NCF Nation: bowl predictions 090811

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ever since the Big Ten extended its BCS bowl losing streak to six games in January, I've predicted that the league will produce only one BCS selection from the 2009 season. I'm sticking with the prediction now, but I'm not nearly as sure of it.

As much as the Big Ten has slipped in the eyes of the nation, its teams remain extremely attractive to bowl committees. With enormous and passionate fan bases that are willing to travel, Big Ten teams could get the nod over higher-rated squads from, say, the Pac-10. It'd be awfully hard to turn down a 10-2 team from Penn State or Ohio State.

Here's how I see things shaking out this fall:

OHIO STATE

Bowl bound? Count on it

Best case: A more polished Terrelle Pryor leads Ohio State past USC on Sept. 12 and dominates the Big Ten schedule to earn a spot in the national title game as an undefeated team.

Worst case: If the offense stalls and the defense can't replace several stars, Ohio State will drop three games and fall to the Outback Bowl.

Prediction: Rose Bowl

PENN STATE

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best case: The Lions fill their holes in the secondary and along the offensive line and capitalize on a favorable schedule to run the table, earning them a spot in the BCS title game.

Worst case: If Penn State can't reload and suffers a key injury or two, especially to star quarterback Daryll Clark, it could lose 4-5 games and fall to the Alamo Bowl.

Prediction: Capital One

IOWA

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best case: Jewel Hampton makes people forget about Shonn Greene and the Hawkeyes begin a rough road slate by beating Penn State in Happy Valley. Iowa won't go unscathed on the road but ends up sharing the Big Ten title and earning an at-large BCS berth.

Worst case: If Iowa can't overcome the losses of Greene and defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, it could finish 7-5 and slip to the Champs Sports or Insight bowls.

Prediction: Alamo

MICHIGAN STATE

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best case: The Spartans reload in the offensive backfield and capitalize on a schedule that doesn't include Ohio State to win 10 games.

Worst case: If the offense stalls and Michigan State struggles at the line of scrimmage, the team could backslide to six or seven wins.

Prediction: Outback

NORTHWESTERN

Bowl bound? Count on it

Best case: Mike Kafka becomes a complete quarterback and the Wildcats reload at running back and wide receiver, taking advantage of a favorable schedule to win 9-10 games.

Worst case: If Kafka falters and the defense takes a step back, Northwestern could finish right around the .500 mark.

Prediction: At-large bowl berth (Texas Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Eagle Bank Bowl)

WISCONSIN

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: The quarterback issues sort themselves out and running back John Clay plows through defenders as Wisconsin capitalizes on a soft schedule to win nine games.

Worst case: If the problems under center continue and the Badgers can't fill holes on defense, they could be fighting for their bowl lives again.

Prediction: Champs Sports

ILLINOIS

Bowl bound? Possibly

Best base: Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn lead the Big Ten's most dynamic offense, while linebacker Martez Wilson becomes a star as Illinois notches several signature wins and reaches a January bowl game.

Worst case: If the defense doesn't improve and the team chemistry problems linger, Illinois could miss a bowl again.

Prediction: Insight

MICHIGAN

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: Freshman Tate Forcier takes his first step toward stardom and Michigan's defense clicks in Greg Robinson's system, as the Wolverines start 4-0 and finish with eight wins.

Worst case: If the offense falls apart again, Michigan could miss a bowl for the second straight season.

Prediction: Motor City

MINNESOTA

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: The Big Ten's most experienced team transitions seamlessly to a new offense, upsets Cal at home on Sept. 20 and becomes the league's surprise team, winning 9-10 games.

Worst case:  If the offensive line doesn't come together and the defense struggles against the run, Minnesota won't go bowling.

Prediction: At-large bowl berth (Texas Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Eagle Bank Bowl)

PURDUE

Bowl bound: Forget about it

Best case: A strong stable of running backs lead the way on offense and Purdue fills in the gaps on defense to win seven games and head to Detroit.

Worst case: Too many young players and too much transition could keep the Boilers out of the postseason for the second straight year.

Prediction: Home for the holidays

INDIANA

Bowl bound: Forget about it

Best case: A veteran defense finally steps up and lets the offense find its rhythm without Kellen Lewis, as Indiana scratches out 6-7 wins.

Worst case: If Indiana can't stop the run and endures another swell of
injuries, it will be lucky to win five games this fall.

Prediction: Home for the holidays

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's been a long time between bowl trips for Baylor.

The Bears' last bowl trip came in 1994 when they were defeated by Washington State in the Alamo Bowl. Current Baylor starting quarterback Robert Griffin was 4 years old when that game was played.

But excitement is rampant along the Brazos River and the Bears are ready to snap a bowl drought that is tied with Duke for the longest in schools in BCS-affiliated conferences.

