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BCS Bowl Projections: The Championship Game Almost Everyone Wants; Auburn Goes to the Sugar

The standings might not change that much, but even small changes can alter who goes to which bowl games, and in fact who goes to the BCS at all

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Our evolving BCS bowl projections get a little more shaken up than the standings themselves this week, largely because small changes in the standings can produce pretty dramatic changes in the final bowl lineups. (That's one of the reasons I like doing things this way.) Of the 10 teams that go to the five bowls, three stayed in the same place this week.

One change I did make: While I'm still largely staying with the idea of using the highest-ranked team as the conference champion, I understand how dicey it is to do that with UCF and Louisville right now. (Largely because the human voters are being stupid about this.) But I still think it's a bit early to assume that UCF won't get upset somewhere along the way. So I'm going to go with either-or right now until things shake out.

BCS National Championship Game: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Oregon Ducks
Sugar Bowl: Auburn Tigers vs. Louisville Cardinals / Central Florida Knights
Rose Bowl: Stanford Cardinal vs. Ohio St. Buckeyes
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor Bears vs. Fresno St. Bulldogs
Orange Bowl: Florida St. Seminoles vs. Oklahoma Sooners

There are some good games here. The BCS National Championship Game is the game that most of us want to see, and a truly back Florida State against a truly back Oklahoma -- neither of which is certain at this point -- would be a game with some historical resonance. And Stanford vs. Ohio State could be interesting. As for the other two bowls -- I have a hard time seeing either Louisville or Central Florida give Auburn much of a game this year, but it's hard to tell what might happen when a team that lacking in big-game experience goes under the big-game lights.

As for the Fiesta Bowl -- RIP Fresno State. The Bulldogs are 90th in total defense and 81st in scoring defense; their rushing defense is okay and their passing efficiency defense in mediocre, but there's also a difference between playing Rutgers, Cal Poly and Hawaii and playing Baylor. Victory for Fresno State in that game might be losing by less than 28 points.

How do we get there? The Sugar Bowl gets the first replacement pick for Alabama and, in a switch from last week, decide to go with Auburn. My theory goes something like this: If we assume for a moment that Missouri wins the SEC East (under our policies) and loses to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, you will have a team that in the space of a bit more than a month went from a national title contender to an 11-2 at-large possibility. Auburn, meanwhile, might have lost to Alabama, but after the rolling explosion that was the end of the Gene Chizik Era, Auburn fans would be ecstatic to get a big-ticket bowl bid. I think they're seen as more of a proven commodity than Mizzou in terms of traveling, so they go to the Sugar. The Rose Bowl, of course, takes Stanford to fill in for Oregon, because we wouldn't want anything other than a B1G/Pac-12 contest in that game, would we?

The Orange Bowl gets Florida State "back" from the national championship game and gets the first pick of the at-large teams, with very few option. They're not going to take Miami (FL) or Clemson because of the rematch scenario. Missouri, Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina are out. And Baylor's headed to the Fiesta Bowl as the Big 12 champion. So the only options the Orange really has are Oklahoma, Louisville or Central Florida and Fresno State -- which just got to No. 16 this week and is ahead of both Louisville and UCF. Easy choice, right?

Things go back to the Sugar Bowl, which would prefer not to bank on Fresno State fans making the cross-country trek to New Orleans, so they somewhat reluctantly select the American Athletic Champion. That puts the Bulldogs in the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor over the strong objections of the Humane Society.

But all that could change next week. Even if the standings don't change very much at all.