At long last: 2009 bowl projections

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The season starts in two weeks. There’s already been a 1-through-120 countdown here.

All that’s missing is the most frivolous of preseason escapades: Trying to project bowl pairings before a game is even played.

Still, it’s a slow day. Well, at least until Maryland’s scrimmage this afternoon tomorrow now that Maryland’s scrimmage was postponed. And in any case, this is something that won’t find any room in the dead-tree edition during our preview week (or so I am assuming).

Fortunately, that 1-through-120 exercise (tweaked slightly since it was posted in July and early August) provides a framework for choosing teams to fill spots. In some cases, there’s also an attempt to avoid sending teams to the same game in consecutive years.

So the real complaints should be with the rankings, since I’ll most stick close to them throughout this little endeavor.

OK, time to start with the five BCS games, then work downward based based on which game has the highest-ranked team in the preseason college football countdown.

* BCS title game (BCS #1 vs. BCS #2): Florida vs. Southern California.

The Blessed Tebow survives the SEC wars with only one loss – which allows the Gators to take a spot opposite the unbeaten Trojans in the national title game.

* Orange (BCS-ACC vs. BCS): Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia

If the Orange Bowl is going to get the champs from the ACC and Big East, it probably won’t do better than this matchup … well, ever.

* Fiesta (BCS-Big 12 vs. BCS): Texas vs. Penn State

First Joe Paterno will refuse to chat with the television rights holder before the game. Then his team will get hammered by a team that was a win away from playing for the national title. Sound familiar?

* Sugar (BCS-SEC vs. BCS): Louisiana State vs. Oklahoma

The Sugar Bowl could have brought Alabama back, but what do you bet the prospect of a similarly excellent bunch from Baton Rouge gets the nod?

* Rose (BCS-Big Ten vs. BCS-Pac-10): Ohio State vs. California

The Rose Bowl loves its tradition. So while California might not be as good as hyped, it could get an invite to Pasadena, a la Illinois two years ago.

* Capital One (SEC #2 vs. Big Ten #2): Alabama vs. Iowa

The Crimson Tide winds up in Orlando, and its horde of fans see a blowout. If memory serves, the last time Nick Saban was in this bowl, he bolted for the Miami Dolphins right afterward.

* Outback (SEC #3/4-East vs. Big Ten #3): Georgia vs. Michigan State

A rematch of last year’s Capital One Bowl, which the Bulldogs won 24-12. A similar result would come as no surprise.

* Humanitarian (WAC vs. Mountain West #5): Boise State vs. Colorado State

The Broncos get to remain at home for a clunker of a game.

* Cotton (SEC #3-West vs. Big 12 #2): Mississippi vs. Oklahoma State

Just perfect – a pairing of two of the most hyped teams of the preseason.

* Holiday (Pac-10 #2 vs. Big 12 #3): Oregon State vs. Nebraska

Seriously, this would be an awesome game. Which is why there’s no chance it will happen.

* Gator (ACC #3 vs. Big East #2/Notre Dame): Georgia Tech vs. Notre Dame

If Notre Dame can be had, there’s nearly no doubt the Gator Bowl will snatch the Fighting Irish up. Tough to blame the folks in Jacksonville, either.

* Alamo (Big 12 #4 vs. Big Ten #4): Kansas vs. Illinois

Todd Reesing’s last game could be back in Texas in a showdown with Juice Williams. The scoreboard would get a workout.

* Sun (Pac-10 #3 vs. Big 12 #5): Oregon vs. Texas Tech

The game would last 4 1/2 hours, It would also be highly entertaining.

* Las Vegas (MWC #1 vs. Pac-10 #4/5): Texas Christian vs. Arizona State

The Horned Frogs would have to break Brigham Young’s death grip on this game; Arizona State, after a postseason hiatus of a year, makes a logical opponent.

* Chick-Fil-A (ACC #2 vs. SEC #5): Florida State vs. Tennessee

Papa Bowden is going to end up in this game eventually. Tennessee edges out South Carolina for the SEC slot

* Poinsettia (MWC #2 vs. Pac-10 #6): Utah vs. UCLA

Maybe UCLA makes it to six wins. Maybe. Otherwise, this could be an at-large.

* Meineke Car Care (Big East #2 vs. ACC #6): Cincinnati vs. N.C. State

Chances are Pittsburgh or Rutgers would get the nod over the Bearcats. But maybe bowl organizers would take a better Big East team with a huge in-state fan base to fill seats.

* Champs Sports (ACC #4 vs. Big Ten #5): Clemson vs. Michigan

How’s this for a stealthily good pre-New Year’s game? Michigan should be playing better at season’s end. Clemson? Who knows.

* Armed Forces (MWC #3/4 vs. C-USA): Brigham Young vs. Houston

It’s Cougar Town; commence cat-fight jokes now.

* Music City (ACC #5 vs. SEC #6/7): Miami vs. South Carolina

The Hurricanes need to survive the first month of the season. If they do, it’s possible to do even better than this solid bowl.

* International (Big East #3/4 vs. MAC): Rutgers vs. Buffalo

This is pretty much set up to be a regional bowl. That means no South Florida, and preferably a reasonably close MAC team. This could also be where Temple could land if it reaches a bowl.

* Papajohns.com (Big East #3/4 vs. SEC #9): Pittsburgh vs. Florida Atlantic

It won’t be Auburn’s year to return to the postseason, so Florida Atlantic slides into an open spot to take on Pittsburgh. If no Sun Belt team has seven wins, another somebody (Boston College, perhaps?) could slide in here.

* Liberty (C-USA #1 vs. SEC #6/7): East Carolina vs. Arkansas

Starting to delve deeper into games that only the fanbases involved will have any serious interest in.

* Emerald (ACC #7 vs. Pac-10 #4/5): North Carolina vs. Arizona

It’s someone else’s turn to go west in the ACC, since big names (Florida State and Miami) and big markets (Georgia Tech and Maryland) have been out to San Francisco.

* Insight (Big Ten #6 vs. Big 12 #6): Northwestern vs. Missouri

As good a game as you could hope for when pairing what amounts to the seventh-place teams out of two leagues.

* St. Petersburg (Big East #6 vs. C-USA): South Florida vs. Tulsa

After another late-season slide, the Bulls won’t have to go far to play their bowl. Again.

* Motor City (Big Ten #7 vs. MAC): Wisconsin vs. Western Michigan

Christmas in Detroit. Not exactly what Badgers fans are used to.

* GMAC (ACC #9 vs. MAC): Wake Forest vs. Central Michigan

Don’t see Wake Forest making back-to-back trips to D.C. But Mobile will be a solid landing place, with a competitive game, too.

* Independence (Big 12 #7 vs. SEC #8): Baylor vs. Kentucky

Ah, the Guy Morriss Bowl. Both of his successors would be on the sideline for this one.

* EagleBank Bowl (ACC #8 vs. Army/C-USA East): Maryland vs. Memphis

It certainly would be a budget-friendly event for the Terrapins.

* New Orleans (C-USA vs. Sun Belt #1): Southern Mississippi vs. Troy

Take two. And why not after a bowl-record crowd for these teams last year.

* Texas (Big 12 #8 vs. Navy/C-USA): Colorado vs. Navy

If Mids get to six seven wins, they’ll try to snap a three-game bowl losing streak in this game.

* New Mexico (Mountain West #3/4 vs. WAC): Air Force vs. Nevada

Another game sure to last more than four hours …

* Hawaii (C-USA vs. WAC): Texas-El Paso vs. Hawaii

… along with this one, which with an 8 p.m. Eastern kickoff could ring in Christmas on the Atlantic coast.

Patrick Stevens

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