Considering that Grant Teaff was coaching Baylor then and Steve Spurrier was directing the Blue Devils, it has been an extensive drought for both schools.

The Bears have their best hope this season and I'm thinking they squeak in. It will be critical for them to win at least one of their first two games against Wake Forest and Connecticut. They also need victories over Northwestern State and Kent State to enter Big 12 play at 3-1.

If Baylor does make that remarkable step, it will likely mean the Big 12 will be able to fill its full complement of bowls. It was unable to fill two bowls at the bottom of its list of partners. But that likely won't be the case this season if the Bears live up to their preseason hype.

Here's a look at how I predict the Big 12's bowl slots will be filled this season with a record nine teams making trips. The last two or three might be 6-6 teams, but there won't be much complaining from any of them.

Baylor Bears

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: Robert Griffin electrifies the nation with stunning victories over Wake Forest and Connecticut to start the season and the Bears are already at six victories by mid-October. It makes them the feel-good story of the conference, places Art Briles in prime consideration for a couple of top jobs and pushes the Bears into the Alamo Bowl where they last went bowling in 1994.

Worst case: Offensive tackle Danny Watkins can't protect Griffin's blind side and the Bears stumble early with two-straight losses. Those pass-protection problems fester all season as the Bears revert to their losing ways and miss a bowl for another season.

Prediction: Texas Bowl.

Colorado Buffaloes

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: In a nod to soothsayers everywhere, the Buffaloes indeed live up to Dan Hawkins' preseason "prediction" and win 10 games, claiming a surprise Big 12 title game and ending up in the Holiday Bowl.

Worst case: The Buffaloes don't settle on either quarterback and tumble out of bowl contention for the third time in the last four seasons under Hawkins, making his seat extremely toasty this winter.

Prediction: Independence Bowl.

Iowa State Cyclones:

Best case: The Cyclones become the surprise story of the conference as Austen Arnaud immediately blossoms in Tom Herman's new offense. The defense shows steady improvement under Wally Burnham, providing a surprise trip to the casinos and crawfish boils at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

Worst case: Paul Rhoads is a willing worker, but his new team just never jells with his philosophy. More road woes continue against Kent State as the Cyclones see their nation-worst road losing streak stretch to 22 games as they stay home from a bowl for a fourth-straight season.

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

Kansas Jayhawks

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: The Jayhawks find a couple of defensive reincarnations of Aqib Talib to help them spring a couple of upsets over South Division powers. Confidence gleaned from those games helps them surprise the South Divison champion in the Big 12 title game and send Mark Mangino and his team skipping into their second BCS bowl in three seasons -- this time to the Fiesta Bowl.

Worst case: Todd Reesing struggles behind a retooled offensive line and the Jayhawks' offense isn't nearly as potent as expected. Without a high-powered scoring team, the Kansas defense is exposed as posers, falling to the Insight.com Bowl for the second-straight season.

Prediction: Sun Bowl.

Kansas State Wildcats

Best case: Bill Snyder brings the magic back to Manhattan, picking up a couple of upset victories to restore some pride in the Kansas State program from early in the season. The Wildcats ride that momentum for a surprise trip to the Insight.com Bowl.

Worst case: A quarterback never emerges and a struggling pass defense regresses into a horrific unit against the Big 12's high-powered aerial attacks. Those defeats make Snyder wonder why he ever left retirement as the Wildcats finish out of a bowl trip for the fifth time in six seasons.

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

Missouri Tigers

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: Blaine Gabbert provides steady leadership as Derrick Washington becomes the most versatile back in the Big 12. The retooled defense emerges as the Tigers claim a surprise Big 12 North title and end up at the Cotton Bowl.

Worst case: The loss of Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman and both coordinators cause the wheels to fall off the Missouri program and they miss a bowl trip for the first time since 2004.

Prediction: Insight.com Bowl

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: Zac Lee is a revelation at quarterback and the defense emerges in Bo Pelini's second season to push the Cornhuskers to a upset victory in the Big 12 title game and into the Fiesta Bowl.

Worst case: The hype for Lee is just that. The new quarterback struggles and the Cornhuskers' defense backslides all the way t
o the Texas Bowl.

Prediction: Holiday Bowl.

Oklahoma Sooners

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: The young offensive line jells and the defense plays better than expected as the Sooners earn another chance to play in the BCS title game -- restoring order in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 17 along the way.

Worst case: The offensive front struggles to protect Sam Bradford and the defense isn't as good as expected, dropping the Sooners to their first visit to the Alamo Bowl.

Prediction: Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: The offensive triplets exceed expectations as Bill Young cobbles together enough defense to enable the Cowboys to outduel Texas and Oklahoma for their first Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

Worst case: The defense still can't match up with Oklahoma and Texas -- and some of the other teams in the South Division either. Those struggles send the Cowboys skidding all the way to the Insight.com Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., where they play second-fiddle to the Sooners who are playing up the road in the Fiesta Bowl.

