NOTE: THIS IS LAST YEAR'S WIDGET. FOR THIS YEAR'S WIDGET CLICK HERE.
So who is going to be in which BCS bowl game? This year it's a lot more complicated than last year, due to the large number of games this weekend that could tweak the results, as well as a few teams (Michigan and TCU) that are on the borderline of making it into the lineup or being excluded altogether.
There are about 12 games that could reasonably affect the BCS Bowl lineup. Rather than make 4,096 lists of the projected final standings, I made a simple tool to show what I think will happen under all outcomes of those 12 games. Just click on the team on the left hand side that you think might win this weekend and the results are generated automatically.
Welcome to the 2011-2012 version of the BCS Bowl Predictor! Scroll down past the widget for analysis and updates.
The default game picks below now reflect the actual game outcomes; all the favorites won except Virginia Tech and Houston. While the winners and losers didn't stray far from expectations, some of the more outlandish possible scenarios relating to margin of victory occurred, with Oklahoma State putting the national championship game in doubt. See THIS POST for our final projections, given the USA rankings that came out on December 4th.
As you can see there are a lot of minor changes in game outcome that can have a big effect on the results. The text in the box below the lineup attempts to explain the outcome, but with the large number of variations sometimes the explanation might be lacking. And of course, the Bowls might end up choosing a different team in the cases where they have an option.
Here's a rundown of each team's chances in a nutshell (listed by current BCS standings):
- LSU: Almost guaranteed a spot in the BCS championship game. There is a miniscule chance that, if they lose 50-0 to Georgia, they could fall enough in the polls to sit at #3. It's not even worth exploring where they would end up. 99% of the time they play for the title. Update: LSU beats Georgia, 42-10, and locks up a spot in the national title game.
- Alabama: Very close to a lock for the BCS championship game; again we don't even explore the alternatives. Oklahoma State would have to beat Oklahoma 50-0 and have enough voters put the Cowboys ahead of the Tide; Georgia beating LSU might put the Cowboys on top of some computers, too. But there's probably a 90% chance for Alabama to play for the title; the other 10%, they're in the Sugar Bowl, unless—the nightmare scenario—Georgia beats LSU, and Alabama isn't in a BCS bowl at all as the Bulldogs push them out of the Sugar. Under all normal circumstances Alabama makes the championship game, unless there is an unforeseen shift in sentiment among the USA and Harris voters that a rematch isn't deserved. Update: With Oklahoma State cleaning Oklahoma's clock—nearly the 50-0 scenario we jokingly proposed—Alabama's spot in the national title game could be in jeopardy. With LSU beating Georgia, the Tide will at least go to the Sugar Bowl.
- Oklahoma State: Disregarding their minor hope for getting in the BCS championship game, the Cowboys are headed for the Fiesta bowl if they beat Oklahoma. If they lose, however, things get tough. Then, they have to hope neither Houston nor TCU is eligible so that there's an at-large spot open for them. And Boise State might even have to lose to New Mexico, which is not likely. Update: Oklahoma State's performance against Oklahoma increases their odds of reaching the BCS title game from almost zero to at least somewhat possible.
- Stanford: The Cardinal are sitting pretty at #4, which is a lock under BCS rules for a BCS bowl. That rule is pretty convoluted, but Stanford is in, somewhere, if they're #4. Problem is, there's a slim chance they don't stay there. Virginia Tech could blow out Clemson (we've been using 50-0, we'll stick to it), and voters could say Hey! Virginia Tech is 12-1 and avenged their only loss! and move them up, perhaps enough to make them #4 and put Stanford #5. Possible, but doubtful. Even at #5 the Cardinal are a strong pick, but not a guarantee in all circumstances. We're assuming that Virginia Tech does NOT pass Stanford. This puts the Cardinal in the Fiesta Bowl under most scenarios, with a slim chance for the Sugar or Orange if weird things happen. Update: Stanford doesn't have to worry about Virginia Tech any more. They should be in the Fiesta, unless Oklahoma State makes the championship game, which could shift the Cardinal most likely to the Orange.
