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Headlined by FSU-Auburn, final BCS table all but set

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The final BCS rankings and matchups for the BCS games won’t be officially announced until Sunday night.

Thanks to Ohio State’s loss and barring some successful, last-minute backroom politicking, however, the marquee postseason games are all but set in stone.

First and foremost, top-ranked Florida State and third-ranked (for now) Auburn will square off in the BCS title game, scheduled for Jan. 6 in Pasadena’s iconic Rose Bowl.  The Seminoles are the lone remaining undefeated team in the country, having bulldozed its way through its 2013 schedule to the combined tune of 689-139.  The SEC champion Tigers are just one year removed from a winless season in conference play that ended with Gene Chizik getting booted into the unemployment coaching line just two years removed from AU’s last BCS title.

The Rose Bowl, armed with agreements with the Big Ten and Pac-12, is set as well, with 12-1 Michigan State and 11-2 Stanford, each winners of their respective league’s championship games Saturday, set for the New Year’s Day game.

That leaves the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls with spots up for grabs, although those are all but officially filled as well.

For the final year of the BCS, the picking pecking order will go Orange, Sugar and Fiesta.  The first two will lose their conference champ tie-ins to the BCS title game, with the Orange getting the first pick of a replacement ahead of the Sugar in addition to the first at-large selection.

The Orange Bowl, according to various bowl officials and media outlets, appear poised to select 12-1 Ohio State and 10-2 Clemson for the Jan. 3 game.  The Buckeyes, despite the loss in the Big Ten title game, are still an attractive selection given their national brand and how their fans travel, while the Tigers will benefit from the ACC/Orange Bowl relationship cultivated over many years.

Alabama, by virtue of a top-4 finish in the final BCS rankings — the 11-1 Tide was No. 4 entering Week 15 — is guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl, which by most every projection will be the Sugar Bowl.  The opponent, though, is the biggest BCS uncertainty remaining.  10-2 Oklahoma is the name most mentioned, thanks in large part to the Big 12/SEC/Sugar/Champions Bowl agreement moving forward in the new College Football Playoff.  The Sooners also must finish inside the top-14 in the final BCS rankings, though.  Another possibility?  10-2 Oregon, although there is concern as to how the Ducks’ fan base would travel to New Orleans.

The Fiesta Bowl is contractually obligated to take the Big 12 champion, meaning 11-1 Baylor is guaranteed to fill one of that postseason game’s spots.  Because the AAC is guaranteed a BCS berth, and because the Fiesta Bowl gets the last selection behind the Orange and Sugar, the American champion UCF (11-1) will head to the desert for a date with the Bears.

(Writer’s note: under BCS guidelines, no conference can have more than two of its teams play in a BCS bowl in any one year.)

Below are CFT’s projections for the five BCS games, although the Sugar Bowl is most decidedly to be determined:

VIZIO BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET
Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 3 Auburn

ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY VIZIO
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 10 Michigan State

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL
Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET
University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 16 UCF

ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, LA

No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 18 Oklahoma

DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL
Jan. 3, TBD
Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 13 Clemson

Jim Harbaugh is looking forward to seeing Chief Osceola and Renegade at the Orange Bowl

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Chief Osceola, mascot of the Florida State Seminoles plants a spear at midfield prior to a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher got together for a joint press conference in Miami today as the two coaches prepare to face one another in the Orange Bowl on December 30. Harbaugh said he is looking forward to the matchup but seemed to be much more interested in getting a chance to witness one of the pregame traditions of Florida State; Chief Osceola riding on Renegade and planting a spear in the turf.

“I’ve never been to a game at Florida State,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve always wanted to go there and see what that atmosphere was like in person. This will be as close as I’ve ever been to that. I’m excited for that. I know I’m going to get some chills when that Appaloosa comes riding out there.”

Of course, this isn’t exactly a home game for the Seminoles, so sometimes pregame traditions are put on ice for the bowl season. Knowing this, Harbaugh made his case and made sure everyone listening knows just how cool he thinks it is.

