VandyMania's Howell Peiser continues weekly rating service of the nations top 25 and SEC teams.
Top 25 PiRates
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Vandy's chances for a 6-5 season are sailing off into the sunset. South Carolina not only has a considerably better PiRate rating and home field advantage, they have had a week off to prepare. Vandy comes into this game battered and bruised. 6-5 may have to come from wins over Kentucky and at Tennessee. I don't see the Vols losing at home to the Commodores, so Saturday's game becomes the most important game since Kentucky in 1999 and Ole Miss in 1982.
A Look at the Conference Races
Last week was supposed to be the week when questions were answered.Funny, it looks like more questions popped up.
How about Virginia beating FloridaState?Virginia Tech suddenly looks like a runaway champion in this league. now, watch Maryland put a real scare in them Thursday Night. The way things look today, The Hokies look like a 1-5 favorite to make it to a BCS Bowl at 12-0 and give the BCS committee headaches.That would place Miami in the Gator, FloridaState in the Peach, BostonCollege in the Champ Sports, Georgia Tech in the Meineke Car Care, and Clemson in the MPC Computers Bowl.Virginia and North CarolinaState have good shots at getting to 6-5, so there could be eight bowl eligible teams.Unless Miami beats Virginia Tech, there will not be a BCS at-large team coming from the ACC.
West Virginia pushed Louisville out of the Big East Conference race.Can the Mountaineers possibly run the table from here?It's possible, but I don't think they are as good as the last three years.For now, let's put them in the BCS bowl.Louisville can still win out and get to 9-2.Send them to the Gator Bowl for a rematch with the lone team to beat them last year.That leaves the Insight and Meineke Car Care Bowls for Rutgers and Connecticut.This assumes that South Florida and Pittsburgh cannot get sixth wins.
In the Big 10, we could be on the way to a repeat of the 1981 conference race when Iowa won a five-horse photo finish with two league losses.Michigan's last-play win over PennState has thrown this race open once again.I think three teams will finish 6-2 and four more will finish 5-3.Trying to determine which seven will finish where is close to impossible, but here goes.Let's give Wisconsin the BCS bid.We will send PennState to the Capital One Bowl, Iowa to the Outback Bowl, MichiganState to the Alamo Bowl, Minnesota to the Sun Bowl, OhioState to the Music City Bowl, and Michigan to the Motor City Bowl.You cannot count out Northwestern or even Indiana to become bowl eligible, but they have difficult schedules to close the season.
The Big 12 North is once again anybody's guess.Can Missouri come from out of nowhere to sneak through, or will the Colorado-Nebraska game decide it for umpteenth time?The South should be decided this Saturday when Texas and Texas Tech square off, but don't count out Texas A&M playing the game of their life the Friday after Thanksgiving and giving Texas fits.I think this is Mack Brown's year to silence the critics.Texas may go all the way, and Vince Young may have to learn the Heisman
pose.Let's pencil in The Longhorns for the BCS (Rose) Bowl.Texas Tech would be a worthy Cotton Bowl team, but at 10-1, they could sneak into BCS at-large status.If there is no BCS at-large team from this league, then Nebraska would go to the Holiday Bowl, Colorado would get the Alamo bid, Missouri would go to the Champ Sports Bowl, Texas A&M would go to the Houston Bowl, Oklahoma would have to settle for the Independence, and KansasState would take the Ft. Worth Bowl bid.
Conference USA is so jumbled up that the winner of the East Division could finish 6-5 in the regular season and three runners up could also finish 6-5.Then, the winner could lose in the C-USA championship game and not go to a bowl, while one or two of the 6-5 runners up could get a bowl bid.In the West UTEP looks strong, but Tulsa could still sneak in as division champ.I'm picking the Miners to make it to the Liberty Bowl, with Tulsa getting the GMAC Bowl.Houston may finish 7-4 but might fall to the Ft. Worth Bowl.The Hawaii and New Orleans Bowls would decide from all the six-win teams (Memphis, Southern Miss., UAB, and Central Florida.
