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This week, I have Utah outside the bowl projections looking in. Where do I think college football teams will head once the season ends? Let's dive in and take a look:
Gildan New Mexico Bowl – Nevada vs. Arizona
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Utah State vs. Northern Illinois. The Aggies go to Boise again as the best team from the WAC and they will face Northern Illinois as the third choice out of the Mid-American Conference.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – BYU vs. San Diego State. The only question left for the Cougars is who they will be playing. We have projected San Diego State here because it makes sense that the Poinsettia Bowl would take the hometown team to sell as many tickets as possible. The Aztecs will likely finish behind Nevada in the Mountain West Conference, put expect the bowl to go with the team that will make it the most money.
Beef O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl – East Carolina vs. UCONN
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – Louisiana Tech vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas – UCLA vs. Boise State
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl – Houston vs. Fresno State
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl – Ohio vs. Minnesota
Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman – Duke vs. Cal
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl – Stanford vs. Oklahoma State
Belk Bowl – Cincinnati vs. NC State
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl – Wake Forest vs. Vanderbilt
Russell Athletics Bowl – Rutgers vs. Miami (FL)
Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl – Baylor vs. Northwestern
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl – SMU vs. Air Force
New Era Pinstripe Bowl – Texas Tech vs. Pittsburgh
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl – Washington vs. Iowa State
Valero Alamo Bowl – Arizona State vs. Oklahoma
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – TCU vs. Purdue
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Texas A&M vs. Georgia Tech
Hyundai Sun Bowl – Virginia Tech vs. Oregon State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl – Central Florida vs. Missouri
Chick-Fil-A Bowl – Clemson vs. Mississippi State
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl – Wisconsin vs. Tennessee
TicketCity Bowl – UTEP vs. Iowa
Outback Bowl – Florida vs. Michigan
Capitol One Bowl – Georgia vs. Michigan State
AT&T Cotton Bowl – Kansas State vs. South Carolina
BBVA Compass Bowl – South Florida vs. Auburn
GoDaddy.com Bowl – Toledo vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Discover BCS National Championship Game – Alabama vs. Floriday State. Last year I said that the Crimson Tide may have had the best defense in the history of the game. This year’s Tide may have one of the best teams in college football history. It has the most dominant offensive line in the nation and the defense is somehow as good as it was last year. Florida State’s schedule looks weaker and weaker as the season goes on. The Seminoles should go undefeated until the ACC title game when they should face Clemson again. That will be the biggest test remaining for Florida State.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – West Virginia vs. USC. The Mountaineers are still projected as the champions of the Big 12, though they’ll need to play better defense to actually do it. The Fiesta Bowl gets the first pick of the at-large teams. It will have three good teams from which to choose. Texas, USC and Notre Dame will likely be the three at-large teams in BCS bowls. Each team travels well, but USC will probably be the way the Fiesta Bowl goes based on proximity — though I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes with either of the other two.
Allstate Sugar Bowl – LSU vs. Texas. With the SEC champion (Alabama) going to the national title game, the Sugar Bowl will replace it with the hometown Tigers. I’m tempted to put Georgia here, but the Bulldogs' defense is simply not as good as it needs to be to get to a BCS game. If Georgia gets here, it’ll be because LSU shoots itself in the foot somewhere along the way. The Sugar Bowl gets the second at-large pick and it will go with Texas as the second team out of the Big 12. The Longhorns travel well and the New Orleans is a hop, skip, and jump away from Austin, Texas.
Discover Orange Bowl – Louisville vs. Notre Dame. We may finally have a really good team out of the Big East. Louisville is a very good team this season and they will face Notre Dame, which should qualify for the BCS with a Top-14 finish in the BCS rankings. Clemson could be another team to slot here, but Notre Dame’s brand is bigger and it has a national fan base that will fill the stands.
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio – Oregon vs. Nebraska. Nebraska is the class of a very weak Big Ten. Its only challenge will be Michigan State, but the Spartans can’t move the ball. With Ohio State ineligible for the postseason, the Big Ten should send the Cornhuskers here. It’ll be hard for Oregon to beat USC twice, but they’ll beat them at least once to win the conference and get to Pasadena yet again as the Pac-12 champions.
Utah’s Bowl Scenario
The Utes have an uphill climb to reach the postseason this year. There are really only two wins left on the schedule (Colorado and Washington State) and those aren’t even for sure, as we saw last year. That said, people can’t be prisoners of the moment after what was a terrible game against Arizona State. The Sun Devils are a good team and Utah is not as bad as it looked.
If the Utes are going to make a bowl game in 2012 they will have to beat both Colorado and Washington State, so for our sake we’ll give the Utes both those wins. That puts Utah at four victories and needing two more out of USC, UCLA, Oregon State, Cal, Arizona and Washington. USC simply has too much talent for the Utes to expect a win against the Trojans, but an upset is not completely out of the question.
Once Utah gets past the Trojans, however, there are some favorable matchups for the Utes. Schematically, Utah matches up well with UCLA, Oregon State and Cal. The Utes do not match up well with Arizona or Washington. If the Utes are going to get to six wins it is likely going to have to come with wins over UCLA and Cal. However, without a solid offensive line, this is going to be tough. Right now, I simply can’t project the Utes into a bowl game.
If the Utes did end up at 6-6, the most likely bowl game for them to appear in may be the Military Bowl or another bowl outside the Pac-12’s tie-ins. With an incredibly deep conference this season, expect the Pac-12 to put two teams in BCS games and fill all of its tie-ins.
For more opinions, predictions and projections go to BYUtahInsiders.com.
Trevor Amicone is the founder of byutahinsiders.com, which covers BYU, Utah and national college football with weekly polls, bowl projections, opinions and analysis. Follow its brand new Twitter page at @BYUtahInsiders and Trevor's at @TrevorAmicone.