Mid-American Conference Bowl Outlook: Championship Week Edition

US PRESSWIRE

It was one crazy holiday weekend of college football, wasn't it? One week from now, all of our questions will be answered. Many teams will be happy, others will be disappointed. What does our crystal ball have to say? The future is cloudy, but we'll try to make sense of it anyway.

We'll keep this one short and sweet. Well, maybe not so sweet for the MAC this week. There's some bad news.

Nine teams went into the holiday weekend needing one win to become bowl eligible and having just one game remaining on their schedule. Of those nine teams, an incredible eight won their games. This list includes Central Michigan, who defeated Eastern Michigan to become the MAC's 7th (and final) bowl eligible team. Three more teams can become eligible this weekend (SMU, Rutgers, South Alabama).

There are now 78 bowl-eligible teams, and there could be as many as 81 after this weekend. As we all know by now, there are just 70 available bowl spots, so plenty of teams are going to have their bowl dreams dashed in the next week.

The MAC has been very proactive about this, by signing several primary and secondary contracts with various bowls, in order to place as many of its teams as possible. This is where the bad news comes in. One of the teams that won their way into bowl eligibility this week was Mississippi State, when the Bulldogs defeated their in-state rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs are now the 10th SEC team to become eligible, which means that the SEC will be able to fill its obligated spot in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

The BBVA Compass Bowl also happens to be one of the bowls with which the MAC has a secondary agreement. The result? There will be one fewer open door for a MAC team to walk through.

This development makes Northern Illinois' situation much more important to those MAC teams hoping to sneak into a bowl spot. If NIU beats Bowling Green and earns a berth in the BCS, an extra MAC team will get to play a post-season game. However, if NIU loses, that pushes everyone in the MAC down the bowl ladder and closes that extra door. So, instead of one fewer team playing a bowl game, now you'd have two. One thing is certain, though -- if Northern Illinois beats Bowling Green, they'll be going to the BCS. They are positioned 14th and well ahead of likely AAC champion Central Florida with just one week to go. The numbers, as they stand now, lend very little possibility to the idea that NIU could get leapfrogged.

Last week, I projected that six of the MAC's seven eligible teams would get to play in a bowl. This week, I'm reducing that number to five -- PROVIDED THAT NIU GOES TO THE BCS. If NIU loses to Bowling Green, my projection would change to just four MAC bowl teams.

With that in mind, here are two different projections:

(Northern Illinois in the BCS)
Fiesta Bowl -- Northern Illinois (vs. Oklahoma State)
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl -- Bowling Green (vs. Pittsburgh*)
GoDaddy.com Bowl -- Ball State (vs. Western Kentucky)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl -- Buffalo (vs. Colorado State)
Poinsettia Bowl -- Toledo (vs. Boise State)
* -- Substitute for Big Ten team
Eligible teams with no bowl: Ohio, Central Michigan
------------------------------------------------------------
(Northern Illinois not in the BCS)
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl -- Ball State (vs. Pittsburgh*)
GoDaddy.com Bowl -- Northern Illinois (vs. Western Kentucky)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl -- Bowling Green (vs. Colorado State)
Poinsettia Bowl -- Toledo (vs. Boise State)
* -- Substitute for Big Ten team
Eligible teams with no bowl: Buffalo, Ohio, Central Michigan

Clearly, there is a stark difference in how things play out depending on where Northern Illinois goes. And I'll admit -- I'm being nice to Toledo folks here, but I'm not at all convinced that the Poinsettia Bowl wouldn't take Buffalo over Toledo. In any event, one of those two teams will be left out if NIU doesn't make it into the BCS.

For the "NIU is out" projection, it's possible that the Huskies could get sent out to San Diego as sort of a consolation prize. If that happens, then Bowling Green would probably end up in Mobile with Buffalo going to Boise.

This is only a guess (although it's an educated one), but I imagine that virtually nobody in the MAC outside of Bowling Green circles will be rooting for the Falcons come Friday night.

Below are my complete bowl projections. We'll have our final edition out at some point after Friday's championship game, likely on Saturday night after most other conference championship games have been played.

Bowl Team 1 Team 2
New Orleans Bowl UL-LAFAYETTE Tulane
Las Vegas Bowl Fresno State Southern Cal
New Mexico Bowl Nevada-Las Vegas Arizona
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Buffalo Colorado State
Beef 'O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl Houston Florida Atlantic
Hawaii Bowl Rice San Diego State
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Bowling Green Pittsburgh
Poinsettia Bowl Toledo Boise State
Military Bowl Maryland East Carolina
Texas Bowl Minnesota Kansas State
Fight Hunger Bowl BRIGHAM YOUNG Washington
Belk Bowl Cincinnati Georgia Tech
Russell Athletic Bowl Louisville Miami (FL)
Pinstripe Bowl Rutgers Notre Dame
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Michigan Texas Tech
Holiday Bowl Texas Stanford
Armed Forces Bowl NAVY Utah State
Alamo Bowl Oklahoma Oregon
Music City Bowl North Carolina Vanderbilt
Independence Bowl Boston College Washington State
Sun Bowl Virginia Tech Ucla
Liberty Bowl Marshall Mississippi
Chick-fil-A Bowl Duke Georgia
Gator Bowl Nebraska Texas A&M
Heart of Dallas Bowl North Texas Arkansas State
Outback Bowl Iowa Missouri
Capital One Bowl Wisconsin South Carolina
Rose Bowl (BCS) Michigan State Arizona State
Fiesta Bowl (BCS) Northern Illinois Oklahoma State
Sugar Bowl (BCS) Central Florida Auburn
Orange Bowl (BCS) Clemson Alabama
Cotton Bowl Baylor Louisiana State
BBVA Compass Bowl M. Tennessee State Mississippi State
GoDaddy.com Bowl Ball State Western Kentucky
BCS National Championship Florida State Ohio State
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