BCS Bowl Projections: Could Florida Face Boise State? Meanwhile, Florida Bowls Look to Avoid SEC Rematches

Brian Losness-US PRESSWIRE

Our final bowl projections have the Gators facing the Broncos and some creative moves as the non-BCS bowls to try and get the best match-ups

So there's no need for any of the caveats or saying that these projections are based on the standings as they are now. These are the final projections I get to make and are based entirely on the entirety of the season. The games are done, and these picks are as binding as any picks are. Here we go. Again, any team in italics is a team with an automatic bid to that game based on either conference or ranking.

BCS National Championship Game: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Louisville
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Boise State
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State vs. Oregon

The first thing we have to figure out is the pool of automatic and available teams. Florida is in. Enough humans will drop them that the computer preference will make up any difference and give the Gators the No. 3 spot in the polls, which guarantees them a bid. The Sugar has the only replacement pick of any bowl this year -- Notre Dame doesn't have a home bowl -- and takes Florida.

Louisville also gets in based on the outcome in the Big East.

But where the Cardinals go is based on whether one of the non-AQ teams can hit the magic No. 16. If a team can pass that threshold, it's going to a BCS bowl -- probably the Orange -- and bumping Louisville up to the Sugar Bowl. If not, the Cardinals are headed to the Orange Bowl instead.

Let's go ahead and cast a broad net, looking at what happened in the rankings between No. 12 and No. 21, where Northern Illinois was perched before it won the MAC Championship Game on Friday.

Rank Team Result
12 Nebraska Lost to Wisconsin, 70-31
13 Florida State Defeated Georgia Tech, 21-15
14 Clemson Idle
15 Oregon State Defeated Nicholls State, 77-3
16 UCLA Lost at Stanford, 27-24
17 Kent State Lost to NIU, 44-37
18 Texas Lost at Kansas State, 42-24
19 Michigan Idle
20 Boise State
Defeated Nevada, 27-21
21 Northern Illinois
Defeated Kent State

First things first: Nebraska is going to fall far. Very far. I would be slightly surprised if they remain in the Top 20. UCLA, Kent State and Texas are also on the way down. The problem for Boise State and Northern Illinois is that we still have a law of poll dynamics, which in this case dictates that Clemson and Michigan will move up as well. But the wild card probably comes back to Nebraska.

If Nebraska does indeed fall out of the Top 16, I think someone is going to get a ticket. I think the worst things could look like for those teams is this:

Rank Team
12 Florida State
13 Clemson
14 Oregon State
15 Michigan
16 Non-AQ

But if Nebraska stays in the Top 16, I think they're locked out. The problem here is simple math. Clemson is going to stay in the Top 16 and Michigan is probably on its way up. The Nebraska loss will drag on its computer rankings a little, but it will also get an indirect boost from the NIU win. (It's complicated.) So if Nebraska falls, say, four places instead of five, it makes a world of difference to the non-AQs.

Now, after we get through all that, we still have to answer which of these non-AQs is most likely to get that No. 16 ranking if they do. Here's where things get complicated. Last week, the human polls had Boise two and three spots ahead of NIU. The computers had NIU seven spots ahead of Boise. That disparity could very well grow with NIU defeating a team that the computers ranked 18th and Boise defeating a team the computers do not appear to have ranked in the Top 25. So it's a question of how close NIU can get to Boise in the human polls. If they can get close enough -- say, within a single place -- the Red and Black might be able to pass the Broncos.

In the Harris Poll, the only team between Boise State and NIU was Kent State, so consider that gap closed. The coaches already had NIU ahead of Kent State; they wedged UCLA and Oregon State between the two. That's a problem for NIU. UCLA will fall, but Oregon State won't. If I had to guess, my guess is that Boise State will just squeeze into the No. 16 spot. But it's going to be very, very close.

That gives the Fiesta an interesting choice to make. Boise has traveled well to its games in the past. But Oregon is out there and eligible. I think Oregon gets the nod to go to the big toaster oven.

I do not think the Sugar Bowl's choice is as clear as it was 72 hours ago. If it's NIU or Louisville, the Sugar goes with Louisville and that's that. But if it's Boise vs. Louisville -- well, that's a bird of a different feather. I think the Sugar could throw us all a curve ball and go Boise. Obviously, just move Louisville to the Sugar and NIU to the Orange if NIU makes it.

Now, I'll admit that this is sort of in that "bold prediction that could blow up" area. I'm way out on a limb here. So to account for the fact that I could be very, very wrong, here's what I think will happen if Boise and NIU don't make it.

BCS National Championship Game: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Louisville
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State vs. Oregon

Florida vs. Oklahoma? That's an easy choice. But only if the Sugar Bowl gets to make it.

As for the rest of the SEC. I'm pulling from a variety of sources here. I will try to cite them as best I can, but I will freely admit that I might miss one or two.

Capital One: Texas A&M vs. Nebraska
Cotton: LSU vs. Oklahoma
Outback: South Carolina vs. Northwestern
Chick-fil-A: Georgia vs. Clemson
Gator: Mississippi State vs. Michigan
Music City: Vanderbilt vs. Georgia Tech
Compass: Ole Miss vs. Pitt

The worst-kept secret in college football right now is that A&M is going to the Capital One Bowl. Who they'll play when they get there is a little more complicated. It has to be Nebraska or Northwestern under the B1G rules. But the Capital One supposedly wants Northwestern out of those two. Which is all well and good for the Cap One, but it's going to cause some problems for the Outback, as we'll see shortly.

Kirk Bohls is reporting that LSU is likely headed to the Cotton Bowl. But the Chick-fil-A also wants LSU, and doesn't really want Georgia. Glenn Guilbeau (I know, LSU fans) says the Outback wants South Carolina. So does Gamecock Central.

My guess is that the Chick-fil-A Bowl and Georgia are just out of luck. The Cotton Bowl gets the first pick out of the West and the Outback Bowl gets the first pick out of the East, so if that's the way those bowls want it to go, that's how it will go.

There's a ton of problems that the SEC selections cause on the B1G side of things. Northwestern is a rematch from last year's bowl for Texas A&M, but Nebraska bombed in Orlando last year and in the B1G Championship Game on Saturday. Nebraska is a rematch for South Carolina, but the Outback can't take Michigan if the Cap One takes Northwestern. Michigan played Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl a couple years ago -- but there's literally no other team that can move ahead of the Wolverines under conference rules.

But Jerry Palm -- who's very good at this -- has switched things around since the Detroit News last looked at things, and I think I agree with his take. Northwestern will end up going to the Capital One Bowl anyway, the Outback will take Northwestern and there is no solution for the Gator. Sorry, guys.

The Mississippi State / Vanderbilt / Ole Miss bit comes from Mark Schlabach. If it weren't from one of the reporters that I trust on things like this, I would have projected it differently, because I think the SEC would like Vanderbilt to go to the Gator. Ole Miss goes to the Compass instead of the Liberty under this provision of the SEC bowl rules [PDF]:

The AutoZone Liberty and BBVA Compass Bowls share the eighth and ninth selections and will make their selections, not in any specific order, but in consultation with the SEC Office.

The Compass Bowl didn't get an SEC team last year based on a maze of bowl rules and interlocking contracts, so it makes sense that the SEC office would want to throw them a bone by giving them an SEC team this year. And one that will probably travel pretty well.

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