Prediction: Cotton Bowl.

Texas Longhorns

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: The Longhorns find a featured running back and enough push from the defensive front to make all of the BCS rankings meaningless en route back to another shot at the national title in Pasadena.

Worst case: Colt McCoy gets hurt, the running game struggles and the Longhorns keep playing dropsy with key turnovers chances for another season. Instead, Texas players fumble their way to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego where they munch fish tacos and feed the whales at Sea World for the fourth time in the last 10 years.

Prediction: BCS National Championship Game.

Texas A&M Aggies

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: Jerrod Johnson plays so well at quarterback that Ryan Tannehill moves back to wide receiver full time. The Aggies respond to defensive coordinator Joe Kines' defense with vast improvement through the season, stunning Texas in the regular-season finale to push them into the Alamo Bowl.

Worst case: A leaky offensive line can't open holes or pass block and the Aggies' defense struggles against all Big 12 quarterbacks in another season that finishes without a bowl.

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Bowl bid: Count on it.

Best case: Taylor Potts exceeds all expectations and the Red Raiders defense plays so well that some start accusing the school of being a "defense-first" program. The Red Raiders don't win the Big 12 South, but they revisit the location of Mike Leach's biggest bowl victory at the Holiday Bowl.

Worst case: The Red Raiders miss Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree more than expected and skid out of bowl contention for the first time under Leach.

Prediction: Alamo Bowl.

Big East bowl predictions

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
10:20
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

We're only in August, but it's never too early to start peeking ahead to December and January.

Picking the order of the Big East finish is nearly impossible this year, so it's even more difficult to figure out where teams will be going bowling. But that's my challenge today.

One thing to remember about the Big East bowl picture is that the No. 2 team can go to the Gator Bowl and not the Sun Bowl this year, but the Gator Bowl can take Notre Dame instead of a Big East team. And I predict that's exactly what will happen, because the Irish will have a winning record but fall short of a BCS bid. That would mean only four bowl slots outside the BCS for the Big East, and it could initiate a wild postseason scramble.

Anyway, here are my postseason predictions for each team, in alphabetical order:

Cincinnati Bearcats

Bowl bound?: Count on it.

Best case: The magic continues for Brian Kelly, who has led the Bearcats to two straight seasons of double-digit wins. Tony Pike, Mardy Gilyard and the rest of the offense put up the Big East's most potent attack, and the defense holds its own. Cincinnati repeats as champs and goes to its second straight BCS game.

Worst case: Cincinnati gets behind the eight-ball early with losses at Rutgers, at Oregon State and at South Florida. The Bearcats struggle late and fall to West Virginia, Illinois and Pitt to finish 6-6 and hope for help to avoid staying home.

My prediction: Papajohns.com Bowl

Connecticut Huskies

Bowl bound? Possibly

Best case: The new no-huddle offense is a smashing success, finally adding offensive production to Randy Edsall's solid formula of defense and fundamentals. Like in 2007, the Huskies work their way into a tie for the regular-season crown and go to the Gator Bowl when Notre Dame makes the BCS.

Worst case: UConn doesn't have the players to make the new offensive system fit, and the loss of star power to the NFL (Donald Brown, Darius Butler, Cody Brown, Will Beatty) proves too much to overcome. The Huskies either don't make a bowl or have to hope for an at-large berth somewhere.

My prediction: Independence Bowl (at-large)

Louisville Cardinals

Bowl bound?: Forget about it

Best case: The Cardinals surprise everybody by becoming a factor in the league, reversing Steve Kragthorpe's reputation with a 7-5 season and a trip to St. Petersburg.

Worst case: The questions on the offensive line, defensive line and at quarterback have negative answers. Louisville doesn't sniff a bowl for the third straight year.

My prediction: Home for the holidays.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Bowl bound?: Count on it

Best case: It finally all comes together for Dave Wannstedt, as the talented Panthers ride their defense and get just enough plays from the quarterback spot to win the Big East and go to the BCS.

Worst case: The combination of losing LeSean McCoy and not having a star quarterback tips the scale the other way for a team that usually plays close games anyway. Pitt makes the postseason but has to settle for a lesser locale.

My prediction: Meineke Car Care Bowl

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Bowl bound?: Count on it

Best case: Rutgers puts it all together, using its advantageous schedule to hammer out 10 wins and its first Big East crown. It's on to the BCS.

Worst case: It would be nearly impossible not to qualify for a bowl with Rutgers' schedule. Only a full-scale implosion would keep the Scarlet Knights from anything less than seven wins.

