Final Bowl Projections: Badgers bust BCS, slight hope for NIU
In the end, Wisconsin ended up being this year's BCS crasher. The 8-5 Badgers will be making their third consecutive trip to Pasadena after destroying Nebraska in Saturday's Big Ten title game, bringing the worst winning percentage of any Rose Bowl participant since 1928.
The rest of my projected BCS lineup remains the same. However, there is still the slight possibility that 12-1 Northern Illinois will move into the final top 16. If that happens, the Huskies would steal away Oklahoma's at-large berth and head to the Orange Bowl (Louisville would move to the Sugar Bowl).
Wisconsin's win shakes up the Big Ten's expected Florida bowl lineup. The Capital One Bowl had coveted Michigan, but neither that game nor the Outback Bowl can take the eight-win Wolverines over the 10-win Huskers. If the Capital One Bowl opts for 9-3 Northwestern to face 10-2 Texas A&M, Nebraska will fall to the Outback. That would likely send South Carolina plummeting to the Gator, because the Gamecocks faced the Huskers last year, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl is obligated to select South Carolina's rival, Clemson, from the ACC.
The lower half of the Big 12 pecking order is a bit muddy. I have the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl taking TCU, followed by the Holiday Bowl taking West Virginia, but some think the Mountaineers will fall to the Pinstripe Bowl. If that does happen, look for the New York bowl to take Pittsburgh from the Big East, reuniting rivals and sparing the 6-6 Panthers a third straight trip to Birmingham.
Other mysteries heading into Sunday:
• Will the Sun Bowl figure out a way to get out of taking 6-7 Georgia Tech for a second straight year? Contractually, the ACC title game loser can't fall below El Paso, but there have been conflicting reports as to whether the Sun Bowl can circumvent that.
• Where will the various MAC teams wind up? The Little Caesars Bowl has first choice but may pass on NIU for Kent State. The rest is a guess.
• Where the heck is Louisiana Tech going? The school reportedly turned down an offer from the in-state Independence Bowl. It must have something better lined up. The Liberty is a possibility.
• Will 7-5 Western Kentucky get snubbed for a second straight year? It's entirely possible. Pitt knocked the Hilltoppers out of my lineup Saturday.
As always, remember:
• 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 champion from a non-automatic qualifier is guaranteed a BCS berth if it finishes in the top 12 or in the top 16 and ahead of an AQ-conference 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." Bowls often pick a team with an inferior record due to geography, anticipated fan travel, the need to avoid a regular-season rematch, or just plain politics.