I won’t be in a football stadium today, which opens up my entire day to … well, sit around and watch some football.
“Oh, you do that every week,” you — or my wife — might say. Not true. When I’m covering a game, it’s tough to sit down and really watch anybody else play. I pity anybody who has to fill out a Top 25 ballot. I can’t think of anyone who gets less of an idea of how the rest of the college football landscape is actually playing out on a weekly basis than someone who is focused on covering one team.
So I take full advantage of days like this, when I get to just enjoy a day of watching football.
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It started last night, when I caught the end of the Bowling Green’s 47-27 win against Northern Illinois, which made clear a couple of things:
1) It dashed the Huskies’ hopes of making it back to a BCS bowl and surely delighted the Sugar Bowl folks, who now get to take an at-large team instead of either Northern Illinois or Central Florida.
2) It was one heck of a job audition for Dave Clawson, who is reportedly in the mix for the Wake Forest job along with Ball State’s Pete Lembo.
3) It all but assured the ACC will get a second team in the BCS.
Let me explain. Clemson is on the cusp of an at-large berth in a BCS bowl game. At-large candidates need to be in the BCS’s top 14 to be eligible. Clemson is currently 13th, and with No. 14 Northern Illinois losing, there appears to be no chance that the Tigers won’t be in that at-large pool.
If Florida State beats Duke in the ACC championship game and qualifies for the BCS title game, the Orange Bowl will get a replacement pick in addition to the first at-large pick. The Orange is not obligated to take a replacement from the ACC (that agreement begins next year), but considering the cozy relationship between the bowl and the league, it seems logical that Clemson would be selected as a replacement pick for the game in Miami, possibly against Alabama as an at-large pick if an SEC team doesn’t make the BCS title game. (The BCS’s Byzantine selection process can be found here.)
Why does this matter for Virginia Tech? If Clemson doesn’t make a BCS game, it bumps everyone else in the ACC down a spot in the bowl pecking order.
Say Clemson doesn’t make it to the BCS, the Tigers probably end up in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl .The Russell Athletic Bowl is next and would likely choose between Miami (a team that has missed bowl games the last two years) or Duke (a Cinderella story) to face Louisville. If Duke doesn’t get picked there, it would have to go to El Paso because of the league’s rule that the ACC championship game loser can’t fall below the Sun Bowl (again, this is assuming a Duke loss to FSU today). In that scenario, the Hokies could end up in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
But with Clemson likely Orange Bowl-bound, that’s just more reason to think things will fall into place as expected behind it. Duke or Miami would go to the Chick-fil-A. The team that doesn’t get picked for that would likely go to the Russell Athletic Bowl. Virginia Tech is a possibility there and could be an appealing pick to match against Louisville, but the Hokies just went to Orlando — and didn’t necessarily put on a show doing so — so a repeat trip seems like a stretch.
Again, the final bowl selections won’t officially come out until Sunday (and late at that, because of ESPN”s annoying BCS selection show). Weird things happen in last-minute negotiations, and I’d never say never, but I’d still wager that El Paso is in the Hokies’ future, barring a crazy Saturday.
Speaking of which, here are the games and reasons I’ll be watching today:
– No. 17. Oklahoma at No. 6 Oklahoma State, noon (ABC): A Cowboys win means they win the division and get the auto bid to the Fiesta Bowl. An Oklahoma win leaves the door open for either Texas or Baylor to win the Big 12.
– No. 25 Texas at No. 9 Baylor, 3:30 p.m. (FOX): Is this Mack Brown‘s swan song? And if so, did Art Briles already officially sign his extension at Baylor? I’ll probably only give this game periodic check-ins. That’s all it takes to see Baylor put together a 90-second scoring drive anyway.
– No. 5 Missouri vs. No. 3 Auburn, 4 p.m. (CBS): Any downtrodden program need only watch this game for a glimmer of hope. Mizzou went 5-7 last year; Auburn 3-9. They combined to win two games in the SEC, and neither of those victories were by the team in blue and orange. Now they’re playing for an outside chance at the BCS title game. From a personal standpoint, I’ve always enjoyed watching Gus Malzahn‘s offenses at work. I’d guess this will be the most entertaining game of the day.
– No. 7 Stanford at No. 11 Arizona State, 7:45 p.m. (ESPN): I think I incorrectly wrote earlier this week that Arizona State could be a Sun Bowl candidate with a loss here. That’s not true. There’s a one-loss rule in the Pac-12 too, and the 8-1 Sun Devils can’t go below 6-3 UCLA, meaning Arizona State is a lock for one of the Pac-12′s top three bowls.
– No. 20 Duke vs. No. 1 Florida State, 8 p.m. (ABC): I’ll probably tune in early to this one, because I don’t think the game will be close for long. The ‘Noles are 29-point favorites or so. The Blue Devils are scrappy, but that only really works against flawed teams. FSU ain’t that.
– No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Michigan State, 8:17 p.m. (FOX): I’d like to see if Ohio State is for real. Also, I’d like to see Michigan State’s defense in action. I don’t think I’ve caught any of the Spartans’ games live this year. For the record, I think an unbeaten Buckeyes should play in the BCS title game, although I think it’d be great if the BCS had one final controversy before it leaves this mortal coil.