BCS bowl projections:
National championship: Florida vs. Texas
Rose: Iowa vs. Oregon
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. Penn State
Sugar: Alabama vs. Cincinnati
Fiesta: USC vs. TCU
North Carolina's win, and USC's loss, cost the ACC a real shot at $4.5 million.
Virginia Tech, even with two losses, had a strong chance at an at-large bid to a BCS bowl, which was a driving force idea behind expansion. Florida State and Miami both played in BCS games in 2000, 2002 and 2003, but the ACC hasn't sent two teams to the BCS in first five years of expansion, or since the series was formed in 1998.
The Hokies, with their considerable fan base, would have been an attractive at-large choice this season, until Thursday's choke job against the Tar Heels. Now, the ACC's only other hope for a second bid is Miami, which is a long shot at best.
With no traveling fan base but a popular television appeal, Miami's BCS hopes rest on the generosity of the Orange Bowl, and the combination of Penn State, Ohio State and Notre Dame losing.
Remember, the BCS standings only determine the participants in the national championship game. The other four games are contractually obligated to certain conferences and free to choose from the top 14. Most importantly, bowl games are for-profit ventures, in terms of both selling tickets and television advertisements. They don't care if your team is No. 5 in the BCS rankings, only if your team can make them money.
The Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowls have contracted conference anchors and then choose from a pool of eligible candidates. (The Rose Bowl, whenever possible, takes the champions from Pac-10 and Big Ten.)
The selection process for the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange is a draft. The bowls that lose their anchor champions to the national title game get to choose first with the bowl that loses the No. 1 team selecting first, followed by the bowl that loses the No. 2 team.
So, if the SEC champion, likely either Florida or Alabama, were to play Texas in the BCS title game, and the SEC champion stays ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings (currently Florida), then the selection order would be:
The SEC runner-up goes to the Sugar and the Fiesta would almost certainly select USC. Oregon's 47-20 win knocked the Trojans out of the Rose Bowl and in the process made the Pac-10 $4.5 million, and a two-team BCS league for the first time.
If USC had won, an at-large spot would have been opened up for the ACC and a two-loss Virginia Tech team. Without the extra spot, and its most attractive second candidate, the ACC is reduced to relying on the Orange Bowl's generosity and multiple losses by big-name teams.
The Orange is contractually obligated to take the ACC champion, which as of today looks like Georgia Tech. With the next pick, the Orange could take the Big East champion, but in the case of Cincinnati, it would mean taking a team with a limited fan base for the second straight season. The Orange, again in the interest of making money, would almost certainly choose Penn State, Ohio State or Notre Dame over any potential Big East champion, even an unbeaten Cincinnati team.
Given GT's inability to sell tickets, there's little chance the Orange could afford to say no to a big-name school, but it's the only hope the ACC has for a second team.
If the Orange takes the Big East champion, there's one at-large spot open. Either Boise State or Texas Christian, as a top-12 automatic qualifier, has to go to somewhere, likely the Fiesta, and that leaves the Sugar with the dealer's choice.
If the ACC somehow convinces the Orange to take the Big East champ, Miami (17) would still have to win out — and the Canes looked shaky in beating Wake, 28-27 on Saturday — and then hope a second Big Ten team and Notre Dame do not qualify.
Only two teams per conference are allowed in the BCS pool, which eliminates LSU (No. 9 but the third SEC team) and either Penn State (11) or Ohio State (16).
Penn State hosts Ohio State on Saturday. Miami, and the ACC, needs Ohio State to win and then a pick up a loss in subsequent weeks to either Iowa (currently in first place in the Big Ten and fourth in the BCS) or Michigan or in both.
Notre Dame, of course, is the wild card. With no conference affiliation, the Irish automatically qualifies with a top-8 finish, which is unlikely considering it's ranked No. 22 this week. But the Irish become eligible if it finishes in the top 14. The Irish (6-2) would have to win out — against Navy, Pitt, UConn and Stanford — and get help from the opponents of the teams in front of them to jump into at-large pool.
If none of the big name schools qualify, that would leave Miami — if it can beat Virginia, UNC, Duke and South Florida — in the at-large pool with a second Big East team (the fan-strapped Cincy-Pitt loser) or a second Big 12 team (a weak Oklahoma State team).
The real loser is either TCU (6) or Boise State (7), and it looks like Boise State given the remainder of its schedule does not offer the Broncos a chance to impress the computers or human pollsters and jump TCU.
Only one team from outside the six qualifying conferences is guaranteed a spot for finishing in the top 12. Given the relatively small fan bases of both, it would either be Boise or TCU, but not both, and certainly not TCU which can't sell out its home games.
Miami wouldn't sell a ton of tickets, or even its allotment, but the Canes are proven television ratings winner and if Florida happened to lose in the SEC title game, a Miami-Florida matchup would be a consolation prize the Sugar would be happy to have fall in its lap. Unless, of course, they could get Urban Meyer-vs.-Notre Dame.
-- J.P. Giglio
Monday, November 2, 2009
BCS bowl projections: