BCS pairings hold, but lower-tier bowl projections full of shakeup
None of my projections for the major bowls have changed since Sunday. This update is an attempt to provide a more accurate picture of where many lower-level teams stand, though it's impossible to predict completely because bowls and conferences are actively involved in fluid discussions.
The NCAA granted UCLA a waiver to play in a bowl at 6-7 assuming it loses Friday's Pac-12 title game at Oregon. The Bruins will play in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas or the Kraft Fight Hunger in San Francisco.
It's looking more certain that 9-3 Penn State will slip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, the Big Ten's No. 6 bowl. Provided Michigan gets a BCS berth, the Capital One and Outback bowls will snatch Nebraska and the Big Ten title loser, while the Insight is keen on Iowa and the Gator has said publicly it wants to stage a Florida-Ohio State matchup (the Urban Bowl).
Of the Big Ten's three 6-6 teams, Purdue seems headed to the TicketCity Bowl and Northwestern to Detroit (I had it the other way on Sunday), while Illinois will fall to an at-large spot, most likely the New Orleans, Kraft Fight Hunger or Military bowls.
In an unusual arrangement, the Liberty Bowl, which normally has top choice of Conference USA teams, will instead get the Big East team that would have gone to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham because the SEC does not have an eligible team for that game. This stipulation went into effect last year but hasn't been used yet.
The Mountain West has an extra team, and Air Force's fate is causing a massive ripple effect. The school wants to fill Navy's spot in the Military Bowl, but that would require all four MWC bowls passing on the Falcons, and the Independence Bowl definitely wants them. If it takes them, the odd man out would be San Diego State, but it may find a nice landing spot in San Francisco.
The Little Caesars Bowl, which has second choice of MAC teams, would love to host home-state Western Michigan despite its 7-5 record. That would likely put Northern Illinois in Mobile and Ohio in Boise, with Toledo and Temple scrambling. Toledo would likely go to New Mexico. Temple might head back to D.C. for the second time in three seasons.
Western Kentucky, at 7-5, is campaigning vigorously for an at-large spot, but it would require a bowl passing on 8-4 FIU from the same conference.
As a reminder:
• After the No. 1 and 2 teams are slotted and replaced, 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."