Commentary

Big 12, Big Ten, SEC dominate bowl forecast

Updated: June 25, 2008, 1:20 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Which teams in each conference will compete for a BCS bowl? Which teams will be home for the holidays? Take an early look at who will be making bowl plans in 2008.

Atlantic Coast Conference

BCS bowl contenders
Clemson: The Tigers will have one of the country's best offenses, led by quarterback Cullen Harper and tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Can Tommy Bowden finally get it done?

Virginia Tech: The Hokies have to replace a plethora of stars on defense and tailback Branden Ore, who was dismissed from the team. Frank Beamer will need to produce one of his better coaching jobs.

Wake Forest: With quarterback Riley Skinner returning to lead the offense and nine starters coming back on defense, the Demon Deacons can again overturn the apple cart in the ACC.

Should go bowling
Boston College
Florida State
Maryland
Miami
North Carolina

Wait till 2009
Duke
Georgia Tech
NC State
Virginia

Big 12 Conference

BCS bowl contenders
Missouri: The Tigers still are chapped about getting left out of the BCS in 2007. Quarterback Chase Daniel and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin are determined to make sure the team isn't snubbed again in 2008.

Oklahoma: The Sooners are capable of winning it all in 2008 -- if they can win a bowl game. Quarterback Sam Bradford returns as a Heisman Trophy contender, and OU's offensive and defensive lines are as good as any units in the country.

Texas: New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will shore up a defense that was porous in 2007. Quarterback Colt McCoy will have to carry a big load, unless the Longhorns can find a capable replacement for departed tailback Jamaal Charles.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are gunning for big things in 2008. QB Graham Harrell and receiver Michael Crabtree lead what might be the country's best offense, and coach Mike Leach believes he finally has a defense that can stop opponents.

Should go bowling
Colorado
Kansas
Nebraska
Oklahoma State
Texas A&M

Wait till 2009
Baylor
Iowa State
Kansas State

Big East Conference

BCS bowl contenders
Pittsburgh: The Panthers are a serious dark horse to win the Big East and compete for a spot in a BCS bowl game. Pitt fans have waited patiently for coach Dave Wannstedt to turn his talented recruits into winners, and this might be the year.

West Virginia: With quarterback Pat White and tailback Noel Devine returning, coach Bill Stewart could have a national championship contender in his first full season. Stewart is really excited about his team's linebackers.

Should go bowling
Louisville
Rutgers
USF

Wait till 2009
Cincinnati
Connecticut
Syracuse

Big Ten Conference

BCS bowl contenders
Ohio State: With 18 starters back, the Buckeyes will be big favorites in the Big Ten. If Ohio State reaches the BCS National Championship Game again, it will be a heavy underdog.

Wisconsin: It won't take coach Bret Bielema long to figure out whether the Badgers are a BCS contender. Wisconsin opens its Big Ten slate with a road game at Michigan, followed by consecutive home games against Ohio State and Penn State.

Should go bowling
Illinois
Iowa
Michigan
Michigan State
Penn State
Purdue

Wait till 2009
Indiana
Minnesota
Northwestern

Conference USA

BCS bowl contenders
None

Should go bowling
Central Florida
East Carolina
Houston
Memphis
Southern Miss
Tulsa

Wait till 2009
Marshall
Rice
SMU
Tulane
UAB
UTEP

Independents

BCS bowl contenders
None

Should go bowling
Navy
Notre Dame

Wait till 2009
Army
Western Kentucky

Mid-American Conference

BCS bowl contenders
None

Should go bowling
Ball State
Central Michigan
Kent State
Miami (Ohio)

Wait till 2009
Akron
Bowling Green
Buffalo
Eastern Michigan
Northern Illinois
Ohio
Temple
Toledo
Western Michigan

Mountain West Conference

BCS bowl contenders
BYU: Early games at Washington and against UCLA will go a long way in determining whether the Cougars can crash the BCS party. With 13 starters coming back, including quarterback Max Hall, BYU might be poised to become the third unbeaten non-BCS team in as many regular seasons.

Should go bowling
Air Force
New Mexico
TCU
Utah

Wait till 2009
Colorado State
San Diego State
UNLV
Wyoming

Pacific-10 Conference

BCS bowl contenders
USC: The Trojans have to replace four NFL first-round draft picks from a team that blasted Illinois in the Rose Bowl. But no other Pac-10 team seems capable of ending the Trojans' run of six consecutive conference titles.

Should go bowling
Arizona
Arizona State
California
Oregon
Oregon State
UCLA

Wait till 2009
Stanford
Washington
Washington State

Southeastern Conference

BCS bowl contenders
Auburn: The Tigers will have new looks on offense and defense, but they still might be favorites in the SEC West. Auburn plays LSU, Tennessee and Georgia at home and doesn't play Florida during the regular season.

Florida: With Heisman winner Tim Tebow returning, and RBs Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey joining the backfield, the Gators will score a lot of points. Coach Urban Meyer hopes his defense won't give up as many points as it did last season.

Georgia: The Bulldogs face a difficult schedule but one they can overcome. If tailback Knowshon Moreno stays healthy and quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to improve, Georgia is capable of reaching the BCS National Championship Game.

Should go bowling
Alabama
Kentucky
LSU
Mississippi State
Ole Miss
South Carolina
Tennessee

Wait till 2009
Arkansas
Vanderbilt

Sun Belt Conference

BCS bowl contenders
None

Should go bowling
Florida Atlantic

Wait till 2009
Arkansas State
Florida International
Louisiana-Lafayette
Louisiana-Monroe
Middle Tennessee
North Texas
Troy

Western Athletic Conference

BCS bowl contenders
Fresno State: Thanks to a difficult nonconference schedule, the Bulldogs might not be able to do what Boise State and Hawaii did the previous two seasons. But Fresno State is capable of upsetting Rutgers or Wisconsin in its first two games, which might be enough to push it up the polls.

Should go bowling
Boise State
Nevada

Wait till 2009
Hawaii
Idaho
Louisiana Tech
New Mexico State
San Jose State
Utah State

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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