Georgia a key player in BCS outlook

Michigan’s win over Ohio State on Saturday was entertaining, but that was it for the drama among all the big games this weekend. At least the lack of upsets makes the BCS picture almost crystal clear.

Except for Michigan.

The Sugar Bowl would love nothing more than to take the 10-2 Wolverines, but they must be ranked in the BCS top 14. Last week, they were 15th, and No. 3 Arkansas was the only team in the top 14 to lose this weekend. The Razorbacks aren’t going to drop too far.

Meanwhile, Michigan State was 14th and Wisconsin 16th, and they both have a shot to move up after big wins. The Badgers are almost certainly going to move up after blowing away Penn State — even though the BCS computers have been anti-Bucky all year — and the winner of the Big Ten championship is a lock for the top 14.

No. 13 Georgia isn’t going to budge much after beating Georgia Tech. And in a disastrous turn for the Wolverines, Clemson lost to No. 12 South Carolina. Michigan likely will move into the top 14 at some point, but it could be really, really close.

Louisiana State, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State and South Carolina are seven teams in last week’s top 14 that won’t fall below Michigan. The winner of the Virginia Tech-Clemson matchup in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game likely will be ahead of the Wolverines in the final standings, and the winner of the Big Ten title game between Michigan State and Wisconsin will be in the top 14, too.

Kansas State probably will beat Iowa State to make it 10. Houston probably will beat Southern Miss to make it 11. Oregon will beat UCLA to make it 12. Oklahoma probably won’t drop too far it loses to Oklahoma State. And if the Sooners win, the Cowboys won’t fall under Michigan. That likely will mean Michigan’s BCS hopes could come down to needing one team, Georgia, to sink like a rock and be punished by the pollsters after a loss to LSU. If Georgia beats LSU in the Southeastern Conference title game, Michigan is out.

LSU was given a run early on by Arkansas before the rushing game took over to win in a muscle-flexing, 41-17 blowout. The Hogs are out of the national title chase, and the Tigers are all but certain to be in the BCS championship game, no matter what happens against Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Houston remained perfect with a blowout victory over Tulsa to get to the Conference USA championship game. If the Cougars beat Southern Miss, they’ll earn an automatic invitation into the BCS.

All right, deep breath. Here’s the Big East’s deal: Cincinnati is in if it beats UConn and West Virginia loses to South Florida. Louisville is in if Cincinnati loses to UConn. West Virginia is in if it beats South Florida, the Bearcats beat UConn and the Mountaineers end up ranked higher than Louisville and Cincinnati in the BCS standings.

With all of that in mind, here’s the best guess on what the BCS bowls are going to be like:

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO

Jan. 2

Projection: Wisconsin vs. Oregon

In the mix: Michigan State, UCLA

This one’s the easiest of the lot. The winner of the Big Ten championship game between Wisconsin and Michigan will face the winner of the Pac-12 championship game between Oregon and UCLA.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Jan. 2

Projection: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford

In the mix: Oklahoma, Houston, West Virginia, Virginia Tech

The Fiesta gets the Big 12 champion. Assuming Oklahoma State doesn’t play for the BCS championship, it will be here with a win over Oklahoma. If Oklahoma wins in Stillwater next week, it will be here. Stanford likely will be the highest-ranked at-large team on the board. A top-four BCS ranking and the draw of Andrew Luck would make it a fun game, but taking Houston wouldn’t be bad for the offense and the novelty factor. After getting stuck with Connecticut last year, though, the bowl wants as much pizzazz as possible, and that’s Luck.

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Jan. 3

Projection: Michigan vs. Houston

In the mix: Stanford, Kansas State, Georgia, Arkansas, Virginia Tech

Alabama’s win over Auburn made this easier. It will be the Tide vs. LSU for the BCS championship, even if Georgia wins the SEC championship. If the Dawgs win, they’ll be in the Sugar Bowl and Michigan will be out. If LSU wins, then the Sugar Bowl will get the first choice of all the at-large teams, and in the absence of any eligible SEC teams, Michigan would be the most attractive choice by far as long as it slips into the top 14. Assuming Georgia loses, there will still be another at-large pick to make, and with the second choice in the overall pecking order after the Fiesta, Houston would be the easiest selection. However, if Houston loses the Conference USA title game and Stanford is gone and Arkansas isn’t eligible, then it would be between Kansas State — if it beats Iowa State — the Big East champion, or Virginia Tech if it loses the ACC championship.

Discover Orange Bowl

Jan. 4

Projection: Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia

In the mix: Clemson, Louisville, Cincinnati

The Orange picks last in the at-large order and it’s almost certainly going to be stuck with the Big East champion unless it’s West Virginia. The Mountaineers always travel well, and there’s a chance they could end up in the Fiesta if they win the conference title, but Stanford is almost certainly headed to Glendale. The ACC champion — either Clemson or Virginia Tech — will be here.

BCS championship game

Jan. 9

Projection: LSU vs. Alabama

In the mix: Oklahoma State

There will be a groundswell of support against an LSU-Alabama rematch, but it will die down quickly. If Oklahoma State destroys Oklahoma, there might be a bit of a fight, but forget about it: LSU will play Alabama for the BCS championship.