If the season ended today, the BCS would still put Alabama and Kansas State in the national title game. But after that, things would get a little trickier
The third edition of the BCS standings doesn't change too terribly much in terms of the BCS National Championship Game in our projections so far, but every little shuffle sparks changes lower down the selection order. The Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar are now totally different and with 100 percent less Lane Kiffin.
Remember, this is an attempt to project how the bowls would end up if the season ended today; other than assuming that the highest-ranked team will win its conference and/or division, we try to keep everything else as is. Teams that have an automatic bid to a certain game are italicized.
BCS National Championship Game: Alabama vs. Kansas State
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Stanford
Orange: Florida State vs. Louisville
Rose: Oregon vs. Nebraska
Sugar: Notre Dame vs. Georgia
I think that two bowls have some interesting decisions to make unless the standings go through a major shakeup between now and the end of the season. The exceptions are the Rose Bowl, with its senior citizen fan base demanding B1G vs. Pac-12, and the Orange Bowl, which goes last in the at-large selection process and so will be stuck with the Big East Champion.
The first interesting pick would fall to the Sugar, given that Alabama would go to the BCS National Championship as the No. 1 team. Taking Notre Dame might be a little bit of a gamble for the New Orleans bowl -- they're the traditional home of SEC teams, and grabbing the Irish could end up sending an SEC team to the desert. But the Sugar could also calculate, and I think correctly, that the Fiesta will instead take its replacement pick and first at-large selection to set up two fan bases that are familiar with the bowl and still make a great match-up. There might be some concerns about Stanford making the same trip twice in a row, but I don't think they would be enough to keep the Cardinal out.
Then the choice moves back to the Sugar, which quickly removes Louisville from its choices and looks at the remaining SEC teams eligible to be at-large. Going into the SEC Championship Game, my guess is they run in this order: Georgia, Florida, LSU, South Carolina. The question is how badly Georgia gets beaten in Atlanta. If it's a close loss, the Dawgs are probably an easy choice for the Sugar. If it's not so close, then things get more intriguing. Florida, a re-energized fan base? LSU, the de facto home team? South Carolina, a Cinderella to take on Notre Dame and a passionate fan base that generally travels pretty well?
For now, we'll go with UGA. But if things get ugly in Atlanta, the Sugar Bowl might be a game worth watching. While the Orange takes Louisville and hopes to beat the NCIS rerun that's on CBS that night.
That kicks LSU, Florida and South Carolina down to the ranks of the other SEC bowls, which are more than happy to welcome likely Top 10 commodities to their stadiums. How does that fall?
Capital One: Florida
Outback: South Carolina
Chick-fil-A: Texas A&M
Gator: Mississippi State
Music City: Tennessee
Liberty: Ole Miss
BBVA Compass: Vanderbilt
Independence: None eligible
The guess here is that Vanderbilt defeats Kentucky and Wake Forest -- neither improbable victories -- but loses at Ole Miss, putting both of them in bowls. I'm still leaning toward Tennessee over Missouri in their game, which is likely to decide the final bowl spot for the SEC, but the Vols will probably get the Music City over the Rebels and Commodores.
I also moved LSU into the Cotton Bowl ahead of Texas A&M, because I think the Capital One is more likely to take Florida if they're available -- I've had them in the Sugar Bowl until now -- and the Cotton would take a Top 10 LSU team over TAMU. The Outback might take Texas A&M over South Carolina, because you can never count the Outback out of doing anything ridiculous, but we'll use common sense and the traditional SEC East factor for the moment.