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August 27, 2011

Crystal ball gazing: BCS projections

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The Big Ten and the Pac-12 now have conference title games. The Big 12, for the first time, will not play a league championship game.

Advantage, Oklahoma.

Aside from a loaded roster, the top-ranked Sooners seem to have a schedule with just enough challenges to get them to New Orleans for this season's BCS championship, but not so many as to prevent them from getting there.

The toughest road game comes early against No. 6 Florida State, and even with a competitive loss, the Sooners should stay in the title hunt.

The next treacherous road game comes Dec. 3 at Oklahoma State. In the past that would be the day of the Big 12 title game. Now with one less hurdle to clear, Oklahoma is less likely to stumble, unlike Big Ten heavyweights Wisconsin and Nebraska and Pac-12 favorites Oregon and Stanford.

The Southeastern Conference still has its championship game, but with the SEC having won five straight national championships, its big game in Atlanta has practically become a play-in contest for the BCS title game.

BCS projections:

Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Virginia Tech. Behind rising star and Heisman contender Aaron Murray, the Bulldogs are the surprise SEC runners-up. An ACC team receiving an at-large BCS might seem strange, but check out the Hokies' schedule and try to find two games they'll lose.

Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. West Virginia. Only a loss to Oklahoma keeps the Seminoles out of the national title game. The Mountaineers win the Big East as Dana Holgorsen replaces Chip Kelly as this season's offensive genius.

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon. Speaking of Kelly and the Ducks, they win a third straight Pac-10/12 title, aided by not having to face USC in the conference title game. Elusive QB Russell Wilson helps the Badgers make it two straight trips to the Rose Bowl.

Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Boise State. If the Fighting Irish are eligible for the BCS -- it'll take at least nine victories -- they'll be picked. Kellen Moore and the Broncos start the season with a victory against Georgia and close it with the program's third trip to the BCS.

BCS championship: Alabama vs. Oklahoma. When Alabama reached the national title game in 2009, it was with a first-year starting quarterback, a ferocious defense and an All-American tailback. Same deal this time. Oklahoma runs the table and reaches the championship game for the fifth time.

And the national champion is ... make it six in a row for the SEC and another title for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide.

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