1984...
TGS EXTRA!!! SPECIAL REPORT...EARLY (EARLY!) BOWL PROJECTIONS
by Bruce Marshall, TGS EXTRA!!! Editor


NEW MEXICO BOWL: Air Force vs. Washington...After last week’s loss at UNLV, there is real concern in Colorado Springs that Air Force might miss its first postseason date since HC Troy Calhoun took over in 2007. But with Commander-in-Chief rivals Navy and Army looking downgraded, and several soft sports remaining in the Mountain West slate, we suspect the Falcs can get to six wins. An upgraded Pac-12 might make it difficult for U-Dub to get beyond six wins and this minor bowl assignment, too.

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO: San Jose State vs. Kent State...Has anyone else noticed how well the WAC is performing intersectionally in its last trip around the track? Expect multiple WAC entries to fill gaps in the bowl slate created by openings thanks to the Big Ten, Big East, and ACC. The MAC likely does the same with several bowl-caliber reps, of which we believe Kent State will be one.

POINSETTIA: BYU vs. San Diego State...So much for BYU’s BCS Buster dreams. For the Cougs, they’ll have to settle for this contractually guaranteed spot in San Diego, not a bad consolation prize. Hometown San Diego State would rekindle an old and testy rivalry from the WAC and Cougs’ pre-departure Mountain West days.

BEEF O’BRADYS ST. PETE: South Florida vs. Marshall...Frankly, we’re not sure how deep the Big East or CUSA will be able to go in this year’s postseason calendar. We’re projecting USF and Marshall (making a return trip to the “Beef”) at the bare minimum six wins to qualify for this game at The Trop, with the nearby Bulls helping the gate.

NEW ORLEANS: Louisiana vs. East Carolina...If ECU gets to six wins and qualifies for a bowl berth, it will be by default on account of CUSA being so shallow this season. The Ragin’ Cajuns were a hit in nearby New Orleans when they participated in this bowl and won a thriller vs. San Diego State last season.

LAS VEGAS: Nevada vs. Oregon State...At the moment, the Beavers might believe they can do better than this assignment in Las Vegas. For Nevada, we suspect the Wolf Pack might be the team to beat in the MWC (Boise included), and would make a nice fit here with plenty of alums and support in the Las Vegas area.

SHERATON HAWAII: UTEP vs. Fresno State...There is always a spot reserved here for Hawaii if the hometown Warriors get bowl-eligible; we’re just not sure Norm Chow’s troops make it this season. We’re also not sure at all that UTEP gets to six wins, but CUSA looks so shallow this season that the Miners’ early efforts suggest they can barely squeeze into the postseason. Improved Fresno, under first-year HC Tim DeRuyter, projects back into the bowl mix this December.

LITTLE CAESAR’S: Utah State vs. Toledo...Here we go with the first example of the downgraded Big Ten (and bowl ineligibility of Ohio State and Penn State) costing the league a bowl spot. Capable Utah State from the WAC can fill in opposite nearby MAC rep and game host Toledo.

MILITARY: Duke vs. Ball State...This spot would be available to Army if the Black Knights get bowl-eligible, but we doubt West Point gets to six wins. Ball State, one of many projected MAC bowl-eligibles, could fill in nicely and make alum David Letterman smile (if fact, he might even show up for the game). Any bowl invitation should also be enough for Duke HC David Cutcliffe to save his job, and the 3-1 Blue Devils are already halfway to bowl eligibility. Duke would make for a good fit in D.C. as well.

BELK CHARLOTTE: Wake Forest vs. Pitt...Somebody has to get bowl-eligible from the Big East, and Pitt, straightening out at 2-2 after a slow start, should get to six wins. As should Wake, already 3-1 and with enough winnable dates remaining to get to the magic “six” as well.

HOLIDAY: Oklahoma State vs. UCLA...Although the Bruins tasted their first defeat under new HC Jim Mora last weekend vs. Oregon State, we suspect the Westwood bunch goes bowling for the first time in three years. Ok State, while formidable, looks to be a notch beneath last year’s BCS edition. Interestingly, neither UCLA nor USC has played in the Holiday Bowl since its inception in 1978.

