Stewart Mandel: Final bowl projections consider both BCS title-game scenarios - Sports Illustrated

Final bowl projections consider both BCS title-game scenarios

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We head into Sunday night's selection show with two huge mysteries hovering over the BCS. First and foremost, will Alabama hold off Oklahoma State for the No. 2 spot in the national title game? I've done BCS projections below for both scenarios.

The other big question involves ... TCU. With Southern Miss' unexpected rout of Houston, a BCS at-large spot is up for grabs. If the Mountain West champion Horned Frogs, 18th in last week's BCS standings, move up two spots to 16th, they are guaranteed a berth, most likely to the Orange Bowl. If they don't, expect the Sugar Bowl to select 10-2 Kansas State to go up against Michigan. My projections do not include TCU; however, I will revise them if it becomes apparent Sunday that the Frogs are going to finish in the Top 16.

As for the other bowls, I'm fairly confident about the pecking order for all six BCS conferences (with some possible fluctuation among Big 12 teams). The two I feel least confident about: The Mountain West and Conference USA. Until we know where Air Force ends up (either the Independence or Military bowls), it's impossible to say where Wyoming and San Diego State will wind up. Meanwhile, C-USA's lineup went up in smoke without the BCS bid. Houston and Southern Miss could end up in Hawaii and TicketCity, but I'm not sure which will be which. Also, Toledo and Temple will wind up in at-large spots somewhere, but mine are admittedly guesses.

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."

Teams in bold have accepted an invitation. * 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). *** The Liberty Bowl and BBVA Compass Bowl swap their Big East and Conference USA picks.