC wins out and finishes 10-2, they’re a lock for a BCS bowl game as an at-large selection with the Fiesta Bowl the likely destination.

Big 12
The race for the Big-12 North is interesting. Kansas State is currently 4-2 in conference with Nebraska close behind at 3-2. Those two play each other in a couple of weeks in a pivotal game. Nebraska just may be able to give Texas some trouble in the Big-12 Championship Game due to their outstanding defense. Oklahoma State has games remaining vs. Texas Tech, vs. Colorado, and at Oklahoma. If they win out, they’ll be in the conversation for a BCS at large selection with a 10-2 record.

ACC
In the Atlantic division, Clemson just needs to win one of its two remaining games against NC State and Virginia in order to clinch a spot in the ACC Championship Game. That seems likely. In the Coastal Division, Georgia Tech just needs to beat Duke in order to clinch. That would set up a re-match of the game earlier this year that GA Tech won 30-27. The winner goes to the Orange Bowl.

SEC
Alabama is playing Florida for the national championship and a likely spot in the BCS Championship Game.

Here are my latest projections for the BCS Bowl Games and SEC Bowl Games:

BCS Championship Game – Florida vs. Texas
Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Pitt
Fiesta Bowl – USC vs. Boise St.
Orange Bowl – Georgia Tech vs. TCU
Rose Bowl – Ohio State vs. Oregon

Capital One Bowl: LSU vs. Penn State
Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee
Cotton Bowl: Auburn vs. Oklahoma State
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Georgia vs. Clemson
Music City Bowl:  Arkansas vs. North Carolina
Liberty Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Houston
Independence Bowl: South Carolina vs. Texas A&M
PapaJohns.com Bowl: Kentucky vs. South Florida

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