With 11 weeks of college football in the books, time is running out for teams outside the BCS picture looking in.
The top three teams in the BCS standings (which are all undefeated) will spend the next couple of weeks fighting for a spot in the National Championship game. Alabama and Georgia (No. 4 and No. 5 in the BCS standings) are lurking beneath them with one loss apiece, hoping adequate help may thrust them into the title picture.
But what about the many schools who are neither favorites for an automatic berth nor an at-large bid into a BCS bowl game?
BCS rules state that a team must be ranked inside the top 14 of the BCS standings in order to become eligible for a potential at-large bid. Also, no more than two schools from the same conference may be selected—even if one of them earns an automatic berth.
For example, six teams from the SEC sit inside in the top 14, so at least four of them will be forced to settle for a less desirable bowl invite.
Florida State and Nebraska are favorites to lock up their conference's automatic berths, and several others have already made a strong case for a potential at-large selection.
Let's look past the schools who "should" get in and instead direct our focus toward three under-the-radar teams that can still sneak into the BCS picture.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Let's start with the underdog of all underdogs, shall we?
The Bulldogs come from a non-BCS conference (Western Athletic Conference), meaning they'll have to meet one of two requirements to become eligible for an automatic BCS berth.
If they win the WAC and finish in the top 12 of the BCS standings, the Bulldogs are in. If not, they can still garner an automatic berth by finishing in the top 16 if an automatic qualifier from a BCS conference finishes below them.
Sitting at No. 20 in the standings, the Bulldogs certainly have their work cut out for them.
Louisiana Tech is 9-1 overall and 4-0 in the WAC. It has yet to play Utah State and San Jose State, the two teams directly behind them in the conference standings. While it's unlikely that winning out will allow Louisiana Tech to jump eight spots and reach the top 12, leapfrogging four teams isn't so far-fetched.
Even so, finishing in the top 16 alone will not suffice. A conference champion from an automatic-qualifying league, likely the Big Ten or Big East, must finish below the Bulldogs.
Rutgers, Louisville and Cincinnati all remain in contention for a Big East title. As it stands, Louisville is No. 19, Rutgers is No. 21 and Cincy is outside the Top 25 altogether. West Virginia (now in the Big 12) won the Big East a year ago and finished 23rd in the BCS standings, so the possibility is far from a long shot.
Led by senior quarterback Colby Cameron, the Bulldogs would be no pushover in a BCS bowl game. LA Tech's only loss this season came against Johnny Manziel and the Aggies in a 59-57 ballgame. Cameron completed 44 of his 58 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns in the shootout loss. He's thrown 27 TD passes on the year and hasn't tossed a single interception in 403 attempts.
Speaking of the Big Ten, we shouldn't rule the Wolverines out of a BCS bowl game quite yet. Michigan would have to win its final two games and see Nebraska (who is tied with Michigan at 5-1 in the Big Ten and holds the head-to-head tiebreaker) lose to either Minnesota or Iowa.
Will Nebraska lose to the Golden Gophers or the Hawkeyes? Not likely. But we've seen potential BCS qualifiers squander their chances against seemingly harmless opponents before.
At 7-3 overall, Michigan's chances of securing a second straight at-large bid have basically been eliminated. Should it squeeze into the Big Ten Championship Game and win it, however, the Wolverines will be headed to the Rose Bowl.
Of course, Michigan needed a miracle just get squeeze past Northwestern last weekend. But junior Devin Gardner has played excellent football after replacing injured star QB Denard Robinson, and the Wolverines have made it clear they're going to be a tough out regardless of who's under center.
Should Nebraska suffer an upset loss, this is a team we'll need to keep our eye on. Michigan's defense is 17th in the nation, allowing just 18.2 points per game, and the offense, though inconsistent at times, is capable of pouring on points in a hurry.
The Longhorns have won four straight and are now No. 15 in the BCS standings—one spot shy of at-large eligibility.
Texas doesn't have many convincing wins under its belt, but toppling the No. 1 team in the nation would change everything. The Longhorns host TCU Saturday, with the all-important trip to face Kansas State coming a week later.
A loss would remove the Wildcats from national title contention, but one win in their final two games will still clinch a Big 12 title and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. Should Texas be the one that beats them, the Longhorns will make a convincing case for a potential at-large selection.
Then again, Oklahoma may have something to say about that. The Sooners trampled Texas 63-21 in October, and they too are gunning for an at-large bid in a BCS bowl game. Currently posted at No. 12, they've arguably got a better shot than the Longhorns.
Not including Texas, though, Oklahoma has no signature win under its belt.
Few will give the Longhorns a fighting chance when they take on the Wildcats Dec. 1, but an upset win would make it extremely difficult for voters not to throw them into the BCS picture. The defense looks better each week, and QB David Ash is back to playing solid football after being benched against Kansas in Week 9.
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