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Week 8 of the college football season established the hierarchy of major college football. Right now, it’s Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State, Florida and everyone else. This will make for an interesting last six weeks because only two of them will have a chance at playing for the national title.
So let’s look at my new projections for the BCS bowls as well as the local teams’ projections, and what a playoff system might look like if one were instituted today.
BCS Bowl Projections
BCS National Championship Game:Alabama vs. Oregon**.** Alabama has been the consistent No. 1 all season long. I have a hard time seeing the Tide lose an SEC game this year. For the other slot, it comes down to Oregon and Kansas State.
If both teams win out, the lack of a conference championship game in the Big 12 hurts the Wildcats. I don’t see anyone beating Oregon in the Pac-12. If the Ducks finish the season undefeated, they would have beaten USC twice and Stanford in the stretch run. That strength of schedule would allow the Ducks to jump Kansas State in the BCS standings and end up in the title game.
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State vs. Notre Dame. I do believe that Kansas State and Oregon will both go undefeated. If this does happen, Kansas State will win the Big 12 and end up in the Fiesta Bowl as the representative of that conference.
The Fiesta Bowl will get the first at-large pick this season and Notre Dame should end up with one or two losses and in the BCS top 14 to qualify for a spot in the BCS. The Irish are the most appetizing team for BCS bowls because they carry the most prestige and will bring the most fans.
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma. With Alabama in the national title game, the Sugar Bowl will likely fill its SEC slot with Florida, which I am projecting to lose to Alabama in the SEC title game.
With the second at-large pick, the Sugar Bowl would likely go with Oklahoma, the second team out of the Big 12.
Orange Bowl: Louisville vs. Florida State. The ACC’s automatic bid to the Orange Bowl will likely go to Florida State after it beats Clemson in the conference title game. The Big East does not have a tie-in with a specific BCS bowl, but its conference champion is guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl game so they will fall to the Orange Bowl. Louisville should win the Big East, but Rutgers will be a tough test for the Cardinals on the last day of the regular season.
Rose Bowl**:USC vs. Nebraska.** With Oregon in the national title game, the Rose Bowl will stay with its traditional match-up between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten. USC should fill the Pac-12’s slot left by the Ducks and I am projecting the Cornhuskers to win the Big Ten, although it just as easily could be Michigan. This Saturday’s match-up between the two will likely determine that.
Local bowl projections
Poinsettia Bowl: BYU vs. San Diego State. BYU will end up here with its tie-in to the Poinsettia Bowl. The bowl gets the second pick out of the Mountain West Conference.
Nevada may end up with the better record, but the bowl gets to pick whichever bowl eligible team after the champions are taken by the Las Vegas Bowl, regardless of record. I project that the bowl goes with the hometown Aztecs to sell as many tickets as possible.
**Potato Bowl: Utah State vs. Northern Illinois**. Whoever wins the WAC will end up here as BYU has taken the WAC champs’ spot in the Poinsettia Bowl. Just because Utah State won its sixth game of the season on Saturday doesn’t mean that the Aggies are guaranteed to play in a bowl game.
The Aggies could end up in a scenario where they are 9-3 and without a bowl game. The only guarantee they have is to beat Louisiana Tech on Nov. 17 and win the WAC. If that happens, which I believe it will, the Aggies will end up in Boise again, playing the third choice out of the Mid-American Conference, who I project to be Northern Illinois. Other possibilities would be Toledo, Kent State, Ball State or Bowling Green.
Right now, I cannot project the Utes to play in a bowl game. That would require the Utes to win four out of five games to finish the season. That’s something I simply don’t see happening. Could it? Yes. Will it? Probably not. Until the Utes get a Pac-12 win under their belt this season, I can't put them in a bowl game.
If there were a playoff this season
In two years, there will be a playoff system in college football where four teams will play each other and decide the national championship on the field. I decided I’d rather not wait. So here’s how that playoff might look right now, just to wet your appetite.
Semifinals Game 1 (Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana): #1 Alabama vs. #4 Florida. After a tightly contested SEC championship game, there would likely be a rematch between the Gators and the Crimson Tide, with Florida falling below both Oregon and Kansas State.
Semifinals Game 2 (Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.): #2 Oregon vs. #3 Kansas State. With the Ducks and the Wildcats undefeated, they’d get to prove who deserved to be in the national title game to play the winner of Alabama-Florida. The high-powered Ducks offense against the stout Kansas State defense would be an entertaining match-up to say the least.
The national title game would be in Miami at the Orange Bowl between the winner of the two semifinal games.
What a playoff would look like if I were in charge
I’ve written before that if I were in charge, I would have a 16-team playoff wherein the champions of each of the six major conferences gets an automatic bid and a selection committee picks 10 at-large teams to fill out the rest of the playoffs. The field would then be seeded 1-16 by the committee. Here’s what that projected field may look like. The higher seeds would host each of the first two rounds.
#1 Alabama vs. #16 Boise State
#8 Notre Dame vs. #9 USC
#5 LSU vs. #12 Louisville
#4 Florida vs. #13 Michigan
#6 Oklahoma vs. #11 Clemson
#3 Kansas State vs. #14 Stanford
#7 Florida State vs. #10 Nebraska
#2 Oregon vs. #15 Texas Tech
There would be some great first-round match-ups in this scenario. Could you imagine the atmosphere at The Swamp when Michigan came to town?
There would also be some very entertaining potential second-round match-ups. Alabama vs. Notre Dame or Alabama vs. USC would be incredibly entertaining games in Tuscaloosa. A Kansas State-Oklahoma rematch in the second round would be another compelling match-up. So would Florida State-Oregon.
Don’t tell me college football couldn’t make money with that type of playoff.
For more projections, analysis, opinion and rankings, 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.