Bowl madness: Sun shining on everyone
How will the Big East's bowls sort out this weekend? It all depends on which newspaper you're reading.
Everyone is expecting West Virginia to beat Connecticut on Saturday, which gives the Mountaineers the Big East's BCS berth and -- presuming USF and Cincinnati can win as favored against Pittsburgh and Syracuse, respectively -- leaves three 9-3 teams for the Sun Bowl in El Paso to choose from.
I wrote a bowl story for Wednesday's Times, and talked to Sun Bowl executive director Bernie Olivas, who said his selection committee's Monday meeting was decidedly split as to who to take. Of the first six informal ballots cast, there were two each for USF, Cincinnati and Connecticut. Olivas said there were three criteria to consider: ranking, conference record and head-to-head results, though not necessarily in that order.
So our story left things open and undecided, noting that Olivas has been to see USF three times this season and has yet to see Cincinnati or Connecticut once. If you read Wednesday's Cincinnati Post, the Sun Bowl's John Folmer says this:
"When you've got three teams with 9-3 seasons, we'll consider who beat who," Folmer said. "But more important, it's if they're ranked and where they're ranked. I think USF will be ranked. I think UC will move up. There's a chance for them to move to the top-20. When CBS puts it up on the marquee and you get the 13th ranked team playing the 20th ranked team on New Year's Eve Day in El Paso, all that has a lot of sizzle."
He doesn't even mention Connecticut there. But if you read Wednesday's Register Citizen in Connecticut, Folmer has this to say to a Huskies beat writer:
"The general consensus is there could be three teams that finish 9-3," Folmer said Tuesday. "It's going to be a tough decision to make. Some guys are saying 'Why Connecticut?' Some are saying 'Why not Connecticut?' At the end of the day, it's going to come down to who comes out with the highest-ranked team. Then the question is, which ranking do we use? Do we use our own ranking? Do we use the BCS? Do we use the AP top 25 or the coaches poll?"
That story doesn't even mention USF in relation to the Sun Bowl, naming Cincinnati as another option. The Bulls lost head-to-head results with Cincy and UConn, and the Bulls would have a worse league record at 4-3 than UConn, which would be 5-2 after a loss to West Virginia. So USF's only potential tiebreaker, beyond intangibles like buzz, could be ranking. Would USF be ranked highest if the Bulls and Bearcats win and the Huskies lose?
That seems too close to call. Connecticut would fall below USF and Cincy in the BCS standings, where the Bulls are 23rd, one spot ahead of the Bearcats. So if Cincy routs Syracuse and USF ekes past Pittsburgh, it's entirely possible Cincinnati could leapfrog the Bulls. The AP rankings have Cincinnati 24th and USF 27th, with the Bearcats getting twice as many vote points, so the Bulls would have to win much more convincingly to jump ahead of Cincinnati there.
It's entirely possible USF could win convincingly at Pittsburgh and still be unranked in the AP, which the Times uses in identifying teams by ranking. Consider all the big games from teams around No. 27 USF in the standings: if No. 30 Arkansas can somehow beat No. 1 LSU, they'll jump ahead; if No. 28 Kentucky can beat No. 19 Tennessee, the Vols would probably drop out but the Wildcats could leapfrog USF. Several low-ranked teams have tough challenges this week: No. 21 Clemson is at South Carolina (6-5), No. 23 BYU faces an eight-win Utah team; No. 17 Boise State could drop out with a loss to No. 14 Hawaii. No. 25 Auburn has Alabama, and who knows how the Tide respond to this week's Pearl Harbor and 9/11 allusions.
One more take on the Sun Bowl? A former president of the Sun Bowl board of directors has a blog on the El Paso Times' website, which has USF as the only Big East school mentioned in the latest post.
With a noon kickoff Saturday, USF fans will have the rest of the day to do a lot of scoreboard-watching and wondering as to how things will sort out for the bowls. Thoughts? Expectations? Predictions?