PiRate Top 25 and Bowl Outlook

Peiser's PiRate system rates the SEC and national top 25 teams and takes a look at the bowl scenarios.

PiRate Top 25 For 11-22-05
1. Texas                                   10-0     135.2
2. Southern Cal                        11-0     134.1
3. Penn State                            10-1     123.2
4. L S U                                     9-1     122.0
5. Ohio State                              9-2     121.1
6. Auburn                                   9-2     120.7
7. Virginia Tech                          9-1     117.8
8. Notre Dame                           8-2     116.4
9. Fresno State                           8-2     116.3
10. West Virginia                        8-1     116.0
11. Miami                                   8-2     115.9
12. Georgia                                8-2     115.7
13. U C L A                               9-1     114.8
14. T C U                                10-1     114.4
15. Texas Tech                           9-2     114.0
16. Alabama                               9-2     113.3
17. Oregon                               10-1     113.2
18. Georgia Tech                        7-3     113.1
19. Louisville                              7-2     112.9
20. Michigan                              7-4     112.6
21. Iowa State                            7-3     110.1
22. Florida                                 7-3     109.9
23. Colorado                              7-3     109.8
24. Clemson                               7-4     109.1
25. Iowa                                    7-4     108.2
Georgia                        115.7
Florida                         109.9
South Carolina              107.4
Tennessee                      99.7
Vanderbilt                      99.1
Kentucky                       96.3
L S U                           122.0
Auburn                         120.7
Alabama                       113.3
Arkansas                      103.9
Ole Miss                        94.4
Mississippi State             92.8
Vanderbilt fans will forever remember two blocked field goal attempts in 2005. Those two plays prevented the Commodores from finishing 7-4 and playing a twelfth game in Nashville on New Year's Eve. The Commodores also came up one point short of 300 for the season. The only teams in modern day football to accomplish that feat were the 1974 and 1948 squads, two of the best ever at Dudley Field. With a successful field goal attempt on the final play of the MTSU game and a made or even missed but not blocked field goal against Kentucky, this team would have also topped 300 points and been remembered in the same light as the other two.
What do Commodore fans have to look forward to in 2006 without Jay Cutler? All hope may not be lost. Steven Bright could very well return to pilot the team after spending a year as a fullback/h-back. He has the skills to be an excellent SEC quarterback. Bright, or whoever starts at QB, will have a bevy of quality skilled position players to work with. The fate of the offense will rest in the muscles of the new offensive line, which will lose Trey Holloway, Nigel Seaman, Ryan King, Mac Pyle, and tight end Dustin Dunning.
Defensively, the Commodores will lose several key players. Herdley Harrison, Ralph McKenzie, Moses Osemwegie, Andrew Pace, Kelechi Ohanaja, and Cheron Thompson will be hard to replace. Even with the emergence of several promising underclassmen, look for this unit to find it hard to duplicate 2005's performance.
Now, concerning the race for the bowls, Nashvillians will have to go elsewhere to see a team from the Southeastern Conference. The Music City Bowl will not have an SEC representative, and the Big 10 may send its seventh best team instead of its sixth, as Ohio State looks to be a lock for one of the at-large BCS bowl bids. Look for an ACC team, probably Boston College and possibly Virginia, to fill the SEC's spot at the Coliseum.
As for Cutler, I can only believe that Saturday he secured his becoming a first round draft pick. He returned to Vanderbilt for his final year because NFL experts told him he needed to show that he can win games in the closing minutes. After doing so against Wake Forest and Arkansas, and after deserving to do so against Florida, his coup de grace Saturday had to show the pro scouts that he is another Brett Favre. Not only could he be a first round pick, he could be taken by a playoff team. He might go in the number 20-30 range of picks. If he were to have an excellent post-season all-star game showing and Combine tryout, he could move up to the top 15. Good luck Jay, and thanks for the memories.
Well, here we go again. This conference is so balanced that everyone has beaten up on everyone else. Miami's chance to sneak into the Rose Bowl is gone; they won't even get to a BCS bowl unless North Carolina beats Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. It looks like the Hokies have an excellent shot at going to the Orange Bowl if they can knock off the Tar Heels then dispose of a collapsing Florida State team in the ACC Title game.
The winner of the Maryland-North Carolina State game this week will become the eighth bowl eligible team in a league with six bowl bids. The reward for the winner should be a trip west to Boise.
B C S Bowl: Virginia Tech
Gator: Miami
Peach: Georgia Tech (home team okay this year, since Sugar Bowl will help the hotels)
Champs Sports: Clemson
Meineke Car Care: Florida State
MPC Computer: Maryland (or North Carolina State)
At-large availability: Boston College and Virginia (Music City Bowl will take one of these)
Big East
The problem with a league that has a bunch of new teams is the scheduling. It seems like no team has played more than one November game. West Virginia has not yet clinched the title, as South Florida continues to control their own destiny. The Bulls are now bowl eligible. The loser of the WVU-USF game on December 3 may very well drop below Louisville in priority. The Cards should end up in Jacksonville.