My prediction: Sugar Bowl

South Florida Bulls

Bowl bound?: Possibly

Best case: The Bulls finally play as well in October and November as they do in September and have their breakthrough year. The star power of Matt Grothe and George Selvie, combined with an influx of highly-athletic newcomers, leads South Florida to its first league championship and into the BCS.

Worst case: Why do I list the Bulls' postseason chances as only possible? Because they play two FCS teams. Which means if they lose to Florida State and Miami and go 3-4 in the Big East (remember they were just 2-5 a year ago), then they will finish 6-6 and won't be eligible for a bowl.

My prediction: International Bowl

Syracuse Orange

Bowl bound?: Forget about it

Best case: Doug Marrone works miracles in his first year, and Greg Paulus becomes the best story in college football. The Orange pull off an early upset against their troika of Big Ten opponents, then scrape together three Big East wins for a 6-6 campaign. Some bowl offers an at-large spot, hoping to capitalize on the Paulus curiosity factor.

Worst case: Four years of cellar-dwelling can't be reversed overnight. Syracuse is eliminated from bowl contention before October is over.

My prediction: Home for the holidays

West Virginia Mountaineers

Bowl bound?: Count on it.

Best case: The Big East champs of 2005 and 2007 continue their odd-year pattern. Jarrett Brown makes people forget Pat White, Noel Devine runs wild and the defense is ruthless as the Mountaineers reestablish their Big East dominance on the way to another Sugar Bowl showdown against the SEC.

Worst case: West Virginia will make a bowl; it always does, and its fan base guarantees ticket sales. But the Mountaineers finish in the middle of the pack of the Big East, and fans have to
trudge off to Birmingham or Toronto for what feels like a poor consolation prize.

My prediction: St. Petersburg Bowl.

Who's bowl bound in Pac-10?

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
10:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

While they haven't yet played a game, it's never to early to start thinking out the bowl season.

The Pac-10 has contracts with six bowls: Rose Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Sun Bowl, Emerald Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl and Poinsettia Bowl.

And, of course, there's always the possibility of two BCS bowl teams, either with one team playing for a national title or two earning high enough rankings to get selected.

Here's a guess at how things might play out. 

Arizona

Bowl bound? Possibly.

Best Case/Worst Case: If the Wildcats get solid play at quarterback, they could break through and earn a Holiday Bowl berth, though it might help if the conference gets two BCS bowl invitations. The worst case is Arizona sliding back a couple of stepS and not earning bowl eligibility.

Prediction: A fifth-place finish means a return trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, but maybe there could be some wheeling and dealing to get the 'Cats elsewhere, such as the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

Arizona State

Bowl bound? Possibly.

Best Case/Worst Case: If the Sun Devils improve on the offensive line and get solid play at quarterback, they could break into the top-half of the conference and earn a Las Vegas Bowl berth. If the line doesn't improve and the defense isn't good enough to hold things together, the Sun Devils will post the first back-to-back losing seasons in Dennis Erickson's coaching career.

Prediction: Arizona State will fall just short again and stay home for the holidays.

California

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best Case/Worst Case: If Cal's passing game improves, this is a BCS bowl team, whether that's the Rose Bowl or another game. If the passing game continues to be mediocre, then the Bears could end up in another mid-level bowl game.

Prediction: Cal is the most likely candidate for a second BCS bowl berth, but odds are a No. 2 finish will send the Bears to the Holiday Bowl.

Oregon

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best Case/Worst Case: If the Ducks get things straight on both lines, they could challenge for a Rose Bowl berth. If the lines struggle, then the options figure to be the Sun, Emerald or Las Vegas Bowls.

Prediction: The Ducks head back to El Paso for the Sun Bowl.

Oregon State

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best Case/Worst Case: Considering the Beavers have been able to reload before, it's not ridiculous to project them as high as the Holiday Bowl, if Cal and Oregon falter. As for a worst case, while the significant personnel losses could plausibly lead to a losing season, the likelihood is a downturn would mean the Las Vegas or Poinsettia bowls.

Prediction: Emerald Bowl.

Stanford

Bowl bound? Possibly.

Best Case/Worst Case: While Stanford doesn't look like a contender for the top-third of the conference, a fourth-place finish and Emerald Bowl invitation wouldn't be completely shocking. As for worst cases, the Cardinal may find that lots of returning starters doesn't automatically solve everything and that the team speed is still not there for a winning record.

Prediction: By our count, the Pac-10 will have seven bowl eligible teams for six contracts, and Stanford likely would be the last pick, meaning it will have to earn an invitation from a bowl that couldn't fill its contract -- maybe the Texas Bowl?

UCLA

Bowl bound? Possibly.

Best Case/Worst Case: If UCLA gets adequate play on the offensive line and at quarterback, it could break into the top half of the Pac-10 and perhaps earn an Emerald Bowl invite. Worst case is the Bruins offense remaining anemic and that leaving them with a losing record.

