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BCS PICTURE CLEARING UP
November 7, 2005

SCS.comAnother great week of conference play has passed us by, and this week cleared up the BCS bowl picture quite a bit. Virginia Tech and UCLA were forcibly removed from the national title race this week, and Alabama remains as the only undefeated on the outside looking in at Texas and USC. I think Miami is a better team than Alabama, but the Tide will certainly have a chance to prove me wrong with upcoming games against LSU and Auburn (and Georgia if both make it to the SEC title game). Texas and USC should continue their coast to the Rose Bowl with no huge bumps left in the road. The better question is how the other BCS bowls will shake out and what teams have a big bowl in their future.

The Pac-10 and Big XII champions will probably be in the Rose Bowl, so the Fiesta Bowl will get to have the first selection to replace Texas, who would normally be tied into Tempe, then the Orange Bowl, and then the Sugar Bowl. The SEC champion (either Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, or LSU) will make the Sugar Bowl, and the ACC champion (Florida State, Miami, or Virginia Tech) will make the Orange Bowl. There are four other spots remaining, one to be filled by the Big Ten champion (Penn State or Ohio State) and another to be filled by the Big East champion (West Virginia or South Florida). For the at-large teams, any team with nine wins who is in the final BCS top twelve is available for selection, while any team in the top four who is not a conference champion must be selected. Now with all that being said, how do I see the bowls at this point?

As mentioned previously, the Rose Bowl should pair USC and Texas. The Fiesta Bowl will probably snap up Notre Dame with the first at-large pick. I think Miami will win the ACC and end up in the Orange Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl will take LSU as the SEC champion. This leaves Penn State, West Virginia, and an at-large remaining, which could be Alabama, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Oregon, or Texas Tech. The Orange Bowl gets preference, and I think they will pair Penn State against Miami. Then the Fiesta Bowl will probably pair Virginia Tech against Notre Dame, which leaves the Sugar with LSU and West Virginia. I will try and update these bowl projections every week after my top ten, and it will be interesting to see how close I get now that the conference races are almost over. The at-large selections will be quite a fight between the SEC's second best team (which I project to be Alabama), Virginia Tech, Ohio State, and Notre Dame.

This week offers a few good games, and the best game of the week will probably be the SEC West showdown between LSU at Alabama. The Tigers have recovered from a shaky start to their season to beat quality teams like Florida and Auburn at home. This is LSU's final test, and the Tigers would have the inside track to the SEC title game if they win at Tuscaloosa. Alabama's offense has left a lot to be desired this week, and I do not know if their defense will be able to carry them through this game. The Tigers are playing better and must take the Tuscaloosa crowd out of the game early if they hope to win. I'll take LSU by ten in this one, removing one more undefeated from the national title race.

Another SEC showdown brings us our second game of the week when Auburn visits Georgia. Auburn cannot afford a loss if they want to stay in the SEC title picture, but Georgia is in the same boat with Florida breathing down their neck. Georgia has had two weeks to think about their loss in Jacksonville, and with D.J. Shockley back, I suspect the Dawgs are ready for a big win. You can never count Auburn out though, as the Tigers are still fighting for the outside chance at a BCS berth and have played well in pressure situations this season. I still think Georgia has had plenty of time to heal up and will be hungry for victory. Georgia by 17.

There are a few options for the third game of the week (including Florida vs. Steve Spurrier's South Carolina team and USC at California), but I have selected Northwestern at Ohio State as my third game of the week. Ohio State has found an offense after their loss to Penn State, and they have lived up to expectations by taking care of their business against weaker Big Ten foes in the past four weeks. Northwestern split a tough two weeks at home by losing to Michigan and creating a miracle comeback to defeat Iowa last week. Northwestern can still get a part of the Big Ten title with a win in Columbus and a little help from Michigan State against Penn State next weekend, so they have more to play for than just bowl position. You can never count out Northwestern; all their games have been crazy this season, which makes this an interesting battle. Oh, and don't forget Northwestern won in OT last season. But this is a much better Buckeye team. Ohio State keeps on trucking to Ann Arbor with a 20-point win this week.

Top 3 Games of the Week record to date: 18-12 (3-0 last week)

Conference Breakdowns

ACC
Florida State has nothing to play for against Clemson this week as they already are in the ACC title game, but don't expect FSU to give up a second loss in a row with Florida and Miami still looming in the next couple weeks. NC State can score a second straight huge road win against Boston College this week, and the Wolfpack needs to win if they wish to play in a bowl this season. Georgia Tech at Virginia is also important for conference and bowl positioning, despite both teams being out of the Coastal division race.

Big XII
Colorado has one final test in going to Ames to face Iowa State this week, but the Buffaloes should take care of business and make the title game to face Texas again in December. Texas A&M has their last legitimate chance to become bowl eligible against Oklahoma this week, as Texas in two weeks is not likely to give them win number six either. Texas Tech and Texas should continue to roll as they position themselves for the bowl season.

Big East
West Virginia travels to Cincinnati for a mid-week clash, and I don't expect the Mountaineers to hiccup in their last easy Big East game of the season (Pittsburgh and USF remain on the schedule). Pittsburgh at 4-5 must not slip up against Connecticut if they wish to have a chance at being bowl eligible if they beat WVU in the Backyard Brawl. Louisville has an interesting matchup against Rutgers, as both teams are bowl eligible and already have two losses in conference play.

Big Ten
All of a sudden, Iowa chokes on their Wildcat meal last week, and now they need a win at Wisconsin or against Minnesota to salvage bowl eligibility. I expect the shootout in Camp Randall this week to be a tough way to get win number six, so we may have to wait another week to see if the Hawkeyes will be bowling. Michigan State is the other team needing one more win for bowl eligibility, and this week's matchup at Minnesota could be a good one with all that as well as conference position on the line. Assuming the Buckeyes take care of business this week, the conference race will come down to an exciting couple of games next weekend.

MAC
The past two weeks have turned this conference race upside down, and I had the pleasure of seeing Toledo in person this past week as they picked apart Ohio in Peden Stadium. Toledo and Ohio, as well as four others, have the weekend off as they prepare to have mid-week showdowns next week. Central Michigan travels to Western Michigan trying to hold onto second place in the West after losing to Northern Illinois last weekend. Next week's games will really set the stage for who will be playing in the MAC title game, and this week is just preparation.

SEC
We've already mentioned the two huge games, and Florida at South Carolina is huge as well. Vanderbilt and Tennessee could set up a huge rivalry game with bowl eligibility on the line next weekend if they both take care of business against Kentucky and Memphis, respectively. Most eyes will be on this conference this week for good reason as this week is the final shakeout before the SEC title game is determined.

Fitzy's BCS Projections - Week 11
ROSE: USC v. Texas
ORANGE: Miami v. Penn State
FIESTA: Notre Dame v. Virginia Tech
SUGAR: LSU v. West Virginia

Fitzy's Top 10 - Week 11
1. USC (9-0)
2. Texas (9-0)
3. Miami (7-1)
4. Alabama (9-0)
5. LSU (7-1)
6. Penn State (9-1)
7. Ohio State (7-2)
8. Notre Dame (6-2)
9. Georgia (7-1)
10. Virginia Tech (8-1)
Dropped Out: #6 UCLA (8-1), #8 Florida State (7-2)

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