Projecting all 35 bowl matchups
In compiling this year's preseason edition of bowl projections, I wound up with exactly 70 eligible teams for 70 spots. That's doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room. Could we be looking at our first 5-7 bowl team? We've already got one ineligible team (USC) and, with all the NCAA activity right now, who knows whether more will follow.
Speaking of, the hardest team to place was North Carolina. If you'd asked me two months ago, I would have predicted that the Tar Heels would win nine or 10 games and play in one of the ACC's top bowls. But with half the starting lineup reportedly under investigation for potential academic fraud, things aren't looking promising. I projected them as a 6-6 team.
Remember, bowls are NOT obligated to choose their teams in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "ACC No. 3" means "third choice of ACC teams" -- not "the ACC's third-place team." In certain instances, a team was moved higher or lower to avoid a regular-season rematch or repeat trip to the same bowl. Also, while most conferences have a defined selection order, others (Conference USA, WAC) work more flexibly with their bowl partners.
Also, this year only, if the Rose Bowl loses either the Big Ten or Pac-10 champ, it must select the highest-ranked non-AQ champion if eligible. Hence how Boise State came to replace Ohio State in my lineup.
* At-large replacement for a conference without enough eligible teams