The bowl picture is always fluid, and college football is more unpredictable than ever before. It’s also more difficult to project which teams will qualify for what bowl.
But projections are fun and here’s an early look at the bowl picture if the college football season ended today (Oct. 12):
BCS Championship: Penn State vs. Florida. If Penn State goes unbeaten, count on the Nittany Lions making it. Florida, despite the upset to Ole Miss, is the SEC’s best team.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC. This one would be much closer than the first meeting in September.
Fiesta Bowl: Missouri vs. Brigham Young. Missouri will rebound to win the Big 12 title. BYU will finish the Mountain West season unbeaten.
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Texas. The Crimson Tide could make the BCS title game if they can win the SEC title. Texas would go here based on a Big 12 title game loss.
Orange Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh. It’s a shame the Big East is an automatic qualifier; Boise State (or 15 other teams) is a better fit. Wake Forest is an amazing program.
NEW YEAR’S DAY(S) BOWLS
Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia. Michigan State might have the nation’s best player. Georgia could make the BCS if it beats Florida.
Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina. If Iowa finishes the season 4-1, count on a New Year’s Day Bowl (if it beats Minnesota). South Carolina is one of many decent — but not great — SEC teams. SEC teams get great bowl games.
Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. LSU. Could be THE marquee bowl match-up.
Gator Bowl: Florida State vs. Notre Dame. Neither program deserves this bowl, but people will watch. Notre Dame claims the Big East’s second spot based on reputation. Expect an uproar.
Liberty Bowl: Tulsa vs. Ole Miss. Yes, this one moved into Jan. 2. This bowl has tradition, unlike the teams competing in it — at least for the last 35 years.
BIG TEN/SECOND-TIER/BIG 12 BOWLS
Alamo Bowl: Minnesota vs. Kansas. The Gophers could move up to New Year’s Day bowl territory with a strong finish and a win over Iowa. Kansas is the victim of too many strong Big 12 teams.
Champs Bowl: Northwestern vs. Virginia Tech. Northwestern is a decent team that took advantage of Iowa’s turnovers. Virginia Tech is a solid ACC team.
Insight Bowl: Illinois vs. Nebraska. Illinois can’t figure out if it’s a good or marginal Big Ten team. Ditto for the rebuilding Cornhuskers. (Note: If Iowa loses to Illinois, count on this match-up for the Hawkeyes)
Motor City Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Ball State. Wisconsin’s players get watches and iPods. Ball State might not have its coach by this game.
Chick-fil-A (I still call it the Peach) Bowl: Auburn vs. Georgia Tech. After the first couple of SEC teams, the rest are fairly mediocre, like Auburn. It’s basically a home game for Georgia Tech.
Sun Bowl: Texas Tech vs. California. This could be a real, real good game. Hopefully the smog from Ciudad Juarez subsides for an afternoon.
Holiday Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon State. No bowl game per capita has wilder finishes than this one.
Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Arizona. Utah is better than Pittsburgh, too. Arizona plays in Iowa City next year.
Independence Bowl: Kansas State vs. Kentucky. Nobody really wants to go here; they just end up here.
Texas Bowl: Colorado vs. TCU. Colorado is back on the right track. I wonder if TCU ever gets tired of playing in this game.
Music City Bowl: Clemson vs. Vanderbilt. Clemson again underachieves. Vanderbilt overachieves. Classic match-up.
Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. UTEP. It makes sense for a military academy to play a Texas-based school in a Texas bowl game.
Humanitarian Bowl: Boise State vs. Duke. If this game was played in the summer, it would be a destination. In December, it’s a detour. (By the way, Boise State is better than Pittsburgh)
Meineke Bowl: North Carolina vs. West Virginia. Hmmm, actually worth watching.
Emerald Bowl: Boston College vs. Stanford. Good to keep a Bay Area team in a Bay Area bowl.
Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Oregon. Decent match-up, but I’ve never figured out why this bowl couldn’t pit the WAC champ vs. the MWC champ. Who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii in December?
Papa John’s: South Florida vs. Troy. Troy replaces an SEC team. Nothing else to write about here.
Poinsettia: San Jose State vs. Colorado State: San Jose State replaces a Pac-10 team. OK, let’s move on.
International Bowl: Connecticut vs. Western Michigan. A good match-up, but not worth blowing points with the wife after you’ve watched 15 other bowls.
GMAC Bowl: Central Michigan vs. East Carolina. Remember when East Carolina was going to a BCS bowl? Me neither.
New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Houston. Arkansas State plays in Iowa City next year.
New Mexico Bowl: UNLV vs. New Mexico State. We might as well have an Alaska Bowl.
Congressional Bowl: Maryland vs. Navy. Good local match-up. Does a bailout come separately?
St. Petersburg Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Marshall. I hope the players enjoy their gifts.