Projecting bowl games is one of the dark arts spoken of in hushed terms by good wizards warning their pupils to beware of forces beyond their control. In an orderly world, one would simply predict the conference standings for the end of the regular season and then line it up with the bowl selection order.
But we live in a disorderly world indeed. Some team that’s pretty darn good is going to a lousy bowl (sorry other Bulldogs,) and some team that has no business in the post season will benefit from automatic conference tie-ins (Auburn, I’m looking at you).
For the remainder of the season I’ll do a weekly SEC bowl projection for Dawg Sports. While many in the national media offer random wild guesses, I will offer moderately informed speculation. My projections are independent of the Blog Poll ballot and the SEC Power Poll, so don’t be surprised if I have a team going to a better or worse bowl than their weekly ranking by Kyle would indicate.
I’ll list the Bowls in their selection order (which roughly corresponds to their current, if not historic, level of prestige and desirability). I understand why bowls would be listed in the order they will be played after the matchups have been set, and you are looking for a viewing guide; but listing the HPV Compass Bowl above the Sugar Bowl when projecting bowls is communist and shouldn’t be done in America. As an American, I won’t do it.
So as I fast forward the season in my brain, here is where I think we will be when the most wonderful time of the year rolls around:
BCS Championship Game – Alabama vs. Oregon Anyone not projecting this as the national title game is just being deliberately contrary.
Sugar Bowl – Georgia vs. West Virginia Not putting LSU here was easy. The Tigers will lose to Florida and Alabama. Putting Georgia here puts my head and heart into open war with each other. Intellectually, Georgia is a top-5 team and should be an attractive Sugar Bowl pick after losing to ‘Bama in Atlanta. Emotionally, I get nervous when anyone expects anything good to happen to us.
Capital One Bowl – Florida vs. Michigan Florida is not all the way back, but anyone who writes off Florida is practicing wishful thinking.
Cotton Bowl – LSU vs. Oklahoma LSU has looked mortal, and I think the chinks in the armor will lead to two losses.
Outback Bowl – South Carolina vs. Wisconsin Honestly, you could take Georgia, Florida and South Carolina and make a case for projecting any of them into any spot occupied by either of the other teams. Conveniently, the SEC has arranged for all these teams to play each other to help sort it out.
Chick-fil-A Bowl – Texas A&M vs. Clemson The biggest beneficiary of the Arkansas train wreck is Texas A&M. Beat Mississippi State and you grab the mantle of third best team in the West. While the Chick-fil-A bowl usually tries to grab a team closer to Atlanta, Tennessee started the year in the Dome and the Aggie faithful will be excited to travel for their first bowl as an SEC team.
Gator Bowl – Tennessee vs. Northwestern That’s right, somebody is playing Northwestern in Florida this year.
Liberty Bowl - Mississippi State vs. UCF Mississippi State has been an up-and-coming program for a few years now, and the newness is wearing off. I can’t see a bigger bowl game being especially eager to grab the fauxdogs.
Music City Bowl – Missouri vs. NC State Missouri’s bowl hopes will probably come down to their late season Syracuse game.
Compass Bowl – Auburn vs. South Florida Auburn needs to win every game it’s supposed to win if it wants to earn a trip to Birmingham to lose to the fifth best team in the Big East.
The Independence Bowl – Arkansas, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Vandy will look wistfully to Shreveport and rue that they didn’t win 6 games.