Prediction: Poinsettia. The southern California angle will earn the Bruins the berth over other 6-6 or 7-5 Pac-10 teams, such as Stanford.

USC

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best Case/Worst Case: The best case is the BCS national title game. The worst is the Holiday Bowl.

Prediction: A fifth consecutive Rose Bowl might not sound appealing to the Trojans, but it would require a bowl obsessed with Pac-10-Big Ten tradition to wheel-and-deal to send them elsewhere.

Washington

Bowl bound? Forget about it.

Best Case/Worst Case: If the Huskies scheduled less ambitiously, this would be a "possibly." For real. If Washington administrators had scheduled three nonconference patsies, like other BCS teams do, the Huskies would have had a shot at notching three Pac-10 wins and breaking even at 6-6. As it is, the worst case could see the Huskies only winning one game -- Idaho.

Prediction: Home for the holidays but feeling a lot better than last year.

Washington State

Bowl bound? Forget about.

Best Case/Worst Case: The Cougars are going to struggle. Their best case is probably three or four wins. Worst is winless,

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

SEC bowl projections

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
10:10
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The SEC has agreements to send nine of its teams to bowl games following the 2009 season. That is, provided there are nine teams bowl eligible.

If an SEC team should wind up in the BCS National Championship Game, that opens up 10 potential spots for SEC teams.

Remember last season, though, that the SEC couldn't fill all of its tie-ins.

While realizing that it's insanely early, here's my stab at projecting the 2009 bowl lineup for SEC teams:

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: The Crimson Tide do what they couldn't do a year ago and get past Florida in the SEC Championship game, landing them in the BCS National Championship Game.

Worst case: The offensive line doesn't get it done, putting too much pressure on first-year starter Greg McElroy at quarterback, and the Crimson Tide settles for the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

Prediction: Capital One Bowl.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: The Hogs take off in Year No. 2 under Bobby Petrino and land in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, playing their second game of the season in the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium. They also face Texas A&M earlier in the season in Jerry Jones' new digs.

Worst case: The defense doesn't make enough improvement, and a brutal road schedule takes its toll on the Hogs, sending them to the Advocare Independence Bowl.

Prediction: Chick-fil-A Bowl.

AUBURN TIGERS

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: The Tigers start quickly, taking advantage of four straight home games to open the season, and make it stand up for their second Chick-fil-A Bowl invitation in the last three years.

Worst case: Nobody steps up and takes the controls at quarterback, compounding the growing pains for Gus Malzahn's offense, and the Tigers stay home for the holidays for the second straight year.

Prediction: Advocare Independence Bowl

FLORIDA GATORS

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: The Gators make good on their goal to get through the season unbeaten and skate unscathed to their third appearance in the BCS National Championship Game in the last four years.

Worst case: Nobody fills Percy Harvin's role on offense. Tim Tebow finally shows that he's mortal, but the one-loss Gators still get invited to the BCS festivities in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Prediction: BCS National Championship Game

GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: With nobody expecting the Bulldogs to challenge for the SEC championship, they ride one of the best offensive lines in the league to another 10-win season and a berth in the Capital One Bowl.

Worst case: The tackling doesn't improve on defense. The running game suffers without Knowshon Moreno, and a killer schedule gets the best of the Bulldogs, sending them to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.

Prediction: Outback Bowl

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: The Wildcats make it four years in a row in the postseason and figure out a way to close strong, something that's plagued them the last two years, and find their way into the Advocare Independence Bowl.

Worst case: Mike Hartline doesn't improve as a passer. The loss of senior defensive end Jeremy Jarmon is too much to overcome, and the Wildcats see their bowl streak come to an end.

Prediction: No bowl

LSU TIGERS

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: The Tigers get their edge back defensively thanks to the arrival of first-year defensive coordinator John Chavis and travel an hour down the road to play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Worst case: More of the same problems from a year ago rear their head at quarterback, and defenses load up to stop the Tigers' running game. The result is a trip to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.

Prediction: AT&T Cotton Bowl

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: The deck is stacked against first-year coach Dan Mullen this first year, but some of the younger players come through and the defense plays well enough to get the Bulldogs to the Papajohns.com Bowl.

Worst case: The youth, newness and growing pains are simply too much for the Bulldogs, who can't survive a rough start to the season and miss the postseason for the second year in a row.

Prediction: No bowl

OLE MISS REBELS

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: Quarterback Jevan Snead has a Heisman Trophy-like season. Greg Hardy is a monster rushing the passer, and the Rebels evoke memories of their past glory by getting all the way to the BCS National Championship Game.

Worst case: The Rebels get too full of themselves and can't handle the hype. They lose early at South Carolina in a Thursday night game, and it only gets worse from there. They wind up in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Prediction: Allstate Sugar Bowl

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: The Head Ball Coach gets quarterback Stephen Garcia up to speed, and a young secondary stands its ground on defense, leading to a second straight appearance in the Outback Bowl.