INDEPENDENCE: La Tech vs. Missouri...More horse-trading here, as the ACC, with North Carolina ineligible and Miami-Fla. likely to be so, probably won’t be able to fill its allotted berths. Nearby La Tech, which could end up as WAC champ, would be welcomed as a fill-in at Shreveport. As for Mizzou, it is finding out that life is tougher in the SEC than the Big XII, but should still do enough to qualify for this lower-tier assignment.

RUSSELL ATHLETIC: Georgia Tech vs. Rutgers...The “other” Orlando-based bowl switches sponsorship from Champs Sports to Russell Athletic this season. This appears to be a good landing spot for Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets, while Rutgers might be thinking it can do a bit better (BCS?) after its impressive 4-0 break from the gate for new HC Kyle Flood.

MEINEKE TEXAS: Oklahoma vs. Wisconsin...Both of these sides have been somewhat disappointing thus far and we suspect land short of their original BCS goals. But it would be an interesting first-ever bowl matchup between these two postseason regulars in Houston.

ARMED FORCES: SMU vs. Boise State...Again, any CUSA bowl projections are iffy (especially with perhaps the best loop entry, UCF, being bowl ineligible), although we think SMU can get to the required six wins with so many soft touches in league play. It’s apparent watching the new version of Boise State that it’s a long way from the recent Kellen Moore and other power-laden Bronco editions. Boise should improve as QB Joe Southwick matures, but the early loss at Michigan State has already put the Broncos out of BCS Buster discussions.

YANKEE PINSTRIPE: Cincinnati vs. Texas Tech...Cincy probably thinks it has a shot at the Big East’s BCS slot, and it probably does. But we think the Bearcats are instead destined for an assignment like this one at Yankee Stadium. Texas Tech could spice up its potential appearance if inviting former hoops coaches Bob Knight and Billy Gillispie to the game.

KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER: Navy vs. Arizona...We’re going out on a limb to project what might be the worst Navy team in a decade to get bowl-eligible. But there are enough soft spots left on the Mid schedule to get to six wins and this guaranteed assignment in San Francisco. The Rich Rodriguez Revolution at Arizona took a nasty detour last weekend at Oregon, which should immediately halt some of the wild BCS talk that was beginning to filter out of Tucson.

ALAMO: Arizona State vs. West Virginia...Dana Holgorsen’s Mountaineers are dreaming bigger than the Alamo, and QB Geno Smith just might win the Heisman Trophy. But the road to the BCS is a lot harder through the Big 12 than it was in the Big East. This assignment would also be a nice reward for what looks to be a pretty good start to Todd Graham’s rebuilding job at Arizona State.

BUFFALO WILD WINGS: Minnesota vs. TCU...A colorful new sponsor for the game at Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium. Check out the last half of TCU’s schedule before assuming the Frogs are going to do better than this assignment. We actually think Jerry Kill’s surprising 4-0 Gophers have more postseason upside than TCU, given the watered-down Big Ten and Minny’s 4-0 start. But the Gophers will nonetheless be happy to be bowling again.

MUSIC CITY: NC State vs. Auburn...We have been wondering about the Tigers’ ability to get bowl-eligible, especially after their 1-3 start, but last week’s effort vs. LSU suggests Gene Chizik should be able to steer this Tiger edition to the necessary six wins. NC State rates a ACC sleeper which Florida State had better not overlook on October 6 in Raleigh.

SUN: Southern Cal vs. Virginia Tech...Sorry Trojans fans, but given the upgraded look of the Pac-12 and early performances by Lane Kiffin’s troops, we can easily see SC landing outside of the BCS. The Trojans would probably have to beat Oregon twice, and avoid all other Pac-12 banana peels, plus beat upgraded Notre Dame, to have a shot at the BCS. We don’t see it. Virginia Tech might have a better shot at the BCS as it would appear to have a good chance to make the ACC title game, where it would likely get a rematch vs. Florida State after the November 8 meeting at Blacksburg.

LIBERTY: Tulsa vs. Ole Miss...One of the better storylines being authored in the SEC is actually taking place at Ole Miss, where new HC Hugh Freeze has revived a Rebel program that had gone stale under Houston Nutt. With Freeze’s Memphis connections, and with Oxford a short drive from the Liberty Bowl, Ole Miss would be a popular choice for this date. As for Tulsa, it looks to be the only sure-fire CUSA bowl team we can identify, and as such is the favorite to win the league and get this date in Memphis.

