Breaking Down the Cases for BCS At-Large Bids

Brandon BurnettContributor IIIOctober 31, 2012

Breaking Down the Cases for BCS At-Large Bids

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    November has finally arrived, which means paying close attention to the BCS standings is now a must for any college football fan. 

    At this time, many teams remain in contention for an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game. Those who fail to accomplish that goal, however, had better hope they've built one heck of a resume for a potential at-large selection. 

    To even be eligible for an at-large bid, a program must win at least nine of its regular-season games and rank as one of the top 14 teams of the final BCS standings. Another quirky rule is that a school cannot garner an at-large bid if two other schools from the same conference have been invited.

    It's not perfect, but it's what we've got—for now.

    Let's break down the cases for any team who could potentially be relying on an at-large selection to get into a BCS bowl game this season. 

     

    Note: Click here for an in-depth breakdown of the BCS rules. 

SEC West

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    Note: The Southeastern Conference has been broken into separate slides due to the large amount of potential at-large candidates warranting discussion. 

     

    Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0)

    Alabama has annihilated every opponent in its path this season, and is far and away the best team in the country. The Tide rolled Michigan in the first game of the year and have trampled every team they've faced since.

    This Saturday's highly touted matchup with LSU may be all that stands between 'Bama and a second straight visit to the BCS National Championship Game. If the Tigers can pull off the upset, they would control their destiny in reaching the SEC Championship Game and thus keeping the Tide out of it. 

    It would be a travesty for football fans in Tuscaloosa if the Tide had to settle for an at-large bid, but their enormous fanbase and track record of success would make them a prime candidate if they failed to qualify for an automatic BCS berth. 

     

    LSU Tigers (7-1, 3-1)

    With so many games remaining, this is where it gets a little hairy. There are currently four one-loss teams in the SEC, and it's basically a given that two teams from this conference will be playing in BCS bowl games. 

    If the Tigers want an automatic bid, they have to go through Alabama. If they lose this weekend, an at-large bid becomes their only hope of a BCS berth. LSU is currently No. 5 in the BCS rankings, so it's unlikely a loss to the No. 1 team would remove them from the top 14. 

    Winning out the rest of the year shouldn't be too difficult, so long as the Tigers can get past Mississippi State two weeks from now. A 10-2 overall record with wins over the Bulldogs, Gamecocks and Aggies would make LSU a very convincing choice for a potential at-large selection. 

    In other words, it's a safe bet the loser of Saturday's showdown will be a favorite for an at-large bid. 

     

    Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-1, 3-1)

    A week after seeing its undefeated record go down in flames, Mississippi State will now host a tough Texas A&M squad this Saturday. After that, it's off to face LSU. 

    The Bulldogs, currently No. 15 in the BCS standings, would have to run the table and see the Tide lose twice for a trip to the SEC Championship Game—an extremely unlikely scenario indeed. 

    With no wins over ranked opponents currently under its belt, victories over the Aggies and Tigers would be Mississippi State's only shot of entering the at-large discussion. With the latter being the more impressive, of course, it's not entirely impossible. Finishing off the season with victories over Arkansas and Ole Miss would bring the Bulldogs to 11-1 and 7-1 in SEC play. 

    Depending on how the SEC East unfolds, the previously discussed scenario would give them a solid shot an winning over the selection committee when it comes time to fill any potential at-large bids. 

     

    Texas A&M Aggies (6-2, 3-2)

    The longest of long shots for an at-large bid, I decided Johnny Manziel (pictured) and the Aggies warranted a quick mention. 

    Johnny "Football," as he's called, has taken the college football world by storm with his play thus far in the season. The freshman phenom has been getting it done with both his arm and his legs, piling up over 3,000 total yards and 29 total touchdowns through just eight games. 

    It would take an upset of epic proportions, but if the Aggies can get past Miss. State and somehow topple the Tide on Nov. 10, an at-large bid wouldn't be out of the question at all. 

    After all, Texas A&M's only two losses came against Florida and LSU by a total of eight points. That alone would be a huge plus in the eyes of the decision-makers.

SEC East

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    Florida Gators (7-1, 6-1)

    The Gators' 17-9 loss to Georgia last week forced them to cough up control of the SEC East, and if the Bulldogs don't slip the rest of the way, an at-large bid is Florida's only hope of a BCS appearance. 