- Virginia Tech: If they beat Clemson, Orange Bowl. That part's easy. If they lose? Again, like Oklahoma State, things get ugly fast for the Hokies. They, too, would benefit if neither Houston nor TCU made the cut as automatic picks, and would probably need Kansas State to lose, too. Then they might be in the Sugar Bowl. Update: Bzzzzt. The Hokies' 38-10 loss puts them out of the Orange Bowl and circumstances don't allow them to be a serious at-large consideration. UPDATE: To quote Popeye WELL BLOW ME DOWN. Apparently the Sugar Bowl committee had much serious consideration for the Hokies. We didn't match Michigan up with them without TCU and Kansas State losing; since TCU didn't get in to the top 16 that wasn't an impediment. But after the 38-10 blowout we didn't think there was a chance in hell.
- Houston: The Cougars just need to beat Southern Miss and they're BCS bowl bound, most likely the Sugar Bowl. Some have suggested the Fiesta—against Oklahoma State—but we don't see it. The bowls can pick who they like, so it could be...but we have them in the Sugar in every scenario where they make it, against either Michigan or Georgia. If they lose they'll drop like a rock in the computer ratings and have essentially zero chance for an at-large bid. Update: The last sentence sums it up for the Cougars, who lost 49-28 to Southern Miss. This helps TCU a lot, and probably Michigan too as Houston could drop below the Wolverines. But it could be tight.
- Boise State: It's hard to rate Boise's chances for an at-large bid. On the plus side, they're almost a certain winner against 1-10 New Mexico (they are nearly a 50 point favorite). On the down side, a lot of other teams have to lose to make the Broncos look attractive to a BCS bowl. Their best bet might be against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, setting up a rematch of the 2006 classic. But for that to happen Houston and TCU (a near-40 point favorite) would probably have to lose. Alternately, if Oklahoma State wins, Boise could end up in the Orange Bowl if Houston, TCU, and Kansas State all lose. Update: The Broncos are demolishing New Mexico as expected, but TCU's win pretty much demolishes any chance Boise had of sneaking into a BCS bowl.
- Arkansas: No chance at all, sorry Razorbacks. There are already two—and maybe three!—teams in the BCS from your conference.
- Oregon: The Ducks pretty much have a do-or-die against UCLA—Rose Bowl or bust. For one thing because a loss to UCLA would look bad and drop them out of realistic at-large contention. Update: Ducks have won and are in the Rose Bowl. Pretty straightforward.
- Oklahoma: It's not quite Fiesta Bowl or Bust for the Sooners, but it's close. A third loss would drop the Sooners, but their computer ranking would still be high and a close game against the Cowboys wouldn't irrepairably harm them in the polls. They would need a lot of other teams to lose—probably Houston and TCU to keep a spot open, and maybe even Kansas State and Boise State to clear out the other eligible, high-ranked teams. Then the Sooners might face Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Update: Whoops. Not only do the Sooners not go to the Fiesta Bowl, but losing 44-10 might take them out of at-large range. Not that they'd likely get picked after laying that egg.
- Kansas State: Must beat Iowa State, of course, and then hope a few other things happen: Houston losing and TCU staying out of the top 16, and Oklahoma State beating Oklahoma. Then the Wildcats could be Sugar Bowl bound. Update: Kansas State beat Iowa State, and with Houston's loss things were going right for the Wildcats. But TCU won, leaving a Georgia win over LSU K-State's only hope. With LSU's win, K-State has almost no hope since TCU is probably taking up the spot they'd need. UPDATE: Oklahoma State's performance against Oklahoma gives Kansas State new life; they need the Cowboys in the BCS title game and for the Fiesta Bowl to pick the Wildcats as the replacement. Neither is even close to a certainty, but things look better for K-State than they did late this afternoon.
- South Carolina: See Arkansas.
- Michigan State: Another do-or-die, Rose Bowl or bust. Update: The Spartans busted. Not literally, as they almost beat the Badgers, but their loss removes them from BCS consideration. They might not fall very much, though, and this is the result that concerned Michigan fans the most—the Spartans denying Michigan a spot in the top 14.
- Georgia: Beat LSU and go to the Sugar Bowl; lose and go to a regular bowl. Update: Georgia gave a good effort early but there is no BCS bowl in their near future. The SEC will have to settle for two teams rather than three.
