Bowl Projections: Get ready for a lot of postseason MACtion
Two additional at-large spots opened up in my lineup this week after Tennessee lost its seventh game and San Jose State lost its sixth, with a likely seventh coming this weekend against Fresno State. Of all conferences, the MAC was a huge beneficiary. First and foremost, Northern Illinois moved into the projected BCS lineup after leapfrogging Fresno State, thus bumping all of the MAC's other teams up a rung. Secondly, that league has been proactive about securing backup deals with bowls, several of which figure to be open.
As a result, there are now SEVEN teams currently represented from that conference -- as many as any other league but the ACC, SEC and Pac-12.
Elsewhere, the Big 12 lineup looks completely different from last week following Oklahoma State's win over Baylor. If the Bears don't reach the BCS, they'll get snapped up by the Cotton Bowl, and the Alamo Bowl is sure to take Oklahoma if available, dropping Texas from the Cotton to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl ... off a bye week. But hey, it's Texas-Michigan.
The Las Vegas Bowl will be thrilled if undefeated Fresno State falls out of the BCS, particularly after Boise State's loss to San Diego State leaves the Mountain West with no team besides Fresno with fewer than four losses.
Finally, Tennessee's loss means no SEC team will be available for the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham. Pittsburgh, which reached six wins last weekend, might happen to be looking for a landing spot. So yes, I'm saying there's a chance at a Panthers-Birmingham fourpeat. (Though all parties will surely try to avoid it.)
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 geography, anticipated fan 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