Big East Title & Bowl Probabilities

Though Rutgers started the '08 campaign slowly, the Scarlet Knights have heated up as of late, and consequently, Bowl talk and the myriad of possibilities, is once more, renewed. But what are the realistic chances of winter-time destinations? SOR breaks it down for you.

Big East
First and foremost, though chances – mathematically speaking – are slim, Rutgers can still win the Big East Conference and the BCS bowl bid awarded to the conference's champion. In order to accomplish this feat, the Scarlet Knights need help, and in addition to winning the remaining trio of games several additional things must happen:

  • WVU loses out
  • Pitt loses to UConn AND defeats WVU AND defeats Cincy
  • Cincy loses to Pitt AND either Syracuse OR Louisville
  • UConn wins out

Pitt, UConn and Rutgers would then find themselves tied with identical 5-2 (conference) records. Rutgers wins the ensuing tiebreak because of a 2-0 against those teams.

That's highly unlikely, and it involves several things that would be bad for Rutgers if everything doesn't go as planned. The first is Louisville winning a game. Ideally, RU would need the Cardinals to lose out, and end up at 5-7 (overall).

What is Big East's bowl situation?

  • BCS
  • Gator or Sun Bowl (but ND can take one and the Big 12 would take the other)
  • Meineke Car Care
  • Toronto's International Bowl
  • Bowl
  • St. Petersburg Bowl

Let's talk about Notre Dame for a minute. The Irish can receive a Gator Bowl bid as suggested above, or they can receive a Cotton Bowl bid (the latter has the higher payout, so given a choice, ND would opt for the latter). To do that ND needs to get to at least 7-5, meaning no less than 2 additional victories from their current placement. Otherwise Rutgers needs them to lose to Navy, Syracuse and USC, which is unlikely.

Assuming Rutgers were to achieve bowl eligibility, and becomes no worse than 6-6, Louisville only gets to at best an identical 6-6 record, and Notre Dame either doesn't become bowl eligible or is taken by the Cotton Bowl …

In that case, Rutgers fans would have to look forward to the following possibilities:

  • Sun: 5% - Last year they wanted the most highly ranked team. Given that track record, the Sun looks unlikely at best, given that there is little to no chance of that being Rutgers.
  • Meineke: 10% - If WVU or Pitt are available choices, the Meineke folks would select between the pair.
  • Toronto: 10% - No matter the team, the chances of a bowl desiring identical teams back to back, is low. If Uconn is available, look for the Toronto folks to go in the way of Edsall's Huskies.
  • St. Petersburg: 5% - Assuming availability, the Big East's newest bowl will elect the home-town team – USF.
  • Birmingham: 70% - It's the most likely, and only remaining conference tie-in.

If ND does grab a BE bowl, then things change, and indeed, the bowl outlook for Rutgers strongly hinges on a 7-win season. In that case, the hope is that UConn ends up with only 7 wins (or even 6). Rutgers may, even in that scenario, likely end up in Birmingham.

However, assuming that Rutgers is 6-6 and ND is in a BE bowl, or Louisville gets to 6 wins and defeats Rutgers, the number of available Big East bowls dwindle to none. In that case, several realistic scenarios remain, but all depend on the progression of the season outside of the Big East.

These are possible bowl openings by conference. These refer only to the chances that these bowls won't be filled by their conference, or by secondary conferences. If a team is 7-5, then the bowl would have to take that team over a 6-6 Rutgers. A lot of different things would need to be taken into account that I can't possibly answer about the minds of bowl committees. Let's just say that because bowls like to choose early – it is in RU's best interest to beat USF and Army to get to 6-5 and achieve bowl eligibility before the bowls start their selection process.

Eight teams are eligible, leaving only one more bowl slot to fill, the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C. For a non-ACC team to get that slot (e.g., Rutgers) Virginia would have to lose to Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Clemson. Clemson would have to lose to South Carolina and Duke, and Duke would have to lose to Virginia Tech and UNC. This would leave each team at 5-7.

EagleBank chances: 5%

Big 12
The Big 12 has 7 teams eligible for 9 slots (the Big 12 will get two BCS bids). That leaves two possible bowl slots – the Texas Bowl in Houston, and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport.

