Two weeks ago, we examined the Tigers’ BCS bowl chances, where they needed some things to fall in place…and they did – the Sugar Bowl shot well in hand, until the SEC snuck back in the title race last week to open up the possibilities again.
Going into the last week of the regular season, here’s Clemson’s bowl chances starting with the Sugar…
CBS’ Jerry Palm has the Bayou Bengals and Oklahoma in New Orleans, but is also projecting a Clemson loss to South Carolina.
ESPN’s experts are split – Mark Schlabach pegging an all-Tiger bowl in the Sugar (Clemson/LSU), while BCS guru Brad Edwards has it Florida and two-loss Oklahoma. That’s interesting prediction in itself, because the Gators would have to win as touchdown underdogs at FSU for it to happen.
Assuming a Tigers' win, Oklahoma over Clemson for one of the last at-large BCS bowl spots seems less likely now than two weeks ago. For one, they would have a top-15 BCS win (USC) the Sooners don't have an opportunity for, and two, Clemson is now two spots ahead of Oklahoma and could move into the top-10 of the BCS standings over a two-loss Texas A&M. Here’s who/what to root for in a back-to-back BCS bowl bid (besides Clemson):
1) Notre Dame
Remember when I said they were the No. 1 team to root against not that long ago? Yeah, scratch that. You want them to beat Southern Cal Saturday and head to the BCS title game. Clemson’s best chance is a ACC-SEC showdown in N’awlins (though Clemson-Notre Dame isn’t totally unrealistic).
2) Oklahoma State, TCU
Oklahoma’s next two opponents. Though Clemson is looking better resume-wise – it wouldn’t hurt for the Sooners to drop a game in the next two to keep them out of the picture. Let’s face it, Oklahoma has the name recognition and would travel to the Big Easy. Oklahoma State is 7-3 on the season, traveling to Norman, while TCU hosts OU after knocking off No. 18 Texas 20-13 in Austin Thursday.
3) Sugar Bowl not to select Oregon
These are in order of likeliness (more likely to less likely), but the Ducks could be good TV if Stanford wraps up the PAC-12 North this weekend (and beats UCLA next week in their conference championship). Of course, if the Fiesta picks an SEC team (the next at-large pick), then Clemson-Oregon isn’t all that out there of a possibility. They would be relying on the Tiger faithful for ticket sales and Oregon for ratings, but it would be fun (not for defensive coordinators though).
- Let’s say it’s a close loss – great game, and Oklahoma does lose again. There aren’t many options for the Sugar, as there'll be two SEC teams (one of them likely to New Orleans) and possibly two PAC-12 teams off the board. If the Sooners do lose again, there likely won’t be another Big 12 team in the top-14 needed for a BCS berth. There’s also no guarantee Clemson is there either. It would be a tricky situation, but if there aren’t enough eligible teams (top-14), the field is expanded to No. 18 and still only two teams from one conference can be selected overall. The Big 12 still has two weeks of play left – Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State still in the running. The Cowboys or Longhorns win out, and even at 9-3, they could be selected ahead of the Tigers if they make the top-14 and Clemson isn’t in it or if they are in the top-18 in the case of no eligible teams. The same goes for the Sooners if they split their final two.
- With a loss and without help, it’s the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, per the ACC’s one-win rule. No other team is within a game of the Tigers’ conference record, and therefore can’t pass them.
- The Fiesta Bowl, in the case of a SEC/Notre Dame title game, doesn’t look like a possibility any more, with a win or a close loss.