Well, as always, #MACTION didn't disappoint last night (all hail #MACTION!), as Bowling Green upset #14 Northern Illinois in the MAC title game 47-27. The loss not only ended NIU QB Jordan Lynch's Heisman hopes, but more importantly for Gopher fans, it knocked the Huskies out of the BCS, shaking up the bowl picture. There's still a LOT of football to be played today, and as we saw last night and last week, anything can- and likely will- happen.
Still, no matter what kind of chaos happens today, Minnesota is still most likely headed to the Texas Bowl in Houston for the second straight year. What NIU's loss has done has opened the possibility of a different opponent, meaning they may not have to play their "bowl nemesis/arch-rival" Texas Tech again. With a BCS at-large spot freed up, the door is now wide open for a second Big 12 team to walk through it. The conference champ will get an automatic spot in the Fiesta Bowl, and IF both #6 Okie State and #9 Baylor win today, Okie State goes to Phoenix as Big 12 champ while the Bears would get that second at-large spot in the Sugar Bowl against an SEC foe. Of course, that's a BIG if, as it's dangerous to assume anything on a day when the Cowboys play rival Oklahoma in the Bedlam game while Baylor hosts #25 Texas (by the way, remember in September when we all had Mack Brown's head served up on a platter? If the Horns and Sooners win today, Texas is your Big 12 champ. Crazy).
But let's just say OSU and Baylor win. That would mean the Big 12 couldn't fill all of their bowl obligations, so the Texas Bowl would be free to choose an opponent from a different conference. In our earlier Week 14 Bowl Projections Mark Schlabach of E!SPN had Minnesota playing Boston College in the Texas Bowl. Minnesota-BC hockey game? Sign me up. In a football bowl game? Not so much. However, both Jerry Palm of CBS Sports and Jason Kirk of SB Nation have updated their bowl projections after the BGSU upset last night, and I like either of their new Texas Bowl opponents MUCH better: a school from the Pac 12.
Palm predicts Minnesota would play Oregon State while Kirk sees a Big Ten team playing Washington State (I love Jason and his coverage for SB Nation, but the Gophers are NOT jumping Nebraska to the Gator Bowl. Not happening. I have accepted this). Maybe the Gophers would have a better chance of beating TTU or BC or maybe not, but I don't care- I would LOVE a Pac 12 matchup, especially against The Pirate himself Mike Leach and Wazzu. That would be the IU game 2.0, and would be fun as hell.
The Pac 12 is the toughest conference in the country this year, so don't let the Cougars and Beavers (so many beaver jokes, so little time) 6-6 overall and 4-5 conference records fool you- they'd be both be a very tough matchup for Minnesota. Wazzu beat 9 win USC early in the year and lost to Auburn by 7 points AT JORDAN HARE to start the season. OSU does not have a signature win, lost to 1-AA Eastern Washington to start the season, and have lost five straight, but I still have a ton of respect for what Reilly does. Their past five losses, by the way, have come to #7 Stanford, #11 Arizona State, #12 Oregon, and UDub and USC, both of whom won at least eight games this season. That's a murder's row of a schedule if I've ever seen one, and they lost to Oregon by one point and Stanford by only 8.
Now that we've laid out this possibility, I'm sure Minnesota will still end up playing their Most Hated Bowl Rival in Texas Tech, but for this morning at least, it's nice to have some other options to think about.
***** SELECTION SUNDAY UPDATE *****
Well, with Oklahoma, Baylor and Sparty winning yesterday, that should guarantee both the Big Ten and Big 12 two teams each in the BCS. Conference champs Michigan State goes to the Rose Bowl while Baylor will play in the Fiesta, and every single updated bowl projection I've seen this morning has Oklahoma in the Sugar and Ohio State in the Orange. As a television viewer I'd much rather see Alabama vs Oregon in the Sugar, but Oklahoma remains a helmet school that travels extremely well, and considering not only their proximity to New Orleans but the fact Oregon still doesn't have a great reputation for traveling AND that a two loss season is a disappointment for them, I understand the logic behind Oklahoma getting taken ahead of them. This many people, who know far more about this than I, can't be wrong.
With Ohio State destined for the Orange, Minnesota is pretty much a lock for the Texas Bowl (and thankfully the Heart of Dallas bowl is no longer an option), and based on those updated projections this morning on Selection Sunday they'll face either Oregon State or Washington State. Depending upon whom you trust, Jerry Palm, Stewart Mandel and Ted Miller of the ESPN Pac 12 blog say OSU while Phil Steele, USA Today, Scout, and Jason Kirk (he STILL thinks Minnesota jumps Nebraska to the Gator. That's adorable. I still say not happening) say WSU. E!SPN says...Syracuse or Arizona?!? Ok then.
BCS bowl announcements are this evening at 730pm on E!SPN with the rest of the bowls announced in a selection show starting at 8pm Central.