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If The Season Ended Today – BCS Analysis and Bowl Picks

Now that the first BCS standings have been released, it’s time to start up one
of our (ok, my) favorite games around the office: If The Season Ended Today. We’re not PROJECTING the bowls; we’re treating the current poll like the final one, so you can get a better idea of how the bowl process works.

The Standings

1. LSU Tigers

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

3. Oklahoma Sooners

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys

5. Boise State Broncos

6. Wisconsin Badgers

7. Clemson Tigers

8. Stanford Cardinal

9. Arkansas Razorbacks

10. Oregon Ducks

11. Kansas State Wildcats

12. Virginia Tech Hokies

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers

14. South Carolina Gamecocks

15. West Virginia Mountaineers

16. Michigan State Spartans

17. Texas A&M Aggies

18. Michigan Wolverines

19. Houston Cougars

20. Auburn Tigers

21. Penn State Nittany Lions

22. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

23. Illinois Fighting Illini

24. Texas Longhorns

25. Washington Huskies

The Automatic Bids

Assume the highest-ranked team from each conference is its champion. Champions get automatic bids:

SEC: #1 LSU
Big Ten: #6 Wisconsin
ACC: #7 Clemson
Big 12: #3 Oklahoma
Pac-12: #8 Stanford
Big East: #15 West Virginia

Any non-champion team from an automatic qualifier conference (one of the six above) that finishes in the Top 4 gets an automatic bid: #4 Oklahoma State

Any champion from a non-automatic qualifier conference (Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt, MAC, WAC) that finishes in the Top 12 gets an automatic bid: #5 Boise State

Total automatic bids: nine (out of ten total spots)

The At-Large Berth(s)

– Teams in the eligibility window (Top 14)
include Arkansas, Oregon, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Nebraska and South
Carolina. However, the SEC and Big 12 would have already qualified two teams
each, so that leaves Arkansas, South Carolina and Kansas State on the outside
looking in. The remaining eligible teams are Oregon, Virginia Tech and Nebraska.
Only one can make it in, and which one depends on the bowl making the selection.

The Selection Process

– #1 LSU and #2 Alabama play for the national championship. This is where the fantasy
comes in, since there’s a slim chance that they would be ranked #1 and #2 at the
end of the season at the expense of the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State winner (see the
Ohio State/Michigan/Florida situation from 2006).

– Each conference champion with a BCS bowl tie-in slots to that game (Big Ten
and Pac-12 to Rose, SEC to Sugar, Big 12 to Fiesta and ACC to Orange). The Big
East champion floats as an at-large selection for any game. The at-large
selection order of BCS bowls for this season goes Fiesta, Sugar, Orange. However, any bowl who loses their champion to the National Championship Game gets a
replacement pick BEFORE the at-large selection order is followed.

Tentative BCS Games

Allstate BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio: Wisconsin vs. Stanford
Allstate Sugar Bowl: At-Large #1
(Replacement Pick) vs. At-Large #3
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. At-Large #2
Discover Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. At-Large #4

The Sugar Bowl would choose first from a
pool that includes three automatic berths (Oklahoma State, Boise State and West
Virginia) and three possible at-large choices (Oregon, Nebraska,
Virginia Tech). If the Sugar Bowl chooses one of the latter three, the other two
are no longer eligible for consideration; the remaining three spots would go to
the automatic teams. Since the current five-game format began in 2006-07, the Big Ten has
sent two teams to the BCS every year, so let’s guess that the Sugar Bowl chooses
Nebraska with the first at-large pick.

In the second slot, the Fiesta Bowl must choose between Oklahoma State, West
Virginia and Boise State to meet Oklahoma. They probably would not want to put
on a rematch of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (unless the first was an instant
classic), and the other two matchups offer rematches of recent Fiesta Bowls
(upsets of the Sooners by Boise State in 2007 and West Virginia in 2008). The
Fiesta Bowl has also selected Boise State once more since then (in 2010), so
let’s assume they choose Boise State again to put on a rematch of one of their
most famous games.

Now with their second at-large pick, the Sugar Bowl must choose between Oklahoma
State and West Virginia to meet Nebraska. With the Cornhuskers only one year
removed from the Big 12, a matchup with OSU might not be as appealing as one
with West Virginia, so the Sugar Bowl chooses the Mountaineers with their second
pick.

That sends Oklahoma State to the Orange Bowl to meet Clemson.

The Orlando Bowl Picture

The Capital One Bowl will have a full slate of options as the first post-BCS
selections in the SEC and Big Ten. The best available SEC team would be #8
Arkansas, with other options including #14 South Carolina and #20 Auburn. In the
Big Ten, the best available team is #16 Michigan State, followed by #18
Michigan, #21 Penn State and #23 Illinois.

If our Team Selection Committee chooses the best available teams by rank
(something that they have done historically), the Capital One Bowl matchup would
be Arkansas vs. Michigan State. However, several other factors (including
head-to-head wins, conference records and history in Orlando) could affect that
decision.

The Champs Sports Bowl picture is a little cloudier based on these standings.
With Virginia Tech just narrowly missing out on the BCS, they would be a likely
selection for the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. After the Hokies, the only other
ranked team is Georgia Tech, making them the best available to Orlando. Without
another ranked team, the Big East is wide open. Rutgers and Cincinnati,
currently both at 5-1, would be the best available team. In addition, Notre Dame
at 4-2 would be in the mix. The Champs Sports Bowl would then likely be Georgia
Tech vs. Rutgers, Cincinnati or Notre Dame.

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