First, keep in mind, these are not projections. These are predictions. A projection would be more of an “if the season ended today” situation. These are my predictions as to what will happen and the matchups you will see in this year’s BCS Bowl Games and the SEC’s affiliated bowl games.
BCS National Championship – Oklahoma vs. Boise State – I am sticking to my guns on this one. Alabama’s loss to South Carolina Saturday promotes my thought that the SEC is too powerful this year for any team to go undefeated. Ohio State and Oregon will each lose at least one game due to their tough schedules (at USC, Arizona or at Oregon State for Oregon; at Wisconsin, at Iowa or Michigan for Ohio State). Oklahoma and Nebraska will both likely be 12-0 going into the Big 12 Championship Game, which I see Oklahoma winning. As for Boise State, they are unbeatable, especially in that conference. No other AQ team will be undefeated, and neither will TCU. Boise State gets the nod, further showing the need for a playoff.
Rose Bowl – Oregon vs. Michigan State – Michigan State has an easier schedule in the Big Ten this year, not having to play Ohio State. They will ultimately shock the world and win the Big Ten, but not go undefeated. Oregon is clearly the best team in the Pac-10 and will win the conference, likely with a heads-up tie-breaker with Stanford. As I said in the above piece, they will falter in at least one conference game this season.
Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. West Virginia – Alabama will recover to win the SEC West, and ultimately the SEC championship. However, with one loss, they get left out of the national title picture and picked up in the Sugar Bowl. West Virginia will win the Big East and get their automatic bid. The Mountaineers will wind up playing their second SEC West school, the first being their one loss to date, at LSU.
Orange Bowl – Florida State vs. Ohio State – Florida State has risen to their historical power and seems to have separated themselves from the rest of the ACC with a dominant performance over rival Miami in what might be a preview of the ACC Championship Game. Ohio State will get an at-large bid and selected to the Orange Bowl to face Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles. At the end of a disappointing season for the Buckeyes, they still make it to a BCS game, but ultimately lose the conference, which will be one by Michigan State.
Fiesta Bowl – Nebraska vs. Auburn – With Nebraska losing the Big 12 Championship Game to Oklahoma (at least in this scenario), they take a short step back and travel to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl. This is still a successful end to the season for Nebraska, with a final record of 12-1 and their only loss coming to BCS National Championship contender Oklahoma. Auburn has had an amazing year behind quarterback Cam Newton and will finish the season 11-1 with their one loss coming in the Iron Bowl to rival Alabama. They miss the SEC Championship game, but still get the final at-large bid over teams like Utah, TCU and Stanford.
Capital One Bowl – South Carolina vs. Wisconsin – South Carolina’s win over then #1 Alabama puts their team into perspective. They are here to play and they want to win. They are currently in the driver seat in the SEC East and should end up winning it over Florida. But the Gamecocks will fall short in the rematch with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and drop to the Capital One Bowl. Wisconsin, even after a possible win over the Buckeyes drop from BCS Bowl consideration, but still end up with a good season.
Cotton Bowl – Arkansas vs. Missouri – Arkansas is talented enough to play for the SEC Championship, but will fall short, much like they did against Alabama. They will still finish with a good year behind quarterback Ryan Mallett, and even though they wanted more than the Cotton Bowl, they should be happy. Missouri is a surprise team in the Big 12 this season. Texas’ loss to UCLA will be their doom as they drop past the Cotton Bowl, likely to the Alamo Bowl or Insight Bowl. Arkansas vs. Missouri will be a high-flying offensive attack, and a very exciting game that will be remembered in Cotton Bowl history.
Outback Bowl – Florida vs. Iowa – No matter how bad they look, Florida is still Florida and they still have Urban Meyer. They will recover for a nine win season and get a bid to Atlanta. Though it’s not the bid they wanted. Iowa has had a more disappointing year as they too were expected national championship consideration. They have dropped and finish fourth in the Big Ten. This gets them another bid to the Outback Bowl, which they will hope is as successful as their last trip when they beat South Carolina in 2009.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl – LSU vs. Miami – Read this well SEC fans: Les Miles is a terrible coach. That being said, they will ruin their 6-0 start and drops games against Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and perhaps even Ole Miss. Miles will prove it’s not always better to be lucky than good, and it cannot be pulled off all year. They have not hit the meat of their schedule, so be afraid LSU fans. On the other side, Miami is another team with national championship hopes that dropped further than expected. I just do not see two ACC teams in the BCS. After losing the ACC Championship Game to Florida State, they will get the next best bid, to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Gator Bowl – Mississippi vs. Michigan – This is the first year of an SEC Gator Bowl, and will be the third SEC/Big Ten matchup on New Year’s Day. Mississippi will have a nice recovery to this season, but not nice enough to reach the fans’ expectations of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. But after a loss to FCS school Jacksonville State, at home, all Rebels should be happy with any bowl game. Michigan will hit the wall I have been warning people about and drop to the Gator Bowl. They are a one man show with an average defense. Denard Robinson is electric, but as a smaller mobile quarterback, with Big Ten defenses and the cold weather bearing down on him, he will be slowed down.
Music City Bowl – Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech – Kentucky is a much better team than people give them credit for. But they are still in the SEC and will not make it past the Music City Bowl. Fans should however take solace in the fact that they were selected to a bowl over traditional SEC East powerhouses Georgia and Tennessee, both those they can beat this season. Georgia Tech has been a question mark all year long. One week they lose to Kansas (who lost to North Dakota State), then beat preseason favorite North Carolina and lose to N.C. State. The Yellow Jackets will recover to a seven win season and get to Nashville for a shot at an SEC team.
Birmingham Bowl – Georgia vs. Pittsburgh – Formerly the Papajohns.com Bowl, the Birmingham Bowl gets an SEC vs. Big East matchup, and luckily grabs two talented teams here. All be it, two talented teams with remarkably disappointing seasons. Georgia, once with SEC Championship hopes, started the season with an A.J. Green suspension and a 1-4 record, but will recover for a 6-6 finish and a bowl bid by the skin of their teeth. Pittsburgh returned the Big East’s 2009 leading rusher Dion Lewis (1799 yards last season) and a talented defense, with hopes of winning their conference. However they start the season 2-3 with losses at Utah, at home to Miami and in South Bend to Notre Dame.