“I want to see that. That’s one of the cool things,” Harbaugh said. “We have cool things and other teams have cool things, but that is right up there as one of the coolest things.”

Fortunately for Harbaugh, he will indeed get a chance to witness this pregame routine in person. Florida State Associate Athletics Director Jason Dennard said on Twitter Chief Osceola and Renegade will make the trip to Miami from Tallahassee.

Houston reportedly closing in on a head coach; Kiffin and Miles still being considered

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 18:  Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin of the Alabama Crimson Tide watches action prior to the University of Alabama A Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 18, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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The Houston Cougars are reportedly hoping to have a new head coach named as soon as this coming weekend. As expected, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and former LSU head coach Les Miles are among the final candidates being considered for the job.

One candidate no longer to be in the mix, according to a report from Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle, is Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. That should be good news for Oklahoma, as it likely means Riley will be back in Norman for at least one more season to run the offense (and with Baker Mayfield coming back for 2017, the Sooners offense should continue to rack up some big numbers).

As noted by Duarte, five total candidates were vetted by Houston for the head coaching job. Kiffin, Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along with Riley all were checked by the university as a decision is approaching.

KD Cannon promised Matt Rhule Baylor will beat Boise State in Cactus Bowl

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 12:  KD Cannon #9 of the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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Baylor introduced new head coach Matt Rhule in a press conference setting today, and it would seem Rhule has already gotten some opportunities to speak to his new players in Waco. One player in particular delivered a promise to the new Bears head coach. Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon reportedly made a bowl game guarantee to Rhule.

Baylor started the season with a 6-0 record but dropped their last six games to enter the bowl season at just 6-6. The Broncos of Boise State finished the season with a 10-2 record and second in the Mountain Division behind Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference. Boise State has won six bowl game sin the last seven seasons between head coaches Chris Petersen (now at Washington) and Bryan Harsin.

Personally, I’m still trying to figure out how many people thought pairing Boise State and Baylor in a bowl game would be a good idea, considering the unfortunate story surrounding former Boise State and Baylor player Sam Ukwuachu. We can focus plenty on the non-controversial stuff leading up to the Cactus Bowl, but that is one story that cannot be totally overlooked either, especially given the current state of the Baylor football program.

Baylor and Boise State have never faced each other in football. The two will play in the Cactus Bowl in Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, Dec. 27.

Mark Emmert thought “Penn State’s season was spectacular”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 23:  NCAA president Mark Emmert speaks during a press conference at the NCAA's headquarters to announce sanctions against Penn State University's football program on July 23, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The sanctions are a result of a report that the university concealed allegations of child sexual abuse made against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts related to sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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There was a certain irony in seeing Penn State win and celebrate a Big Ten championship in Indianapolis on Saturday night. Penn State, five years after the horrifying revelations of the Jerry Sandusky scandal ripped through the program, university, and community, was slammed hard by the NCAA, whose offices are located in Indianapolis with sanction terms that were thought to be crippling for the program at the time in the summer of 2012.

So, with Penn State clinching the Big Ten title in the home city of the NCAA headquarters, what did NCAA President Mark Emmert have to say about it?

I thought Penn State’s season was spectacular,” Emmert said while taking questions at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York on Wednesday: “What coach [James] Franklin has done there, I think, is very, very impressive.”

Emmert has been criticized by many who have taken issue with the NCAA getting involved with any decisions regarding Penn State’s football program in the aftermath of the Sandusky fallout following the release of the Freeh Report, which the NCAA used in place of its own in-depth investigation.

“It’s great to see it bounce back and do well,” Emmert said of Penn State’s 11-2 season. “While people will occasionally say those sanctions were meant to cripple the university, that’s not true at all. I’ve always said and always believed Penn state is a wonderful university, because it is, and secondly it’s got great sports traditions.”

Emmert may say the sanctions dropped on Penn State were never meant to cripple the university, but that is exactly what a four-year postseason ban and a massive reduction of available scholarships (reduced to 15 per year as opposed to the typical 25) is intended to do. Regardless, Emmert had nothing but praise for Penn State’s 2016 season.

“How can you not be pleased that they’re playing good football again? That’s very good stuff.”