CHICK FIL-A: Clemson vs. Tennessee...Plenty of orange in the stands at the Georgia Dome for this one. Last week’s loss to Florida State likely projects the Tigers outside of the BCS, while for UT this assignment would likely be enough to save Derek Dooley’s job.

TAXSLAYER.COM GATOR: Northwestern vs. Mississippi State...We like this sponsor’s name so much we have to include it in the title. Pat Fitzgerald appears to be painting a masterpiece in Evanston in what could be his best coaching job yet at NU. The question regarding MSU is if HC Dan Mullen will still be with the Bulldogs or lured to some very high-profile new assignment (maybe Arkansas?) before the bowls are played.

TICKET CITY: Texas A&M vs. Ohio... Frank Solich’s Ohio might run the table in the MAC, but we doubt that would be enough to qualify the Bobcats as a BCS Buster. It could get them an upgraded bowl assignment over the usual MAC postseason offerings, however. Texas A&M looks to be one of many likely Big 12 bowl-eligibles and could take the spot of the Big Ten, which might not be able to fill this slot in Dallas at the “real” Cotton Bowl.

OUTBACK: Michigan State vs. Florida...This would be a rematch of a game that Spartan fans might recall in a bittersweet fashion after the ‘99 season, when MSU beat Florida 37-34 in the first game after Nick Saban left for LSU. It was interim HC Bobby Williams’ highwater mark and prompted his selection as full-time coach, which eventually didn’t work out too well in East Lansing.

CAPITAL ONE: Purdue vs. Georgia...Those with long memories might recall a pair of wild bowls involving these two after the 1999 and 2003 seasons. We suspect Purdue will emerge as a New Year’s Day-quality bowl team from the watered-down Big Ten, while Georgia is going to be in the BCS hunt throughout the fall before, we suspect, ultimately falling just short.

ROSE: Michigan vs. Stanford...We know Michigan already has two losses, but the Wolverines still might be the Big Ten’s best bowl-eligible team. This would be a rematch, 41 years later, of Stanford’s memorable 13-12 win in the 1972 Rose Bowl thanks to PK Rod Garcia’s 31-yard FG with 12 seconds remaining, and John Ralston’s last game as the then-named Indians’ coach before taking over the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

ORANGE: Florida State vs. Louisville...Given the current mindset in Tallahassee, this date would be a letdown for Noles fans who believe their team has a shot at the BCS title game. One slip on a banana peel along the way, however, and FSU likely ends up in the Orange Bowl instead. But this assignment would be quite a feather in the cap for Card HC Charlie Strong, who will likely be tempted by bigger job offers if the ‘Ville indeed qualifies as the Big East’s BCS rep.

SUGAR: LSU vs. Notre Dame...We've seen enough from Notre Dame to believe the Fighting Irish can get back to the BCS for the first time in six years, where, ironically, they were flattened by an LSU team at this very Sugar Bowl. Meanwhile, there are some real hurdles in the way of the Tigers making the BCS title game, although “The Hat” gets South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi State at home later in the regular season. There could also be another dangerous test at the SEC title game if LSU gets that far.

FIESTA: Kansas State vs. Nebraska...It’s too bad the SEC is limited to only a pair of BCS reps, because a third or fourth could easily fit into the mix. Instead, expect a side like Nebraska to slip through, and maybe set up an old Big XII rematch with Bill Snyder’s Kansas State, which served notice last week at Oklahoma that it could be BCS-bound.

COTTON: Texas vs. South Carolina...Both of these sides will be knocking at the BCS door, although nowadays the Cotton is a very nice consolation prize.

BBVA COMPASS: Baylor vs. Arkansas State...This would be Gus Malzahn’s first bowl game as a head coach...if, that is, he isn’t lured somewhere else, like Arkansas, after the regular season. Neither the SEC nor the Big East might be able to provide teams for this matchup, so Baylor and the Red Wolves step in instead.

GO DADDY.COM: Western Kentucky vs. Northern Illinois...We suspect both of these coaches (WKU’s Willie Taggart and NIU’s Dave Doeren) will be courted by bigger names before the bowl season is complete. As always in Mobile, however, we will be counting the Danica Patrick GoDaddy.com commercials as this one is being aired.

BCS TITLE GAME: Alabama vs. Oregon...Stay tuned!


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