Alabama, Oklahoma headline preseason bowl projections
In doing this year's preseason bowl projections, I found it interesting how much conference realignment played a factor.
With Nebraska joining the Big Ten, that conference now has six rabid fan bases -- the Huskers', Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa -- that any bowl would crave. At least some of those teams are bound to go 8-4 or 7-5 in a given year, which means a second-tier bowl like the Insight could land a marquee matchup like Texas-Penn State.
Meanwhile, with Boise State moving to the tougher Mountain West (and opening with Georgia), it's conceivable that no non-AQ team will finish undefeated this year, something that hasn't occurred since 2005. Perhaps a one-loss team will still finish ranked high enough (top 12, or top 16 if higher than the lowest-ranked BCS champ) to earn an at-large berth, but for now I'm not projecting a non-AQ team in a BCS bowl.
And whereas last year the Pac-10 only qualified four teams for bowl games, leaving a whole bunch of empty spots, this year's Pac-12 should have no trouble filling its seven berths, even with USC ineligible.
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.