    With wins over Texas A&M, South Carolina and even LSU, Florida's case for an at-large is already one worth noticing. Getting past rival Florida State in the regular-season finale should be the only thing keeping the Gators from an 11-1 record. 

    Once again, many things have to play out first, but Florida is very much in the running for an at-large bid if it wins out from here. 

     

    Georgia Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1)

    I'm going to go ahead and say it's SEC Championship or bust for Georgia and its hopes of playing in a BCS bowl game. 

    Aside from last week's win over Florida, which was by far the best they've played all year, the Bulldogs have no convincing wins to their name. And a 35-7 loss to South Carolina sticks out like a sore thumb. 

    There's really no excuse for this team not to represent the East in the SEC Championship Game, with Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech filling out the remaining schedule. But if the Bulldogs do make it only to lose, I don't see enough there to make a case for selecting this squad over some of the other SEC teams.

     

    South Carolina Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2)

    South Carolina, No. 8 in the BCS standings, is the long shot out of the SEC East. 

    Any chance for an SEC Championship has been all but eliminated, and a Nov. 24 trip to Clemson serves as the Gamecocks' only remaining chance to pick up a quality win. It would take a monstrous shakeup in the SEC for the selection committee to give South Carolina anything more than a vague look as a potential at-large team. 

    Losing star running back Marcus Lattimore for the season only makes the trek more difficult.

Pac-12

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    Oregon Ducks (8-0, 5-0)

    The Ducks will head to the Coliseum Saturday to take on the USC Trojans in a potential Pac-12 Championship Game preview. Oregon is scoring points at a ridiculous pace right now, and none of their victims in 2012 have come closer than 17 points. 

    For as dominant as they've been, though, an automatic BCS bid—whether it be in the BCS National Championship Game or the Rose Bowl—is far from a guarantee. Oregon State and Stanford are just one game behind in the conference standings and the Ducks will play each of them to close out the regular season. 

    Of course, Oregon has won the Pac-12 for three straight years now, so I doubt we'll see Chip Kelly's squad needing an at-large selection anytime soon. 

     

    Oregon State Beavers (6-1, 4-1)

    Like Mississippi State, the Beavers' undefeated start came to an end on Saturday. Now, wins over Stanford and Oregon are a must for a shot at a Pac-12 title. 

    With five games remaining, the Beavers are likely looking at a 10-2 or even a 9-3 record. That would surely put the Pac-12 Championship Game out of question, leaving an at-large selection as the only way into a BCS bowl game. 

    Oregon State is currently No. 11 in the BCS Standings, and a 10-2 season would mean a win over either Stanford or Oregon. That would serve as its biggest triumph of the season, but probably not enough to warrant an at-large berth. 

     

    Stanford Cardinal (6-2, 4-1)

    If Stanford suffers another loss this season, it can kiss an at-large berth goodbye. If they do win out, the Cardinal will be looking at a Pac-12 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. 

    In other words, like the Beavers, it's Rose Bowl or bust this season.

Big 12

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    Kansas State Wildcats (8-0, 5-0)

    Three teams remain in the race for a Big 12 championship, but it's Kansas State's to lose right now. Barring a miracle, the Wildcats can basically secure a Big 12 title with a win over Oklahoma State Saturday night. 

    Collin Klein and the Wildcats have been so dominant in 2012, they're currently the No. 2 team in the BCS standings. In other words, a spot in the BCS National Championship Game may now be theirs to lose as well.

    Say Kansas State does drop one of its final four games and finishes 11-1, though. Would it be fit for an at-large selection? A close win over Oklahoma and blowout victories over West Virginia and Texas Tech sure do stand out. 

    In this scenario, the Wildcats would definitely be an at-large selection, especially if more than two at-large bids open up. 

     

    Oklahoma Sooners (5-2, 3-1)

    With two losses already, the Sooners would have to win out in order to warrant any real consideration for an at-large bid. 

    Even that may not be enough. 

    The Big 12 hasn't had an at-large berth since Kansas went to the Orange Bowl in 2008, and the Jayhawks needed an 11-1 season to earn that. Landry Jones and Co. would make a big splash with wins over West Virginia and the in-state Cowboys late in the year, though. The Sooners already have a 63-21 spanking of the Longhorns under their belt.

    For Oklahoma to snag the Big 12 title, it would not only have to win its final four conference games, but have Kansas State lose twice. As unlikely as it seems, we have seen crazier things happen. 

