The rematch is set. If Year2's projections are right -- and they look pretty solid to me -- then the outcome of the Harris Poll is almost irrelevant. I don't think that enough voters will move Oklahoma State past Alabama to give them the No. 2 ranking in the poll, which the Cowboys would need if Alabama has a lead of any size before the final element is added in. The Tide's lead will only grow in that case.
The background on the rest of the BCS: Looking at the two human polls that have been released and the computer rankings that are out, combined with a healthy degree of extrapolation and guesswork, there are two things that seem likely to happen, both by razor-thin margins. I think Michigan will be ranked in the Top 14 and eligible to be selected for an at-large BCS spot. I also think that TCU will just miss the cut for the Top 16, which it needs to get an automatic bid to the BCS.
Without further ado, the final stab at the BCS bowl matchups that will be announced tonight:
BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
Sugar Bowl: Michigan vs. Kansas State
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. West Virginia
None of those are bad games if Clemson pulls a Clemson in the Orange Bowl. I don't expect that, though, so I think that the Orange Bowl will be a blowout. But the other games should be great. You've got the rematch argument around the championship, the contrast in styles in the Rose Bowl, a couple of high-caliber offenses in the Fiesta Bowl and two resurgent teams in the Sugar Bowl.
If TCU surprises me and remains in the Top 16, they likely go to the Sugar Bowl, though the Fiesta could snap them up. Sans TCU, the Fiesta could also go with Boise State and push Stanford to the Sugar Bowl and Kansas State out of the picture entirely. But that scenario is highly unlikely even with the Fiesta Bowl's experience with Boise State, I would think.
The SEC projections continue to give me a headache. This is the most unsettled the bowl situation for the conference has been in years, at least before the Outback Bowl makes its selection and gives everyone a headache, so I could make a case for almost any reasonable configuration. But the decisive vote still belongs to the Capital One Bowl.
I'm not sure which way to go for sure on the Capital One. Their SEC choices seem to be down to Arkansas and South Carolina, with Georgia a distant third. I do now think that they will jump out of order and go with Nebraska as the Big Ten team. And there are a lot of people who believe that the Cap One will go with the Gamecocks -- including the college football blog of the Orlando Sentinel, the hometown paper.
But I also perused the news feed of the Capital One Bowl, and the Hogs were featured in four of the bowl's games of the week over the course of the season. South Carolina was featured in just one, and that one was when the Gamecocks played the Razorbacks.
The way I see it, this comes down to whether Arkansas and the Cotton Bowl can get the Capital One Bowl to go with South Carolina instead. I think if the Capital One Bowl picked a team in a vacuum, it would be Arkansas; but they don't pick a team in a vacuum.
So against my better judgment, I'm going to move South Carolina into the Capital One Bowl and Arkansas into the Cotton for now. The chatter is just too loud to ignore.
Capital One: South Carolina vs. Nebraska
Outback: Georgia vs. Michigan State
Cotton: Arkansas vs. Oklahoma
Chick-fil-A: Auburn vs. Virginia Tech
Gator: Florida vs. Penn State
Music City: Mississippi State vs. Virginia
Liberty: Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati
Changes in italics.
Mississippi State's athletics director tweeted today that he's pleased with where he thinks the Bulldogs will be, but he can't confirm it. I'm not sure precisely what to make of that -- is he pleased that the Bulldogs are going to the higher-profile game or pleased that Mississippi State will be going to a bowl closer to home? I'm guessing that he thinks the Dogs are going to Nashville, which when combined with the remarks from the Liberty Bowl chief is enough for me to change things around for now.
We'll find out for sure in a few hours.