Worst case: Garcia battles inconsistency. The combination of youth and a lack of depth gets the Gamecocks on defense, and they stay home for the holidays. The question then: Does Steve Spurrier stay around for another year?

Prediction: Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl

TENNESSEE VOLS

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: All that talk by first-year coach Lane Kiffin during the offseason wasn't just talk. He returns the swagger to the Tennessee program, and the Vols ride some of their promising young talent to play in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

Worst case: Tennessee has more of the same problems as a year ago at quarterback, and everybody lines up to "welcome" Kiffin to the SEC. The Vols' reward is sitting at home and watching the bowl games on television for the second straight year.

Prediction: AutoZone Liberty Bowl

VANDERBILT COMMODORES

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: Not only do the Commodores start strong this season, but they finish strong behind another stout defensive effort and an improved passing game. They win seven games in the regular season and play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Worst case: The passing game doesn't improve, and some of the pivotal plays the Commodores made on defense and special teams in 2008 aren't there, meaning their postseason run is over at one year.

Prediction: Papajohns.com Bowl

Bowl bound in the ACC?

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
10:05
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's never too early to start making bowl predictions (or, in the ACC case it's never too late, as 11 teams were still bowl eligible in 2008 right up until the final week of the season). Today the bloggers are breaking down each team's chance to be bowl-bound, and the categories are "count on it," "possibly," and "forget about it." Will the ACC manage to get 10 teams bowl eligible again? Possibly. Take a look:

BOSTON COLLEGE
Bowl bound? Possibly.
Best case: Dave Shinskie looks like Chris Weinke, the entire team rallies around the absence and inspiration of linebacker Mark Herzlich, and once again the Eagles prove the doubters wrong.
Worst case: Dave Shinskie's fastball is better than his spiral, the defense fails to plug the holes at linebacker and up front, and the Eagles struggle to get more than four wins in a transition year.
Prediction: At-large bowl

CLEMSON
Bowl bound?
Count on it.
Best case: The offensive line paves the way for a 1,000-yard rusher and protects the new quarterback for a 1,000-yard receiver, and the Tigers shine when there are no expectations en route to the Atlantic Division title.
Worst case: Quarterbacks Kyle Parker and Willy Korn never quite get into a rhythm because they're sharing time, the offensive line isn't quite as good as people think it will be, and Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Billy Napier are outcoached en route to a mediocre season.
Prediction: Meineke Car Care Bowl

DUKE
Bowl bound? Forget about it.
Best case: Smart coaching plus the talent of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and veteran tailback Re'quan Boyette earn the Blue Devils two conference upsets and they surprise Kansas on the road for a perfect nonconference slate.
Worst case: Duke's defense looks like it did against Georgia Tech last year, no receivers step up to replace Eron Riley, the offense line can't protect their little sisters, and the Blue Devils remain status quo from 2008.
Prediction: Christmas in Durham.

FLORIDA STATE
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: Florida State wins its appeal against the NCAA, the Noles find more talent at receiver than anyone knew they had, and the defense reloads as the program skyrockets back into the national picture with an ACC title.
Worst case: Florida State loses its appeal, and Bobby Bowden announces his retirement after a subpar season in which off-field distractions kept the Noles out of the hunt for the Atlantic Division.
Prediction: Chick-fil-A Bowl

GEORGIA TECH
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: Jonathan Dwyer wins the Heisman Trophy, the defensive line somehow finds a way to be even better than it was last year, and a home win over Georgia pales in comparison to an Orange Bowl win.
Worst case: The Jackets lose by a painful three points to Virginia Tech, lose in overtime to UNC, and Georgia studies the LSU film well enough to make it look like a regular-season rerun of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Prediction: Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl

MARYLAND
Bowl bound? Possibly.
Best case: The offensive line lives up to last year's expectations, Chris Turner is as steady as a metronome, and Don Brown's defense has ACC opponents' heads spinning for a nine-win season.
Worst case: The offensive line looks like Clemson's did last year, Turner throws four picks against Middle Tennessee at home, and Maryland's front seven allows Darren Evans another career day.
Prediction: Eagle Bank Bowl

MIAMI
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: The Canes shock the country with a 4-0 start, Jacory Harris and Mark Whipple are hailed as the saviors of the offense, and Miami skyrockets into the top 10 ranking with an unforgettable upset of Oklahoma.
Worst case: Randy Shannon starts polishing his résumé after an 0-4 start.
Prediction: Champs Sports Bowl

