LSU-'Bama play for the title, Hokies reach BCS in new bowl projections
It's still unclear what will become of scandal-stigmatized Penn State, which is now assured of finishing no worse than 9-3. If it beats Wisconsin this week and reaches the Big Ten title game it can fall no lower than the Insight Bowl. And the Capital One Bowl cannot pass up the Nittany Lions for a team with two fewer wins or two more losses. But I'm not projecting either of those scenarios, and I would not put it past the Gator Bowl to take 6-6 Ohio State over the Nittany Lions, which leaves Penn State slipping to the Meineke Bowl of Texas' sixth pick.
Miami's decision to remove itself from bowl consideration did not impact my ACC lineup, because NC State also became a surprise entrant with its upset of Clemson. If the Tigers lose to South Carolina and lose in the conference championship game, they could fall as low as the Sun Bowl (the No. 4 ACC bowl), because the Chick-fil-A Bowl is almost certainly going to host Auburn, which Clemson played this season and faces again in next year's Atlanta opener. Florida State is a shoo-in for the Champs Sports Bowl at No. 3.
The Big Ten may have 10 eligible teams for eight spots. Michigan grabbing a second BCS berth accounts for one of the extras, but one of Purdue, Northwestern or Illinois will be left out. Even if the Illini snap a five-game losing streak this week and finish 7-5, my guess is they'll be the ones left out.
A few reminders:
• After the No. 1 and 2 teams are slotted and placed, the BCS at-large selection order this year is 1) Fiesta, 2) Sugar and 3) Orange. The highest-ranked non-automatic qualifier (in this projection Houston) is guaranteed a BCS berth if it finishes in the Top 12 or in the Top 16 and ahead of the Big East 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."
• I'm currently projecting four surplus eligible teams, including one from the Big East (Syracuse).
* -- replacement team for a conference without an eligible team.
** -- the Champs Sports Bowl can pick Notre Dame instead of a Big East team once in the current four-year period (2010-13).