Bowl projections: Still selecting the old-school way
In 2014, the bowl process features many more fair elements than the stodgy, 2013 version.
No longer will a conference be restricted from sending more than two teams to the upper-deck bowl games. The mid-level bowls can request teams, but most of the conferences (well, at least the SEC and Big Ten) will make the final decisions. Tradition and attendance will have less of an impact on selections than it does right now.
But this here's 2013 where the bowls get their last crack at certain squads before the new alignments kick in. Next year, the Big Ten might shift Nebraska west to avoid three consecutive seasons in Florida. But in 2013, the Outback Bowl might like those 20,000 red-colored fans. In 2014, Wisconsin might not snag an the equivalent of a BCS bowl berth. But in 2013, it's possible.
Starting from the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (which picks after the Outback this year) on down, there are plenty of Big Ten teams that could end up in the same pot. In today's world that means fan bases and television viewers win the day. It's also where 6-6 jumps 7-5. That's what will happen this year.
As for the BCS bowls, if Alabama is unbeaten, it's headed to the title game. If Oregon wins out, I think the Ducks join the Tide. Among the at-large squads, I think either Texas A&M or Missouri takes the SEC's Sugar Bowl slot, while Stanford edges UCLA to replace Oregon in the Rose Bowl. As for the other two, three conferences are in play. Right now, the ACC's Clemson is a strong contender. Either Wisconsin or the Big 12 runner-up takes the other, unless the highest-ranked non-qualifier (Northern Illinois again?) leaps ahead of the top automatic-qualifying conference champion in the final BCS standings.
All of this becomes both more interesting and unpredictable next year when the top bowl selections are in the hands of a committee. Until then, it's the old boys club.
BCS CHAMPIONSHIP -- Alabama vs. Oregon
ROSE -- Ohio State vs. Stanford
ORANGE -- Florida State vs. Wisconsin
SUGAR -- Texas A&M vs. Clemson
FIESTA -- Baylor vs. Louisville
CAPITAL ONE -- Missouri vs. Michigan State
OUTBACK -- Georgia vs. Nebraska
BUFFALO WILD WINGS -- Texas Tech vs. Michigan
GATOR -- South Carolina vs. Iowa
TEXAS -- Kansas State vs. Northwestern
HEART OF DALLAS -- Rice vs. Indiana
LITTLE CAESAR'S -- Bowling Green vs. Minnesota
COTTON -- Auburn vs. Oklahoma State
PEACH -- Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech
MUSIC CITY -- LSU vs. Georgia Tech
LIBERTY -- Ole Miss vs. Tulane
COMPASS -- Florida vs. Houston
INDEPENDENCE -- Vanderbilt vs. Pittsburgh
ALAMO -- Oklahoma vs. UCLA
HOLIDAY -- Texas vs. USC
PINSTRIPE -- West Virginia vs. Rutgers
SUN -- Maryland vs. Arizona State
LAS VEGAS -- Fresno State vs. Arizona
KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER -- BYU vs. Washington
RUSSELL ATHLETIC -- Central Florida vs. Miami
BELK -- Cincinnati vs. Wake Forest
HAWAII -- Boise State vs. Notre Dame (replaces Conference USA)
NEW MEXICO -- Nevada vs. Utah
MILITARY -- Marshall vs. Boston College
BEEF O'BRADY'S -- East Carolina vs. Duke (replaces American)
POINSETTIA -- San Diego State vs. Oregon State (replaces Army)
NEW ORLEANS -- North Texas vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
GODADDY -- Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois
POTATO -- Wyoming vs. Ball State