Three teams may still achieve bowl eligibility:
Colorado (5-5) – Oklahoma State, @ Nebraska
Kansas State (4-6) – Nebraska, Iowa State
Texas A&M - @Baylor, @Texas

Independence Bowl chances: 25%
Texas Bowl chances: 50%

Big Ten
The Big Ten has 6 teams that are bowl eligible, and a 7th, Wisconsin is sure to get there by beating D1-AA Cal Poly. Under normal circumstances they would have only 7 bowl slots, but there is a good chance that they will get two BCS bowls with both Ohio State and Penn State in the top 12. In fact, it's a very high probability – I will say 80% at this point. If that happens then the remaining bowl is the Motor City Bowl in Detroit, and only Illinois has a shot, currently at 5-5. But they would need to beat OSU and Northwestern.
Motor City Bowl chances: 40%

The SEC is a complicated situation. Currently only 6 teams are bowl eligible, but 3 more teams have five wins. Add to that the fact that the SEC will likely get two BCS bowls and that Notre Dame can take their Cotton Bowl slot, and you've got chaos - all that is before factoring in the fact that the Sun Belt gets first dibs on open slots for the and Independence bowls. The bowl is a Big East bowl, so for the Big East to get an at large slot the SEC would have to fall short by two teams. That is possible.

How may that happen? One way would require that Notre Dame doesn't get the Cotton Bowl. The second is that Auburn, Ole Miss, Vandy, Arkansas, and Mississippi State all miss a bowl.

Auburn (5-5) – Georgia, @Alabama – 10% chance of making a bowl
Ole Miss (5-4) – Louisiana-Monroe, @LSU, Mississippi State - 95% change of making a bowl
Vanderbilt (5-4) - @Kentucky, Tennessee, @Wake Forest – 80% chance of making a bowl
Arkansas (4-6) - @ Mississippi State, @LSU – 5% chance of making a bowl
Mississippi State (3-6) – @ Alabama, Arkansas, @Ole Miss – 1% chance of making a bowl

As for the Sun Belt – we will assume that it's a virtual certainty that they have one extra bowl team, and assume a 75% chance that they have two extra teams.
Liberty Bowl – 1%
Music City Bowl – 3%
Independence Bowl – 30% Bowl – 0%

Five teams are already bowl eligible, and Stanford currently sits at 5-5. The Pac-10 has 7 bowls, but their 7th bowl, the Poinsettia, in San Diego, is claimed by the WAC, if it is open. Arizona State is 3-6, as is UCLA. Given their schedules it is unlikely that any of the three attain eligibility. If Oregon State wins out then they take the Rose Bowl. If that happens, USC will likely take the last at-large slot over OSU. That opens the possibility that the PAC-10 could have 5 bowl eligible teams for 8 spots. This would open up the Emerald Bowl.

Stanford (5-5) – USC, @ Cal
Arizona State (3-6) – Washington State, UCLA, @Arizona
UCLA (3-6) - @Washington, @ASU, USC

Hawaii Bowl – 35%
Poinsettia – 5%
Emerald Bowl - 20%

Conference USA
Three C-USA teams are currently bowl eligible: Rice, Tulsa, and ECU. C-USA has 6 bowl slots. There are an additional 5 teams that COULD become bowl eligible. I will spare you the analysis, but Memphis and Houston will almost surely win 1 more game, while Marshall, Southern Miss, and UTEP are all unlikely to win two more games. To add a little confusion – no one seems to have a firm grip on the CUSA bowl selection order after the Liberty Bowl and the GMAC bowl. The Armed Forces and Texas bowls have a higher payout than the New Orleans and probably St. Petersburg bowl as well. So they will go first, with Texas getting first grabs with Rice. The order below assumes that this is the order that they are selected – it should really be bowl selecting fourth, bowl selecting fifth, bowl selecting sixth.

Armed Forces – 5%
St. Petersburg – 20%
New Orleans – 80%

Four bowl eligible teams, four bowls … BUT they will get a fifth bowl IF Utah wins out. Three more teams are 4-6. Of those teams Colorado State and UNLV both play Wyoming. UNLV also plays the awful Sand Diego State, and Colorado State plays a pretty bad New Mexico. So at least one team gets left out, possibly all three if Wyoming beats UNLV, and loses to Colorado State, with Colorado State losing to New Mexico. The fourth MWC bowl is the New Mexico Bowl.

New Mexico Bowl – 10%

What a mess the WAC is. Two teams are bowl eligible, but four teams have five wins, although Hawaii needs to get to seven because of their thirteen game schedule. The WAC has three bowls, but could get to four if the Poinsettia is open, and five if Utah loses and Boise State wins out and gets a BCS bid. It looks pretty likely that Fresno State and Louisiana Tech will win at least one more game, and that Hawaii will win at least two more, while Nevada will have a hard time to win any of its remaining three. So that's five teams for at most five slots. Nothing to see here.

Three bowl eligible teams – three bowls. Let's move along.

Sun Belt
One bowl plus first dibs on the, St. Petersburg, or the Independence Bowl. Right now there is one bowl eligible team, and one more team, Troy, that is likely to get there. Three other teams are 4-5 – FIU, FAU, and Arkansas State – at least one will get to 6 wins. So that's a likely three teams for what is likely to be three spots.

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