Finally, we have serious clarity in the BCS landscape.
We know Notre Dame is heading to the national championship and will play the winner of Alabama and Georgia barring some sort of rankings shocker. We know the four potential teams heading to the Rose Bowl. We know Kansas State controls its destiny for a Fiesta Bowl bid. And we know Florida and Oregon are basically assured at-large bids.
But after that it gets tricky. What other at-large teams will sneak in? Can a mid-major earn an automatic bid?
Normally, we have arguments at the top of the BCS standings. This year, it will be the teams hovering from 15-25 that will be making their respective cases.
National Championship Game: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
This one is pretty straightforward. Notre Dame is already in, and I'm predicting an Alabama victory over Georgia in the SEC championship.
On a side note: How tragic is it that the loser of the SEC championship will essentially be punished for making it into that game and losing, while a team like Florida will sit at home and likely play in the Sugar Bowl?
There are six teams that would be qualify as at-large bids right now from the SEC if the BCS could take more than two teams from any conference. Sorry, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina, but you're out of luck.
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Nebraska
Again, pretty straightforward. I'm predicting Stanford will beat UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game, while Nebraska will handle Wisconsin. But heaven help us all—and this game's ratings—if we end up with UCLA versus Wisconsin.
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Rutgers
This is where things get interesting. The Sugar Bowl has an automatic tie-in to the SEC, but that goes away here since Alabama has qualified for the national championship in my scenario. Since the Sugar Bowl is the only bowl losing its automatic qualifier, it gets its first pick of all the teams without tie-ins.
I'm guessing the Sugar Bowl will stay in the SEC with a slew of teams worthy of selection, and since Florida will likely be the ranked No. 3, the Gators will be headed to the Sugar Bowl.
After that, the Sugar Bowl has the second at-large selection. Normally, this selection would likely have been Oklahoma, but as you'll see below, the team I believe will win the Big East, Rutgers, will actually be the most appealing option for the Sugar Bowl.
Why? Read on, dear readers.
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State vs. Oregon
All Kansas State has to do next week to win the Big 12 is either beat Texas or have Oklahoma lose to TCU. I think the Wildcats will handle the disappointing Longhorns and look to salvage the season in the Fiesta Bowl.
But that won't be easy against the Oregon Ducks—a school the Fiesta Bowl won't be able to pass up when it selects first from the pool of at-large teams. Can you imagine how much fun this game will be?
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Kent State
Florida State is going to win the ACC championship against Georgia Tech and likely remain a Top 15 team. So it will earn the ACC tie-in bid to the Orange Bowl. That's the easy choice.
But wait, Kent State? Really?
This is about to get fun. You see, here's where it gets tricky (from BCSFootball.org):
The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:
- Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or,
- Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.
Coming into this week's action, Boise State was ranked No. 22 in the BCS standings and Kent State was No. 23. But all of the teams ranked from No. 15 to No. 21—Oregon State, Texas, UCLA, Rutgers, Michigan, Louisville and Oklahoma State—all lost.
And in my scenario, UCLA and Texas will lose again, while either Louisville or Rutgers will also lose again since they play one another on Thursday. Oh, and Oklahoma State gets the suddenly hot Baylor Bears.
Boise State would seem the more likely to jump into the Top 16, but it might actually be the long shot here. The Broncos don't have a very good computer average and only have one game left against Nevada (7-4)—a team that likely wouldn't bump them ahead of the winner of the Louisville-Rutgers game.
Kent State, however, could see positive movement up the rankings. It plays 11-1 Northern Illinois for the MAC championship—a team ranked No. 18 in the coaches' poll and No. 24 in the Harris poll.
But Kent State also is the highest ranked in the computers among the three at-large schools listed above, meaning the Flashes could jump above Boise State, Louisville and Rutgers with a quality win over Northern Illinois.
Still, the human polls haven't been kind to Kent State (No. 19 in the coaches' poll, No. 25 in the Harris) and it would need a nice bump in the last voting, namely in the Harris poll, to get in over a Big East school.
If the Rutgers vs. Louisville game is a sleeper and Kent State hammers Northern Illinois, I think it gets in. Thus, a team like Oklahoma that would have otherwise gotten a bid to a BCS game will be left out.
And that, folks, is the way the BCS crumbles.
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