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Embracing the Bye Week Bracket - 25 January 2009

I could think of no better way to spend the Sunday before the Super Bowl than putting together this week's bracket (seed list). Then again, I'm a Bills fan, so you can easily question my sanity. (2009 bracket trends can be found here.)

Keep in mind that this projection only covers games from Sunday, January 18 through Saturday, January 24.

Two from the ACC, Two from the Big East

Duke replaces Wake Forest as the number one team overall after a 17-point win over NC State and a 41-point thrashing of Maryland. Wake's loss to Virginia Tech on Wednesday night means that not only are the Hokies new to this week's bracket, but the formerly unbeaten Demon Deacons drop from the top line after a short stay. The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons meet Wednesday night in Winston-Salem, so more shuffling is certainly possible. North Carolina is the second ACC number one at the moment. The Tar Heels have two tricky, but winnable road games this week, Florida State on Wednesday and NC State on Saturday. (Keep in mind that the Noles are still due for their annual big win over a league opponent in Tallahassee.)

UConn and Pitt represent the Big East among the number ones. The Panthers rebounded from their loss to Louisville in a big way, beating Syracuse by 18 last Monday. Meanwhile, the Huskies just keep on winning, even in places they shouldn't (South Bend).

Number 2 with a Bullet

Louisville could soon supplant one of their conference brethren on the top line. The Cardinals started slow, which has been their M.O. during the past few seasons, but now that it's January, they're getting into gear. They jump this week from the 4 line to supplant a fading Georgetown team, who is barely holding onto a protected seed at the moment. Michigan State and Oklahoma remain number two seeds this week.

No Change on the 3 Line

Arizona State, Syracuse, Texas, and Xavier remain on the 3 line. The Orange need to start winning again, however. If I had included today's loss to the aforementioned Cardinals in the bracket, they'd probably be on the 4 line.

More Protected Seed Stability

This week's four seeds are Clemson, Georgetown, Marquette, and UCLA. These are four teams that are still trying to find a bit of an identity, but they remain here as they seem to be the best alternatives at the moment. I will say that Kentucky and Memphis are really starting to push these four, however. Gonzaga has a decent shot at a protected seed as well because of their non-conference schedule, but they can't afford a slip-up in the WCC. The Hoyas will need to start winning again to remain here. The Golden Eagles will need to prove they can beat the better teams in the Big East, not just the middle-to-bottom of the league. And I didn't punish the Tigers for doing what they do every year.

The Rest of the Field

Kansas, Illinois, and Purdue are the big positive movers this week. The Jayhawks have taken advantage of the schedule, beating up on three Big 12 North opponents and Texas A&M (who falls out this week as they continue to struggle through the difficult part of their schedule). The Illini have taken advantage of their home games to build a 5-2 league mark (but don't discount their win at Purdue). And the Boilers have righted the ship, winning four straight in the Big Ten to move right back into contention.

The Big Ten also provides us with our two biggest negative movers of the week. Wisconsin is the last at-large in the field after four straight losses. Michigan is also a 12 seed this week, but they're actually an 11 on my S-curve. I switched the Wolverines with Virginia Tech to preserve bracket integrity. (I also had to switch Minnesota and Notre Dame for this reason.)

Joining Texas A&M on the outside looking in this week are Arizona and Stanford. In the case of the Cardinals, a loss to Oregon State, no matter how improved the Beavers are, is unacceptable for a team with a mediocre profile. They'll need to redeem themselves, much like USC, another team with a so-so profile, has to get back in. In the case of the Wildcats, their best days seem behind them, even with a nice comeback over Houston Saturday (marred by an ugly incident where Houston's Aubrey Coleman stomped on Chase Budinger's face). But a good showing against the Washington schools in Tuscon this week could push them right back in.

Virginia Tech and USC are joined by Boston College as at-large newcomers. The Eagles are now back at .500 in the ACC.

Here's the link to this week's rundown, which includes the conference bid totals.

I'll post some pictures of my trip to Delaware and the Palestra tomorrow evening. Next bracket will be Super Bowl Sunday, and hopefully I'll have it out a bit earlier than tonight's.