Seven MAC teams still have good chances to become bowl eligible; the MAC only gets two guaranteed bids.Toledo and Bowling Green are the class of the league, but not by much.Put the Rockets in the MotorCity and the Falcons in the GMAC.Miami (O), Akron, Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, and Central Michigan could all be bowl eligible and in line for an at-large bid somewhere.With the Liberty not having a second tie-in and at least one or two others who will need to look elsewhere, this league could once again see four teams play in the postseason.
TCU has opened what looks to be an insurmountable lead in the Mountain West.Four other teams will fight it out for two other guaranteed bowls.Place the Horned Frogs in the Las Vegas Bowl.Colorado State, New Mexico, Wyoming, and the winner of the Utah-BYU game should all be bowl eligible.The Emerald and Poinsettia Bowls would choose the teams that promise to buy the most tickets.I think one extra bowl bid could still be issued, possibly even the Liberty Bowl if an arrangement could be
made to pit TCU and UTEP against each other (and they each had only one loss).
The Pac-10 could have one undefeated and two 10-1 teams.Could the USC-UCLA game at the end of the year be one for the ages as two undefeated teams square off at the Coliseum?For those who remember the 1967 and 1969 games between the two cross-town rivals, we could be in for another great finish on the coast.For now, let's place Southern Cal in the BCS Bowl.UCLA and Oregon could both have strong cases for an at-large BCS bid at 10-1.Since a 10-1 Bruin team would be 10-0 going into the finale, let's give them one of the two at-large bids to the BCS.That would leave Oregon for the Holiday Bowl, ArizonaState for the Sun Bowl, Cal for the Insight Bowl, OregonState for the Las Vegas Bowl, and the Emerald Bowl would have to look for an at-large team.
Even if the Vanderbilt-South Carolina winner finishes 6-5, the SEC will come up one team short.That means the Independence, MusicCity, or Houston Bowl will have to look elsewhere.If the Music City Bowl has to pick between Vanderbilt, Tennessee, or someone from another conference, how much of a factor will fewer tourists play in this decision.20,000 empty seats versus 2,000 empty hotel rooms—which one is more important?If South
Carolina beats Vandy, the Gamecocks could still finish 5-6, leaving this league two teams short.And, if a second BCS team comes from the SEC, then three bowls might have to go fishing for new teams!
For now, let's give Georgia a pass to a BCS Bowl.If the Dogs run the table, they may become the second consecutive SEC team to go undefeated and be left out of the National Championship picture.Alabama would be the choice of the Capital One Bowl, LSU would get the Outback Bowl, Auburn would go to the Cotton Bowl, Florida would head to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl, Tennessee would play in the Independence Bowl and this Saturday's Vandy-South Carolina winner would get bowl bid number seven.If
South Carolina wins, then they would head to Nashville if they get to 6-5.If Vandy wins, then send them to the Houston Bowl.Again, the chances are still quite good that South Carolina will win this Saturday, and both teams will finish with losing records.
This conference race is getting interesting.North Texas doesn't look like they will repeat unless they recover quickly.Louisiana Monroe is 3-0 in the league.MTSU is waiting in the wings at 1-1, and they host UL-M later in the season.That game could decide the New Orleans Bowl (via Lafayette) representative.
This conference race just got interesting this past Saturday.There is a third team that looks capable of cutting in on the dance card of the big two.Nevada is now 3-0 in league play.Coach Chris Ault guided the Wolf Pack to seven Big West titles as well as three Las Vegas Bowl bids in five seasons a decade ago, and then retired to the A.D's position.He fired former coach Chris Tormey and named himself as coach once again.In just his second year back as coach, Nevada is headed to their first winning season since 1998.With a week off to prepare for BoiseState and FresnoState coming to Reno to close out the season, this could be a fun five week finish for the Pack.Personally, I think they will come up short in both big games and finish 7-4.The Las Vegas Bowl could give OregonState to the Emerald Bowl and take Nevada as an at-large team if UCLA or Oregon garners an at-large BCS bid.GiveFresnoState and Boise St. the two guaranteed bids (MPC Computers and Hawaii).
Notre Dame should win out and get an at-large BCS Bowl bid.Navy has an excellent chance to finish 7-4 and be invited somewhere.