Oregon goes down, shakes up bowl projections
Former No. 2 Oregon took its first loss of the season, and shuffled the bowl projections around
First and foremost, it puts Florida State in control of its own destiny for the BCS title. It also opens the door for Clemson to take the Seminoles spot in the Orange Bowl.
Clemson's opponent had been projected to be Wisconsin, but now, Oregon fills that spot. Miami is about as far as the Ducks can travel and still be in the United States, but they figures to still be highly rated if they win out, and that matchup would be too juicy to resist.
South Carolina is still projected as the highest rated team in the SEC, the only one with fewer than three losses, and the only BCS eligible choice for the Sugar to replace Alabama. Note that if there is any other option, the Sugar will jump on it because they can avoid a regular season rematch in its game without having to take Fresno State. It is possible one or more of the three-loss teams could still qualify, especially if Missouri's third loss comes to Alabama in the SEC title game.
Baylor is the new choice to win the Big 12 after they throttled Oklahoma on Thursday. They get matched up with Fresno State, the projected automatic qualifier. The Bulldogs need to be the highest rated champion of a non-AQ conference and in the top 12 or in the top 16 and ahead of one of the AQ conference champions. If the season ended today, Fresno would be qualified because it is ahead of every team in the American conference.
One thing to keep in mind about bowl projections in general is that conference standings don't always dictate selections. When you see a conference and a number next to a bowl, like ACC No. 4 for the Sun Bowl, that is fourth choice, not fourth place. Rules vary from conference to conference, but merit is not a huge consideration in most cases. A team can get passed over by a bowl for another team from its conference that it finished ahead of in the standings or even a team that it beat head to head. It happens every year. For instance, it's very common for BCS bowls to pass up teams that lost its conference championship games for a team that was a little less successful in the regular season. Bowls have some flexibility to create matchups that are best for them. BCS bowls less so, but there is still some there.
If we had a playoff this year:
This section of the blog describes what things might look like if the new playoff system were in effect this year. It's different than the regular bowl projections in that it is based on current data. Beginning next year, a selection committee will not only select and seed a playoff, but also put together matchups for the other four bowls in the playoff rotation. The five major conference champions are all automatically placed in one of those six bowls. The American conference is not part of that group. The highest rated team from outside those leagues (as determined by the selection committee) is also guaranteed a spot.
If a playoff started today, it would probably look like this:
Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs No. 4 Baylor
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs No. 3 Ohio State
Cotton Bowl: Oregon vs Missouri
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs Oklahoma State
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford vs Texas A&M
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Auburn vs UCF
Note that I have UCF instead of either Fresno State or Northern Illinois, both of which are higher ranked in the current BCS. That's the kind of strength of schedule selection I expect the committee to try to make. Obviously, we won't know until they make one.
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