Rutgers is the fourth bowl eligible team. Rumors are running rampant that the Scarlet Knights are headed southwest to Arizona.
Pittsburgh and Connecticut can still end up 6-5 and become bowl eligible. The Panthers would have to beat West Virginia this week, while UConn would have to beat South Florida and Louisville. Don't hold your breath expecting either team to accomplish their tasks.
BCS Bowl: West Virginia
Gator: Louisville
Insight: Rutgers
Meineke Car Care: South Florida
Big 10
Congratulations go to Joe Paterno and his Nittany Lions. Penn State clinched a berth in a BCS bowl, most likely the Fiesta, with a convincing win over Michigan State. The Spartans loss was the Motor City Bowl's loss as well. Since Ohio State appears to be the odds-on favorite for one of the at-large BCS bowl bids, the Big 10 will come up one team shy for their bowl responsibilities. This may be where the ACC's eighth team gets to go.
Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, and Wisconsin finished tied for third. Look for the Wolverines to nab the top bowl of this group. It looks like the Badgers may edge the Hawkeyes for the next bowl, while Northwestern should beat out Minnesota for the next best bowl. That means the Gophers could be headed back to Nashville for the holidays for the third time.
BCS Bowl: Penn State (CLINCHED)
BCS At-Large: Ohio State (probably headed to Miami)
Capital One: Michigan
Outback: Wisconsin
Alamo: Iowa
Sun: Northwestern
Music City: Minnesota
Motor City: At-large team must be selected (Probably Virginia or Boston College)
Big 12
This league is still the hardest to figure out. Seven teams have qualified for bowls with two more teams having one more chance to become bowl eligible. After the top two bowls, it's anybody's guess to figure out the rest of this cluttered mess.
Texas still has work to do before flying to Pasadena. The Longhorns must beat Texas A&M at Kyle Field Friday, then beat Colorado (or Iowa State) in the Big 12 Title Game. The way UT has been playing, it looks bleak for the Aggies. They must win to avoid a losing season.
Oklahoma, Missouri, and Nebraska each have six wins, but the Sooners and Cornhuskers have one more game to play.
Iowa State may have the most to gain or lose this week. They play at Kansas, where the Jayhawks are fighting for bowl eligibility. Should the Cyclones win and Nebraska knock off Colorado in Boulder, then ISU is headed to a Championship date against Texas. Should the Cyclones lose to Kansas, they could drop all the way to the eighth (Ft. Worth) bowl. Iowa State lost a chance to win the North Division title last year when a last second 24-yard field goal missed its target.
BCS Bowl: Texas (It still looks everything's coming up roses)
Cotton: Texas Tech
Holiday: Oklahoma
Alamo: Colorado
Champs Sports: Missouri
Houston: Nebraska
Independence: Iowa State
Ft. Worth: Must look for an at-large team (assuming Iowa State beats Kansas)
UTEP ran into a big roadblock last Saturday night, and now must win at improving SMU to qualify for the first ever C-USA Championship game. Tulsa waits in the wings should the Miners stumble in Dallas. The Golden Hurricane will go bowling somewhere.
Central Florida has to qualify as one of the top three surprises of 2005 after going 0-11 last year. The Golden Knights clinched the East Division title Saturday.
Two more bowl bids will be issued to C-USA schools. Fighting for those bids are UAB, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, and Houston; all four of these teams are 5-5. UAB plays at East Carolina; Memphis hosts Marshall; Southern Miss hosts Tulane, and Houston hosts Rice. All four should win, but one will probably be upset.
Liberty: U T E P
GMAC: Central Florida
Hawaii: Tulsa
Ft. Worth: Houston
New Orleans: Southern Mississippi
Possible at-large teams: Memphis and U A B (both could be Music City darkhorses)
Omar Jacobs returned from an injured shoulder just in time to lead Bowling Green to an important victory over Miami of Ohio. The Falcons can wrap up the East Division crown with a win over Toledo tonight (Tuesday). If BGU falls, then Akron still has a chance to tiptoe up to number one. The Zips can win the East with a Bowling Green loss and Miami loss, or a Bowling Green loss, Miami win, and Northern Illinois win over Western Michigan. Miami has been eliminated from the title chase.
In the West Division, three teams still hold chances to make it to the title game. Northern Illinois controls their own destiny. If the Huskies beat Western Michigan, they are in. If the Broncos win the game, they must root for Bowling Green to beat Toledo. The Rockets hold the two-team tie-breaker with WMU.
Miami and Central Michigan are bowl eligible, but neither has much chance of garnering an at-large bowl bid.
Motor City: Northern Illinois
GMAC: Bowling Green
Others Bowl Eligible: Toledo, Western Michigan, Miami, and Central Michigan
Mountain West
TCU clinched the conference title last week, but they had to wait until Saturday to find out if they could be exempted from the Las Vegas Bowl and go to a more prestigious post-season game. Once Utah and Colorado State won, the MWC had two extra teams. With four bowl bids assured, one of the bowl eligibles will have to bite their nails hoping that neither Stanford nor Arizona State win this week.