NORTH CAROLINA
Bowl bound?
Count on it.
Best case: Quarterback T.J. Yates survives the entire season without so much as a scratch, the young receivers find a rhythm with him just in time for a road trip to Georgia Tech, and the Tar Heels knock off Miami and Virginia Tech to win the Coastal Division title.
Worst case: Yates goes down against Connecticut, and the Tar Heels are forced to muddle through six weeks without a proven backup.
Prediction: Emerald Bowl

NC STATE
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: The Pack starts off strong instead of making a desperate push at the end, the defense welcomes back linebacker Nate Irving, and quarterback Russell Wilson scurries his way to the Atlantic Division title.
Worst case: The Pack starts off 2-2 and the defense can't get the pieces together in the secondary or at linebacker, and NC State is forced to win its final five games to become bowl eligible.
Prediction: Konica Minolta Gator Bowl

VIRGINIA
Bowl bound? Forget about it.
Best case: Gregg Brandon's offense looks like Urban Meyer's, Mikell Simpson looks like he did in 2007, and the linebackers make a seamless transition en rout
e to helping Al Groh looking like a coaching genius in a year of serious transition.
Worst case: 2009 looks exactly like 2008, with embarrassing nonconference losses, three points against Duke, and a four-game losing streak to end a second straight bowless season.
Prediction: Home for the holidays.

VIRGINIA TECH
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: The Hokies' offense comes alive under for the first time in four seasons, and Virginia Tech sets the tone for a national championship with a win over Alabama.
Worst case: For the fourth straight year, the Hokies are ranked 99th or worse in total offense, the Alabama game resembles last year's Clemson debacle, and Georgia Tech gets the nod in the Coastal Division race.
Prediction: FedEx Orange Bowl

WAKE FOREST
Bowl bound? Possibly
Best case: Behind an improved offensive line, quarterback Riley Skinner and a trio of talented running backs carry the team while the defense finds new playmakers, and the Demon Deacons knock off Florida State (again) for a surprise run at the Atlantic Division.
Worst case: The Demon Deacons bookend the season with losses to Baylor and Duke, and struggle to replace the NFL-caliber talent that departed on defense in between.
Prediction: GMAC Bowl

Notre Dame bowl prediction

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

From the BCS to Hawaii, Notre Dame's postseason options are seemingly endless and always a hot topic among college football fans.

Where will the Irish go bowling this year? We looked into the crystal ball to figure out the answers to some key questions.

Bowl bound?: Count on it

Best case: The Jimmy Clausen-led offense realizes its full potential, the defense steps up and the schedule breaks play out in Notre Dame's favor for a 10-2 or even 11-1 season and an automatic BCS bid. The Fiesta Bowl snatches up the Irish with the first at-large selection.

Worst case: Clausen remains inconsistent, the running game doesn't improve and the defense springs leaks. The Irish finish a vastly-disappointing 6-6, and a lame duck Charlie Weis limps into the Independence Bowl in Shreveport as an at-large consolation prize.

Prediction: Notre Dame goes 9-3, just missing a BCS bid and settling for the Gator Bowl.

Non-AQ bowl projections

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
9:55
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Since there are so many teams among the non-AQ's, I thought I would break down the possibilities of those that have legit BCS aspirations. We're talking the usual suspects with a couple new names thrown in just for fun.

Boise State Broncos

BCS bowl bound? High probability

Best case: Boise State defeats Oregon, Tulsa and Nevada and cruises to an undefeated season. The Broncos have the talent, the coaching and the drive to make this happen. It's really just that first bout with Oregon that's their major hurdle.

Worst case: A couple disappointing things could happen this season. The Broncos could beat Oregon and Tulsa in the nonconference schedule and feel on their way to a BCS bid when Nevada sweeps in with their first-ever Boise State win. Or the Broncos could get through the season unscathed only to see a Mountain West team do the same and finish higher in the rankings.

My prediction: Rose Bowl

TCU Horned Frogs

BCS bowl bound? Could be, but a tough schedule

Best case: The Horned Frogs get through their tough road tests against Clemson and Virginia and run the table in the Mountain West to earn their second MWC title and their first trip to a BCS bowl

Worst case: The Horned Frogs get through their tough nonconference schedule and emerge as the nation's top non-AQ team only to falter against on of its Mountain West brethren. TCU has never been to a BCS bowl and the pressure of being on the cusp of one might be tough to handle.

My prediction: Las Vegas Bowl

Brigham Young Cougars

BCS bowl bound? Not likely

Best case: The Cougars shock the world and defeat Oklahoma in their season opener, defeat Florida State, roll through conference play like they did in 2006 and 2007 and make a strong case for a national championship berth.

Worst case: The Cougars get blasted by Oklahoma and a lot of the anxiety that surfaced last season after the TCU loss come back and begins to taint the season early. The Cougars struggle against both nonconference BCS opponents and get hammered by TCU and Utah -- again -- in conference play.

