So, for the second week in a row, we kind of have to start all over with our bowl projections. Preview of the second half of our exercise: Christmas and New Year's are going to be kind to the SEC's second-tier bowls this year, but the third-tiers are getting nothing but coal.
First, though, the BCS bowls. 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 (or any significant remaining games), we try to keep everything else as is. Teams that have an automatic bid to a certain game are italicized.
BCS National Championship Game: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Fiesta: Kansas State vs. Stanford
Orange: Florida State vs. Louisville
Rose: Oregon vs. Nebraska
Sugar: Florida vs.Oklahoma
Once again, things look completely different than they did last week. Let me explain.
The BCS National Championship Game is self-explanatory. The first replacement pick goes to the Sugar Bowl, and I can almost hear some Georgia fans grumbling from here, so to lay it out: I'm projecting that Georgia loses to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, which is the only way this entire exercise keeps from going into the theater of the absurd. That's in keeping with our ground rules. That means if Florida beats FSU -- again, in keeping with our ground rules -- they will almost certainly stay at least No. 4 and likely move to No. 3. Either would trigger this BCS contract clause for the No. 3 team or a similar No. 4 team:
If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 4 [AQ, BCS buster, Notre Dame], and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 3 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier, provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game.
If I'm reading this correctly, Alabama is an automatic team and therefore not an at-large team in the BCS title game. So Florida has to get in if it beats FSU and Alabama beats Georgia. If Florida loses, Oregon and Kansas State stand in the way of LSU or Stanford getting into the No. 3 or No. 4 spots, and I think the Sugar Bowl takes a look at Georgia. If Georgia wins the SEC Championship Game, they're going to the national championship game and all of this is immaterial.
The Fiesta then gets its at-large pick, having regained Kansas State through the Big 12 Championship, and pairs Stanford with the Wildcats. The Sugar Bowl has a tough choice: Oklahoma or Clemson. I'm going with Oklahoma here for a couple of the reasons, the main one being that the Sooners have more marketability. But if Clemson beats South Carolina this week, it's going to be very, very hard for the Sugar Bowl not to take the Tigers instead.
And, of course, the Orange Bowl gets stuck with Louisville. Two more years, Orange Bowl.
So, back to the SEC bowl scenarios and the ripple effects from the BCS shakeup. Which are slight.
Capital One: Georgia
Cotton: Texas A&M
Chick-fil-A: South Carolina
Gator: Mississippi State
Music City: Vanderbilt
Liberty: None eligible
BBVA Compass: None eligible
Independence: None eligible
The Capital One Bowl happily takes Georgia, perhaps more happily than Georgia is selected. The Cotton Bowl sticks with Texas A&M. I think the Outback Bowl does its thing and selects LSU ahead of South Carolina to "circulate the inventory" and, in fairness, get what is likely the better team. Vanderbilt is all the way up to the Music City Bowl by their own success and the attrition of others. I don't see Missouri beating Texas A&M or Ole Miss winning the Egg Bowl -- though the latter is more likely than the former -- so the last three spots go to teams from other conferences.