    Still, an at-large bid is likely the Sooners only shot at a BCS berth. At this point, it's just too early to tell if they'll have what it takes to get an offer. 

     

    Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-2, 3-1)

    An at-large selection is basically out of the question for the Cowboys. Another loss would be too overwhelming for Oklahoma State's chances to be ranked in the top 14 come season's end, and winning out would make it Big 12 champions. 

     

    Texas Longhorns (6-2, 3-2)

    Wins over Texas Tech and Kansas State would likely launch the Longhorns into the top 14 and spring them to a 10-2 season. With a Big 12 title basically out of reach, they'll have to hope those wins, in addition to an early-season victory over the Cowboys, will be enough for at-large consideration. 

    Doubtful, but possible if everything falls into place. 

     

    Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-2, 3-2)

    It's basically the same story for the Red Raiders. They do have a blowout win over the Mountaineers to their name, in addition to a triple-overtime victory over TCU, but blowout losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma are particularly troubling. 

    This Saturday's in-state matchup between Texas and Texas Tech will all but eliminate one of the two from possible consideration, though it'll remain a long shot for the winner, too. 

ACC

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    Florida State Seminoles (8-1, 5-1)

    If the Seminoles can beat Virginia Tech and Maryland in the next two weeks, they'll have locked up a spot in the ACC Championship Game. Even if they lost that, they could conceivably be a popular at-large selection. But they would have to have beaten Florida in the regular-season finale for a shot. 

    Not winning the ACC Championship would mean Florida State finished with at least two losses. Virginia Tech was an ACC at-large last season despite a relatively weak strength of schedule. The Hokies certainly didn't have a signature win like the one the Seminoles can get by beating the Gators, either.

     

    Clemson Tigers (7-1, 4-1)

    Having lost to Florida State, winning out would only help the Tigers get to the ACC Championship Game if the Seminoles lose one of their next two. 

    Assuming that doesn't happen, Clemson could boost its at-large chances significantly with an end-of-season win over South Carolina. Winning their final four games would bring the Tigers to 11-1 overall—quite a convincing record. 

    Considering Clemson is already No. 13 in the BCS Standings, an 11-1 finish would easily keep it in the top 14 and eligible for an at-large bid. 

Big Ten

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    It's been a horrible year for the Big Ten.

    Ohio State, the conference's only remaining undefeated team, is ineligible for postseason play. Nebraska is the only other Big Ten team with less than three losses, and the Cornhuskers can lock up a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game by winning their final four games—all against unranked opponents. 

    It would be a miracle to see any team from the Big Ten receive an at-large bid is basically what I'm saying. Which is the only reason this slide is here, of course. The same goes for the Big East, too. 

Conclusion

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    One SEC team will be getting an at-large invite, that's basically a given. 

    As for who that team is, my guess is as good as yours. Assuming the powerhouse that is Alabama runs the table, Florida may be the safest bet. The Gators can finish 11-1 and still not make the SEC Championship Game, assuming Georgia wins out as well. 

    With the Big Ten and Big East pretty much ruled out of consideration, we're left with the Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC. If Clemson can finish 11-1 and doesn't win the ACC title, the Tigers would likely get the nod over any team with two losses. 

    The only team from the Big 12 with under two losses is Kansas State, who could receive an at-large if it lost to Oklahoma State and the Cowboys won the Big 12 title. Of course, the Wildcats would almost certainly have to finish 11-1. Losing two of their final four games would likely knock them from the top 14. 

    One thing to note is that no small-conference schools currently rank inside the top 16 of the BCS standings. Any team from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference or the Western Athletic Conference that won their conference championship would automatically qualify for a BCS berth.

    If no team can meet the criteria, an extra at-large bid will remain open. 

    Boise State, currently No. 19 in the BCS standings, looks like the only school with a chance to do so. If the Broncos win their final four games and a couple of highly ranked teams fall, which can be expected, an automatic bid will be theirs. 

    There could potentially be a fourth at-large bid up for grabs, but BCS rules state that Notre Dame will be granted an automatic berth if it finishes No. 8 or higher in the BCS standings. Currently 8-0 and No. 3 in the nation, the Irish could potentially lose one of their final four games and still receive an automatic bid. 

    If Boise State and Notre Dame both qualify automatically, only two at-large bids will be up for grabs.