- Wisconsin: As with Michigan State, the winner is in the Rose Bowl, the loser is out of the BCS speculation. All four teams vying for the Rose Bowl are in the same boat. Update: The Badgers are in the Rose Bowl.
- Michigan: The most interesting case of the year. A lock to be chosen if eligible, the Wolverines need to finish in the top 14. That means they need to move up two spots. The easiest way? #14 Georgia loses to LSU, and either #13 MSU or #15 Wisconsin loses and drops below UM. How could it go wrong? Maybe the Spartans lose but the pollsters keep them above Michigan, whom they beat? Probably the Wolverines move ahead enough in the computers to still gain the spot. Baylor beats Texas and jumps Michigan? Again, possible but not probable. We assume that Michigan makes the top 14 unless Georgia beats LSU, and even then they could if Houston loses, but we don't count on it for the calculations. If LSU beats Georgia, Michigan is the Sugar Bowl's first pick; if Georgia wins and Houston loses, Michigan could be the Fiesta Bowl's #2 pick if Houston drops far enough. There hasn't been a team in quite a while that is so certain to be chosen if they can just crack the top 14. Update: Houston's solid loss likely brightened the picture for Michigan; the Cougars actually lost by enough that they could fall below the Wolverines which would put them in the top 14. But it's LSU beating Georgia, that helps Michigan the most. Things are looking very good for the Wolverines. UPDATE: Oklahoma State's huge win over Oklahoma could spell trouble for Michigan, if OK State manages to get in the BCS title game. Or it might put the Wolverines in the Fiesta Bowl instead of the Sugar. The latter would depend on how committed to the Big 12 the Fiesta Bowl is. YET ANOTHER UPDATE: How things have changed. Now the slim worry of Michigan State losing a tight game with Wisconsin has also come true. So Michigan is hanging by a thread if Oklahoma State gets in the BCS title game or not. Wolverine fans have to hope MSU falls below Michigan and Baylor stays behind them. It's gonna be close—it might even be Oklahoma falling farther than expected that saves the Wolverines.
- Baylor: The Bears can't make a BCS bowl, but they can act as spoiler to TCU, and maybe even Michigan, by beating Texas. Update: Baylor took care of Texas 48-24, which should keep them easily ahead of TCU. Will they pass Michigan? Probably not, but it's not impossible.
- TCU: If TCU beats UNLV and Houston loses, the Horned Frogs only need to make the top 16 to be an automatic bid. Currently at #18, they can't depend on passing the Cougars nor on gaining any ground for their win over the Rebels, so they need a couple of teams above them to lose. Those teams could be: Wisconsin/Michigan State, Georgia, or Baylor. If Georgia and Baylor win, TCU is out of luck—even a Kansas State loss probably doesn't help. Then they'd be dependant on a longshot Boise State loss, as the Broncos would tumble and logically fall below the Horned Frogs, who beat them earlier. Suffice it to say TCU should be rooting primarily for LSU to beat Georgia, and Houston to lose. Update: The key outcome—a Houston loss—has occurred for the Horned Frogs, who went on to dominate UNLV. Baylor won but Georgia lost to LSU, which is very good news for the Horned Frogs. But Michigan State's narrow loss holds out the possibility that TCU finishes #17 and out of luck, while it's possible even that Oklahoma drops far enough to put them back in. Dec. 4 Update: At the 11th hour it looks bad for TCU; neither Oklahoma nor Michigan State probably falls below TCU, Clemson very likely passed them, and even Georgia might not fall enough. The Horned Frogs will be somewhere between 16th and 18th, most likely missing by one spot and finishing #17.
For completeness' sake, here are the Big East outcomes, based on their games this weekend:
- WVA and Cincy win: Three-way tie, West Virgina wins Big East tiebreaker
- Cincy loses: Louisville wins outright, or wins tiebreaker over WVA
- WVA loses and Cincy wins: Cincinnati wins tiebreaker over Louisville.
Update: West Virginia is the Big East winner (assuming they maintain their lead in the BCS rankings, which is almost a certainty) and probably goes to the Orange Bowl, though in a few scenarios we have them in the Sugar instead.