Bowl Projections: USC's upset creates Pac-12 chain reaction
Most would agree the Pac-12 is, at worst, the second-best conference this season. But USC's upset of Stanford likely cost the league a second BCS berth, since the Fiesta Bowl is not an option this year. That pushes all of the Pac-12's other teams down a rung and could leave two or more eligible teams without a guaranteed spot. They could land anywhere from Dallas to Detroit to Shreveport.
(NOTE: A previous version of this column included the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego as an option, but that game has a secondary agreement with the MAC. The table has been updated accordingly.)
Elsewhere, my dream of a Northern Illinois-Notre Dame Pizza Bowl is likely no more -- the Fighting Irish have a lot of fans in New York and the Big 12 will not be able to fill its spot in the Pinstripe Bowl. Also, two unforeseen subplots emerged after I was done moving around this week's pieces. The Chick-fil-A Bowl could become the Steve Spurrier Bowl by pitting Duke against South Carolina, while the Outback Bowl could reunite old Big 8 rivals Nebraska and Missouri in a Big Ten-SEC matchup.
By the way, I'm currently projecting 76 eligible teams for 70 spots. The MAC and Sun Belt will each likely have multiple teams left out.
A quick refresher on how all this works:
• After the No. 1 and 2 teams are slotted and replaced, the BCS at-large selection order this year is: 1) Orange, 2) Sugar and 3) Fiesta, The highest-ranked champion from a non-automatic qualifier is guaranteed a BCS berth if it finishes in the top 12, or in the top 16 and ahead of an AQ-conference champion.
• Most bowls are not obligated -- I repeat, NOT OBLIGATED -- to choose in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "Big 12 No. 3" means "third selection of Big 12 teams," not "the Big 12's third-place team." Bowls often pick a team with an inferior record due to its location, the propensity of its fans to travel, the need to avoid a regular-season rematch or good old backroom politicking.
Teams in bold have accepted a bid.
* -- Replacement team for a conference without an eligible team