My prediction: Poinsettia Bowl

Utah Utes

BCS bowl bound? Nope

Best case: The Utes have a strong defense this season and that will win them some games, but they'll struggle against the better teams both in their nonconference and conference schedule. That Oregon game could be the Utes first loss since Nov. 24, 2007.

Worst case: The Utes struggle to find consistent play with their quarterbacks, which cause inconsistency throughout the rest of the team. The team loses a couple games that it shouldn't like it did in 2007 and it's a big letdown after a spectacular 2008.

My prediction: New Mexico Bowl

Nevada Wolf Pack

BCS bowl bound? Not this year

Best Case: The Wolf Pack generates some momentum with a win over Notre Dame to begin the season, but has some trouble adjusting to its newfound hype and drops a game against either Fresno or Hawaii. It does topple Boise State for the first time, though.

Worst case: The Wolf Pack gets a lot of preseason praises and starts to believe the headlines. They choke at Notre Dame, which affects the way they play the rest of the season. The Wolf Pack finish in the top half of the conference, but lower than what many expected.

My prediction: Poinsettia Bowl

East Carolina Pirates

BCS bowl bound? Close, but not quite.

Best Case: The Pirates go 3-1 during nonconference play. Both Virginia Tech and West Virginia will be out to avenge losses, but only one will get it done. The Pirates play well during conference season, but face some battles with Southern Miss and Memphis for the East title.

Worst case: The Pirates lose both of their BCS nonconference games and the hype of a C-USA BCS bowl team dies down. The losses affect the team mentally and they struggle during conference play, losing the East to Southern Miss.

My prediction: Hawaii

Other bowl projections:

MOUNTAIN WEST

Humanitarian: UNLV -- The Rebels fell a game short of bowl eligibility last year, but with some fresh faces and some steady veterans such as receiver Ryan Wolfe, the Rebels could notch that sixth win, especially since the schedule isn't too tough.

Armed Forces: Air Force -- The Falcons are poised to have yet another strong season and should win enough games to finish both in bowl contention and among the top teams in the Mountain West.

WAC

Humanitarian: Fresno State -- If the Bulldogs can stay healthy and find consistent quarterback play, they should find themselves in Boise and back on the map nationally.

New Mexico: Louisiana Tech - The Bulldogs could flip-flop with Fresno State in bowl games, but they're going to end up somewhere. The nonconference is brutal, but the Bulldogs proved last year that they could handle the conference schedule.

Hawaii: Hawaii - Not a huge surprise here, but I think the Warriors finally break their bowl-losing streak this year after learning how to limit turnovers and protect their quarterback.

CONFERENCE USA

Liberty: Houston -- The Cougars are poised for a big season led by quarterback Case Keenum. They've got the offense to win the C-USA title, but their defense is going to have to prove it can play.

Armed Forces: Southern Miss -- The Golden Eagles have all the things in place for a championship team except experience. They win a bunch of games to notch their 16th consecutive winning season, but fall short against more experienced teams.

St. Petersburg: UTEP -- The defense was suspect last season, but after a year in the 3-3-5 system, the Miners should be better. Regardless, the offense has the weapons to make the Miners a contender.

New Orleans: Memphis -- The Tigers take a gamble on transfers from automatic qualifying conferences and it works. They give East Carolina and Southern Miss a run for their money, but end up third in the East.

Eagle Bank: Tulsa -- The Golden Hurricane lost a lot of talent from last season and is breaking in a young team, but Tulsa's offense is always dynamic, which makes the Golden Hurricane a dangerous foe.

MAC

Motor City: Central Michigan -- After a year's absence from the MAC title game, the Chippewas make their third appearance in four seasons and capture their third title.

International: Northern Illinois -- The Huskies got into the Independence Bowl in coach Jerry Kill's first season and will do better in his second? They're replacing all-everything end Larry English, but there's a lot of youth to build on.

GMAC: Western Michigan -- This is quarterback Tim Hiller's time to shine. He's received tons of preseason accolades and now it's time to see whether he can lead his team to another bowl berth. It won't be easy as he's breaking in some new receivers and the Broncos are breaking in some new defensive players.

At-large: Bowling Green or Buffalo -- Couldn't choose between these two teams because I think both will have an equal shot at the MAC East title and an at-large bid. Bowling Green has more experience, but Buffalo has more dynamic players.

SUN BELT

New Orleans: Troy -- While the Sun Belt should be tougher this year, it's hard to find a team more complet
e than Troy. The Trojans have playmakers at nearly every position, making them one of the more dangerous non-AQ teams.

INDEPENDENTS

Texas Bowl: Navy -- If the Midshipmen get the necessary seven wins for bowl eligibility, they're already guaranteed a spot in Houston. That won't be easy, though, with one of the toughest schedules in recent history.

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