Bowl projections are always fun (and by fun, I mean maddening), but it is that time of the year. This is a projection of Clemson's likely destination - with a couple of the national outlook's alongside - and not just how it would be if the season ended today.
Here's some factors to keep in mind...
1) Six conferences have an automatic bid to the BCS. Every bowl has a tie-in with at least one of those conferences as follows: Rose (PAC-12 v. Big Ten), Sugar (SEC), Orange (ACC) and Fiesta (Big 12). After that, only one more team from each conference can go to a BCS bowl.
2) If a non-automatic-qualifying (AQ) conference lands a team in the top-12, they earn an automatic bid. Another case, which could very well be a factor this year, is if they get into the top-16 and are ahead of all teams ranked in an AQ conference.
3) There's an order to the selection of the BCS at-larges, which starts with the bowls replacing BCS Championship Game participants. The order this year is: No. 1 team's conference bowl, No. 2 team's conference's bowl, Orange, Sugar then Fiesta.
CBS Sports: Jerry Palm - Clemson v. Wisconsin
SB Nation: Clemson v. Wisconsin
O&W: Brandon Rink - Clemson v. Baylor
Clemson is probably in the Orange Bowl regardless of what happens this weekend, says a logical layout of the field from the Post & Courier.
Most interesting to me is the clause in the BCS selection process where essentially the Sugar would have to ask permission to select Clemson if FSU is No. 2 - and the Orange would have to ask permission to select an SEC team first if FSU lands at No. 1 in the final standings. If the 'Noles win out (and they will), New Orleans with have an SEC rep and Miami an ACC rep.
With that settled, there's a wide range of possible opponents.
Opponents in order of probability...
1) Wisconsin - Wisconsin is going to finish 10-2 and has really played well enough this season to be ranked higher than they are.
2) Baylor - They have two games left, at TCU and hosting Texas. Most experts believe they will fall apart after the resounding loss at Oklahoma State, but I don't share that belief. Much like the Tigers against FSU, they're a good team that had a baaaad night. Bayor and Clemson would be an easy sell as probably the only matchup of top-eight teams outside of the BCS Championship Game.
3) Ohio State - Michigan State is the pair's worst enemy, however, as with an upset of Ohio State in the Big 10 title game... the Buckeyes would be a no-brainer pick for the Orange even with Baylor in the mix.
4) Oregon - The PAC-12 is a mess right now, but Oregon is a lot more likely here with a Clemson win on Saturday. The fear among prognosticators is a less than enthused Ducks fanbase not heading to south Florida, but if Clemson fans make up the difference in ticket sales, the TV ratings would be pretty solid.
5) UCF - The Golden Knights just keep winning, but there are far too many good at-large selections at the Orange's disposal now.
Other possible bowls...
CBS Sports: Jerry Palm - Duke v. Missouri
SB Nation: Duke v. South Carolina
O&W: Brandon Rink - Duke** v. South Carolina
* If Clemson lands in a BCS bowl, Duke couldn't be picked over here if they finish out 10-2 (6-2 ACC) by the conference bylaws. If they lose to UNC Saturday (which they will be underdogs), they could drop a bunch.
BCS National Championship
CBS Sports: Jerry Palm - Alabama v. Florida State
SB Nation: Alabama v. Florida State
O&W: Brandon Rink - Alabama v. Florida State
Just for fun, Clemson's path to the national title game...
1) Beat South Carolina.
2) Auburn beats Alabama at home Saturday.
3) Missouri loses to Texas A&M at home Saturday
4) Michigan or Michigan State beats Ohio State.
5) Auburn loses in the SEC title game to South Carolina.