Friday, December 5, 2008

Bowl predictions: Wolfpack to Detroit?

Louisville's loss on Thursday night all but guaranteed N.C. State an at-large bowl bid. The question remains where will the Wolfpack go bowling?

The definitive answer won't be decided until Sunday.

Rutgers eliminated Louisville from the at-large bowl pool with the 63-14 win, leaving the Wolfpack and Notre Dame as the only unaffiliated BCS teams with a 6-6 record.

Given two teams each from the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten are selected for the BCS bowls, there will be at least three open at-large bowl bids (Independence, Motor City and Texas) and potentially as many as five ( and/or Hawaii).

Arizona State (5-6) can join the Pack and Irish with a win over rival Arizona on Saturday but there would still be enough bowl bids to go around for the Pack, Irish and Sun Devils.

The winner of the Arizona State-Arizona game will go to the Las Vegas Bowl. If Arizona State wins, Arizona will go to the Hawaii Bowl. If Arizona wins, the Sun Devils are 5-7.

Louisville (5-7), on the other hand, would have been a viable candidate to snag an at-large bid from N.C. State in either Birmingham, Ala. — State's preferred choice — or Detroit.

As it stands of today, there is one at-large team with a record of 7-5 or better that is guaranteed a bid (either Western Michigan or Central Michigan) in front of N.C. State.

One of two things need to happen for the Wolfpack to find a preferred bowl home:

1) Ohio State selected as an at-large BCS team.

All $ign$ point to the Buckeyes (10-2), No. 10 in the BCS standings, going to either the Fiesta or Sugar over Boise State (12-0), ranked No. 9.

Only one team from outside the BCS conferences is guaranteed a BCS bid if it finishes in the top 12. Utah (6) fills that quota leaving Boise State on the outside.

The Broncos and WAC have surrendered the BCS dream, not even waiting for the official word to come Sunday before trying to convince Ball State to come to Boise for the only matchup of unbeaten teams. The Cardinals declined.

With Ohio State out of the Big Ten rotation, a spot is cleared in the Motor City Bowl because there are seven Big Ten tie-ins and only seven bowl eligible teams, two of those — OSU and Penn State (Rose) — would be in BCS bowls.

As far as attractive opponents, the Motor City would be State's best-case scenario because No. 12 Ball State is likely going to be the Mid-American Conference champion.

The undefeated Cardinals (12-0), who play Buffalo (7-5) in the MAC title game tonight, are being relegated to a return trip to Ford Field.

The reason N.C. State stands a good chance of playing in Detroit on the day after Christmas is of the at-large bowl spots, this one can't go to either Western Michigan (9-3) or Central Michigan (8-4) — a pair of MAC teams, one of which will be left out of the MAC bowl mix and guaranteed an at-large bid.

At-large teams with a record of 7-5 or better are guaranteed spots before 6-6 teams.

The other 6-6 teams from outside BCS conferences seeking an at-large bid are: San Jose State, Northern Illinois (another MAC team), Bowling Green (another MAC team), Louisiana-Lafayette, Florida Atlantic and potentially Arkansas State, which is 6-5 and an 11-point underdog at Troy.

The question is: What would the Motor City do if it doesn't take State? Beg Notre Dame? Bring in Howard Schnellenberger and Florida Atlantic? Punt?

2) Troy beats Arkansas State.

If Troy wins, the PapaJohns will have an at-large opening.

Troy (7-4) wins the SBC, and the New Orleans Bowl bid, by beating Arkansas State at home. If Troy loses, Arkansas State wins the SBC and Troy would be guaranteed the PapaJohns spot at 7-5.

State wants to play in Birmingham because it would be against a BCS conference opponent (either UConn or West Virginia from the Big East) and on the latest possible date (Dec. 29), which allows for more practice time.

• • • •

Rutgers' win also tidies up the Big East pecking order. The Scarlet Knights (7-5) are expected to take the Sun Bowl berth and push Notre Dame — while technically an Independent but has weaseled its way into the Big East's bowl order — to the Texas Bowl.

That means the Meineke Car Care Bowl will have its choice of Pittsburgh (8-3) or West Virginia (7-4). As we reported on Tuesday, Pittsburgh is the favorite to face UNC in Charlotte on Dec. 27.

• • • •

With Notre Dame likely going to the Texas Bowl that leaves the extra MAC team in Shreveport, La., Birmingham or Hawaii.

The MAC doesn't want to send its directional Michigan team to Hawaii but it might not have a choice.

The Independence has already invited in-state WAC school Louisiana Tech (7-5) and would like to add Louisiana-Lafayette, which won on Wednesday to reach bowl eligibility.

The Motor City won't take another MAC team.

Geographically, San Jose State would be the closest at-large team to the Hawaii Bowl, but host Hawaii (7-5) is already lined up. Hawaii and San Jose State are both from the WAC and SJSU already won at Hawaii on Sept. 28.

There is no NCAA rule preventing conference teams from meeting in a bowl, so technically there could be a SJSU-Hawaii rematch but only if the directional Michigan found another home.

Technically, Hawaii is in play for the Wolfpack but that would take an unusual set of circumstances (Boise State to the BCS, Arkansas State wins and the directional Michigan to the Independence).

• • • •

As for the completion of the ACC order, Steve Hogan, head of the Champs Bowl said out of respect for the ACC's bowl process, they will wait until after the ACC title game to select their ACC participant.

