The bowl picture still is completely fuzzy with about a month left to the regular season. However, conference assessments are more clear at this time.
BIG 12 — The league boasts five of the best 15 teams in the country. But can any of those teams survive bowl season with worse defenses than the Maginot Line?
BIG TEN — The league isn’t as bad as the world/ESPN thinks. As long as Minnesota doesn’t get into the Rose Bowl or Capital One Bowl, it will be competitive against everyone in the bowls.
SEC — Nobody dismisses the league’s overall richness, but outside of Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia, it’s not nearly as good as it was last year. The SEC might get brought to Earth in early January (outside of those four).
PAC 10— Outside of USC, this league has a reputation of solid teams (see Arizona State, Oregon, California last year) nosediving at the end.
BIG EAST — Maybe this league isn’t so bad after all. Or it could be worse.
ACC— The most unpredictable league of them all. One week it’s Wake Forest. The next it’s Florida State. Who knows who’s going to be there in December.
Four of the remaining conferences have at least one solid team. Ball State (MAC), Tulsa (C-USA) and Boise State (WAC) all could run the table. The Mountain West has three teams (Utah, TCU and BYU) who could play in the BCS. For the sake of good bowling, why don’t these teams have a mini-playoff with their champions and the winner gets a BCS bowl berth? At least get the Mountain West and WAC champs together for a bowl game in, say, Denver?
Here’s a look at the next round of bowl projections, starting with the BCS:
BCS Championship: Penn State vs. Texas. If Texas can beat Texas Tech this weekend, write it in ink. Penn State still has a pair of tough games at Iowa and at home against Michigan State.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC. Could Ohio State make this one closer than in September?
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Boise State. Nothing in this world is certain quite like death, taxes and Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Will there be any more proposals?
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. West Virginia. Hmmm … on paper a mismatch, but West Virginia has derailed Georgia and Oklahoma in big bowls in recent years.
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Alabama. You wonder what kind of homecoming would await Alabama Coach Nick Saban in Miami.
NEW YEAR’S DAY(S) BOWLS
Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia. It could change this weekend if Georgia beats Florida and Wisconsin upsets Michigan State. Both are possible.
Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina. If Iowa beats Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota, this is a likely bet (if Minnesota loses one of its other three games).
Cotton Bowl: Texas Tech vs. LSU. Makes sense to have the last Southwest Conference champion play in the final Cotton Bowl at the Cotton Bowl.
Gator Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Notre Dame. Wouldn’t it be a great ending if a smallish walk-on enters the game on defense and gets a sack on the game’s final play? Hasn’t that happened before involving these teams?
Liberty Bowl: Tulsa vs. Ole Miss. I remember when this bowl mattered, like when Bear Bryant won his coaching finale against Illinois.
BIG TEN/SECOND-TIER/BIG 12 BOWLS
Alamo Bowl: Minnesota vs. Nebraska. If the Gophers beat Iowa, the Hawkeyes could return here. Otherwise, couldn’t the Gophers and Huskers meet in the middle, say Ames? I don’t think there will be any football practice going on there in late December.
Champs Bowl: Illinois vs. Miami. Could be a strong recruiting bowl for Illinois. There’s no place like Florida for the Juice.
Insight Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oklahoma State. Annually one good team falls from New Year’s Day possibility to a bowl beneath their season. Oklahoma State could be this year’s victim. Wisconsin’s fans were getting tired of Florida anyway.
Motor City Bowl: Northwestern vs. Ball State. Injuries will cripple Northwestern in November. Ball State’s Brady Hoke might have another job by this game.
Chick-fil-A (I still call it the Peach) Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. North Carolina. Good regional matchup in the Deep South.
Sun Bowl: Kansas vs. California. A lot of offense in the revolving sponsorship Sun Bowl.
Holiday Bowl: Missouri vs. Oregon. There might be better QB play in this game than there’s been by several visitors (Oakland, Kansas City) in that stadium this year. Wouldn’t a BYU-Missouri matchup be much better?
Las Vegas Bowl:TCU vs. Arizona. I wonder how many casinos have tried to sponsor this bowl in the past?
Independence Bowl: Kansas State vs. Kentucky. This could be a Sun Belt team if K-State can’t win two more games this year.
Texas Bowl: Colorado vs. Rice. Rice gets to play a home game at the big stadium. Colorado is just happy to be here.
Music City Bowl: Virginia vs. Auburn. Virginia is the epitome of unpredictability. Auburn has become an SEC also-ran.
Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. Marshall. Great name for a bowl game, especially if you’re Air Force.
Humanitarian Bowl: San Jose State vs. Virginia Tech. There’s nothing humanitarian about playing in Boise in December except the swag.
Meineke Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh. Will this be the year that someone makes Jim Grobe an offer he can’t refuse?
Emerald Bowl: Boston College vs. Stanford. Two of the great college moments of the 1980s involved these teams. Bring out the band and Doug Flutie.
Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. South Florida. It’s kind of unfair these warm-weather teams get to play in Hawaii when there’s plenty of hard-working teams with plenty of fans from the Midwest interested in going bowling here.
Papa John’s: Louisville vs. Troy. My guess is that there’s pizza in the press box after the game.
Poinsettia: BYU vs. Oregon State: BYU had some great moments in this stadium before. Tell me why they can’t go to the Holiday Bowl again?
International Bowl: Connecticut vs. Western Michigan. Nobody will raise the roof during this game.
GMAC Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Memphis. Maybe it was Memphis, maybe it was a Southern summer night. Maybe it was you, maybe it was me, but it sure felt right.
New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Houston. The real question is whether the Red Wolves will stay in the Red Roof Inn.
New Mexico Bowl: Utah vs. Fresno State. Utah could go from the BCS to New Mexico with one loss. Actually an intriguing matchup.
Congressional Bowl: Maryland vs. Navy. Loser must rescue unelected politicians in the Potomac River via raft.
St. Petersburg Bowl: Cincinnati vs. East Carolina. Will B.J. Upton conduct the coin flip?