With championship weekend almost underway, the majority of the BCS bowl field will be settled by Saturday evening—with the only remaining intrigue coming from the final schools that will occupy the at-large spots.
While the national title matchup is set with the winner of this weekend’s SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia facing Notre Dame in Miami on Jan. 7, several scenarios are still in play for the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls.
The champion of each of the six automatic qualifying leagues and Notre Dame are already locked in, leaving only three at-large spots left to round out the field.
But which teams deserve the right to earn those prized spots, and which three teams would fans like to see earn those bids?
Find out as I break down the case for the top contenders and make the selections for the three best teams to round out the BCS bowl field.
When discussing some of the top teams in the country and their body of work this season, the Gators’ resume takes a backseat to no one—with three wins over teams currently ranked in the Top 10 of the BCS standings, the Gators deserve a BCS bowl bid. .
The amount of Top 10 wins is not even something last season’s one-loss Alabama squad that backed into a spot in the BCS title game could claim.
The problem with taking the Gators is dumping one of the two deserving teams that won their divisions in the nation’s toughest conference.
While the winner between the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs gets a golden ticket to play for a crystal football, the loser is likely to fall to the Capital One Bowl—which is a far cry from the Sugar Bowl.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban—who B/R colleague Barrett Sallee astutely pointed out as appearing to have a case of selective amnesia—apparently is not a fan of that arrangement (h/t, Jason Lieser, Palm Beach Post).
The Gators may not be the sexiest pick, but it’s hard to argue against what they have done this season.
While their loss to Stanford two weeks ago crushed their national title dreams, the Ducks bolstered their case for an at-large bid by trouncing rival Oregon State a week later.
At 11-1 and ranked fifth in the latest BCS standings, the Ducks have a strong argument, considering they won their games by an average of more than 28 points this year.
On the heels of appearing in three consecutive BCS bowl games all decided by single digits, Chip Kelly’s team has built up enough clout to make a fourth straight trip this season.
The Sooners re-emerged into the at-large conversation by virtue of three consecutive shootout victories in as many weeks—culminating with an 51-48 overtime triumph over rival Oklahoma State last weekend.
A win at TCU on Saturday would push them to 10-2 and in the driver’s seat to become the beneficiary of the SEC’s pack of teams forced to go elsewhere due to the maximum of two BCS bids per league.
A win would also give the Sooners a shot at being the outright winner of the Big 12, though I believe Kansas State will take care of Texas and clinch the Big 12 title.
With a tradition-rich program and a fanbase that has never been afraid to travel behind them, the Sooners are an attractive piece to the pool of candidates vying for at-large BCS berth.
I know, I know.
Clemson lost in the Orange Bowl last season by almost 100 points, and with its home loss to South Carolina last weekend, its resume is devoid of a signature win.
However, that did not stop fellow ACC power Virginia Tech from getting a Sugar Bowl invite last season.
Dabo Swinney’s squad has a high-powered offense that looks attractive when paired with a rabid fanbase that travels well—which could be enough to get them into the conversation for a spot in the BCS for a second consecutive season.
Regardless of whether its unfair to loser of the SEC title game, Florida is deserving of claiming a spot due to its sterling body of work in 2012.
The Gators are the easiest selection from this group of candidates.
The next choice has to be Oregon for a number of reasons.
The Ducks have been in the Top Five of the polls for the entire season and suffered their one defeat in overtime to another potential BCS team in Stanford.
The combination of their sustained success over the years and an exciting style of play makes the Ducks a comfortable bet to take the second spot.
The third spot comes down to the Sooners, Tigers and the winner of the MAC title game.
Clemson is out due to the relative weakness of the ACC this season, and because of the league’s horrific resume in BCS bowls.
While it is fun in theory to want to toss a bone to the small schools, neither the Huskies nor the Golden Flashes come close to matching the appeal of prior BCS busters such as TCU, Utah or Boise State in years past.
And does either Kent State or Northern Illinois have a realistic shot to defeat Florida, FSU, Oregon or Kansas State?
Sorry, but I’m just not seeing it.
By default, that leaves the Sooners as the best and most logical choice to round out the at-large selections for this season’s BCS bowl lineup.
First At-Large – Florida
Second At-Large – Oregon
Third At-Large – Oklahoma