Houston (thanks to SEC): T C U
Las Vegas: Brigham Young
Emerald: Utah
Poinsettia: Colorado State
Hoping for a miracle: New Mexico
Southern California fans started to sweat Saturday night as Fresno State took a 42-41 lead late in the game. Although the Trojans would have still gone to a BCS Bowl at 11-1, it would have been the Fiesta, while Penn State or LSU took their place in Pasadena. USC must still beat UCLA this week to head to the Rose Bowl, but even if they lose to the Bruins, they will still be the Pac-10 BCS bowl representative.
Arizona State and Stanford must win their finales this week to gain bowl eligibility. The Cardinal host Notre Dame, and the Irish are playing for the other at-large BCS bowl bid. The Sun Devils are not a cinch to beat rival Arizona. A loss could be the end for ASU coach Dirk Koetter.
The Emerald Bowl could have major problems this year. It doesn't look promising for a sixth Pac-10 team to become bowl eligible. The Bowl cannot invite the extra MWC team, since the MWC already sends a team to the bowl. Fresno State could be available, but my guess is the Bulldogs will be grabbed up by the richer Liberty Bowl. There won't be much left to choose from; a third MAC team may be the only choice, and that won't sell many seats.
BCS Bowl: Southern California (CLINCHED) (A win over UCLA makes USC Rose Bowl-bound)
Holiday: Oregon
Sun: U C L A
Insight: California
Las Vegas: Arizona State
Emerald: Must find at-large team and hope to stay in business
Georgia has clinched the East crown, while LSU must defeat a fast-charging Arkansas team to do the same in the West. The Bayou Bengals still have a needle's eye chance of advancing to Pasadena if USC loses to UCLA or Texas loses to either Texas A&M or to the North representative in the Big 12 Title Game. The Tigers would have to clobber Georgia in the SEC Championship game to leapfrog over Penn State.
Vandy's win over Tennessee means the SEC will fall two teams shy of its allotment of bowl representatives. Since the Independence Bowl had to pick an at-large team last year, they automatically get the last of the bowl eligibles this year. The Music City Bowl and Houston Bowl will look elsewhere this season.
BCS Bowl: L S U (Sugar Bowl-Bound)
Capital One: Auburn
Outback: Georgia
Cotton: Alabama
Peach: South Carolina
Independence: Florida
Music City: Must select at-large team (probably Boston College or Virginia)
Houston: Must select at-large team (probably T C U)
In a league where only one team won an out of conference game to a Division I-a school (MTSU over Vandy), it comes as no surprise that no teams are bowl eligible this late in the season. For a change, North Texas will not be playing in the New Orleans Bowl. The Mean Green are 2-8.
Louisiana Monroe controls their own destiny. If the Indians beat rival UL-Lafayette, they win the title and advance to the New Orleans Bowl. If the Ragin' Cajuns beat UL-M, then Arkansas State will get the bowl bid with a win over North Texas. Should both UL-M and Arkansas State lose, UL-Lafayette will win the title and get to host the New Orleans Bowl.
New Orleans (played in Lafayette): Arkansas State
Four teams still hold hopes for winning the WAC title. Fresno State plays at Nevada Saturday then hosts Louisiana Tech the week after. If the Bulldogs win both, they take the WAC title and more than likely advance to the Liberty Bowl. That would open a spot for a third team to get a bowl bid. Boise State will host the MPC Computers bowl if they can best Louisiana Tech this week. Nevada appears to be the first choice of the Hawaii Bowl regardless of whether they win or lose this week.
Liberty: Fresno State (advances to a better bowl, opening up a spot for another WAC team)
MPC Computers: Boise State
Hawaii: Nevada
At-large availability: Louisiana Tech (could be a good bet for the Ft. Worth Bowl if Kansas loses this week)
Notre Dame needs a win over Stanford to become the favorite for the final at-large BCS bowl. The Fighting Irish will qualify by winning their ninth game and finishing in the top 12 of the BCS poll.
Navy became bowl eligible with a win over Temple. As I write this on Monday afternoon, it appears the Midshipmen will be extended an invitation to the Poinsettia Bowl before the day is over.
BCS At-Large Bowl: Notre Dame
Poinsettia: Navy
What happens if USC loses to UCLA and Texas loses to either Texas A&M or Colorado (or Iowa State) in the Big 12 Championship game? Why should LSU and Penn State advance to the Rose Bowl just because their losses came earlier in the season?
What makes USC and Texas the two best teams just because they are undefeated? What if Penn State or LSU played the two top teams' schedules? Might they also be undefeated? It just goes to show that without a playoff, the eventual Rose Bowl winner is still the mythical champ.
Coming up after the regular season, I will reveal what would be an excellent playoff bracket utilizing the current bowl games.
Starting next week, I will begin my basketball coverage. Until then, look for my game predictions as postings on the Men's basketball board. The Vandy-UNC-Greensboro ratings prediction should be posted by the time this story runs.

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