Multiple media outlets, including us, have reported it will be Florida State (8-4), but the ACC wasn't pleased with the Chick-fil-A and Gator for making bowl announcements out of turn, so Orlando will wait until Sunday.

Given the ticket sales to the ACC title game in another central Florida city — Virginia Tech and Boston College have combined to sell 5,000 to Tampa — the chances are beyond remote that the Champs Bowl selects a team other than Florida State.

That leaves the conference title game loser in Nashville (per conference rules) and UNC in Charlotte.

The bottom three slots are technically waiting for the dominoes to fall in front of them, but expect Miami to go to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, Maryland to the Humanitarian in Boise — to play Nevada, not Boise State — and Wake Forest to get a second chance at Navy in the new EagleBank Bowl, which will be played at RFK Stadium, not FedEx Field.

• • • •

Bowl schedule with projections (RED teams have accepted invitiations)

• Dec. 20, EagleBank Bowl @ Washington, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Navy vs. Wake Forest (ACC)

• Dec. 20, New Mexico Bowl, 2:30 (ESPN)
Fresno State (WAC) vs. Colorado State (Mountain West)

• Dec. 20, St. Petersburg Bowl, 6:30 (ESPN2)
South Florida (Big East) vs. Memphis (C-USA)

• Dec. 20, Las Vegas Bowl, 8 (ESPN)
BYU (Mountain West) vs. Arizona (Pac-10)

• Dec. 21, New Orleans Bowl, 8 (ESPN)
Southern Miss (C-USA) vs. Troy (Sun Belt)

• Dec. 23, Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, 8 (ESPN)
TCU (Mountain West) vs. Boise State (WAC)

• Dec. 24, Hawaii Bowl, 8 (ESPN)
Hawaii (WAC) vs. Western Michigan (at-large)

• Dec. 26, Motor City Bowl @ Detroit, 7:30 (ESPN)
Ball State (MAC) vs. N.C. State (at-large)

• Dec. 27, Meineke Car Care Bowl @ Charlotte, 1 (ESPN)
UNC (ACC) vs. Pittsburgh (Big East)

• Dec. 27, Champs Bowl @ Orlando, Fla., 4:30 (ESPN)
Florida State (ACC) vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten)

• Dec. 27, Emerald Bowl @ San Francisco, 8 (ESPN)
Cal (Pac-10) vs. Miami (ACC)

• Dec. 28, Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, La. 8 (ESPN)
Louisiana Tech (WAC) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (at-large)

• Dec. 29, PapaJohns Bowl @ Birmingham, Ala. 3 (ESPN)
West Virginia (Big East) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

• Dec. 29, Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, 8 (ESPN)
Northwestern (Big Ten) vs. Missouri (Big 12)

• Dec. 30, Humanitarian Bowl @ Boise, Idaho, 4:30 (ESPN)
Nevada (WAC) vs. Maryland (ACC)

• Dec. 30, Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, 8 (ESPN)
Oregon (Pac-10) vs. Oklahoma State (Big 12)

• Dec. 30, Texas Bowl @ Houston, 8 (NFL)
Rice (C-USA) vs. Notre Dame (at-large)

• Dec. 31, Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, noon (ESPN)
Air Force (Mountain West) vs. Houston (C-USA)

• Dec. 31, Sun Bowl @ El Paso, Texas, 2 (CBS)
Rutgers (Big East) vs. Oregon State (Pac-10)

• Dec. 31, Music City Bowl @ Nashville, 3:30 (ESPN)
BC/VT loser (ACC) vs. Vanderbilt (SEC)

• Dec. 31, Insight Bowl @ Phoenix, 6 (NFL)
Minnesota (Big Ten) vs. Kansas (Big 12)

• Dec. 31, Chick-fil-A Bowl @ Atlanta, 7:30 (ESPN)
Georgia Tech (ACC) vs. LSU (SEC)

• Jan. 1, Outback Bowl @ Tampa, Fla., 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Iowa (Big Ten) vs. South Carolina (SEC)

• Jan. 1, Gator Bowl @ Jacksonville, Fla., 1 (CBS)
Clemson (ACC) vs. Nebraska (Big 12)

• Jan. 1, Capital One Bowl @ Orlando, Fla., 1 (ABC)
Georgia (SEC) vs. Michigan State (Big Ten)

• Jan. 1, Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, Cal., 5 (ABC)
Penn State (Big Ten) vs. USC (Pac-10)

• Jan. 1, Orange Bowl @ Miami, 8 (FOX)
Cincinnati (Big East) vs. BC/VT winner (ACC)

• Jan. 2, Cotton Bowl @ Dallas, 2 (FOX)
Texas Tech (Big 12) vs. Ole Miss (SEC)

• Jan. 2, Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, 5 (ESPN)
Kentucky (SEC) vs. Tulsa/ECU winner (C-USA)

• Jan. 2, Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, 8 (FOX)
Ala/Fla loser (at-large) vs. Utah (at-large)

• Jan. 3, International Bowl @ Toronto, noon (ESPN2)
Buffalo (MAC) vs. UConn (Big East)

• Jan. 5, Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, Ariz., 8 (FOX)
Texas (at-large) vs. Ohio State (at-large)

• Jan. 6, GMAC Bowl @ Mobile, Ala., 8 (ESPN)
Tulsa/ECU loser (C-USA) vs. Central Michigan (MAC)

• Jan. 8, BCS Championship Game @ Miami, 8 (FOX)
Ala/Fla winner (SEC) vs. Oklahoma (Big 12)