One Nightmare Scenario for Every BCS Bowl Game
The final year of the BCS has somehow managed to enter the final weekend of the regular season with a strong chance of avoiding any sort of controversy for its championship game.
If Florida State beats Duke for the ACC title and Ohio State downs Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, those undefeated teams will face off Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif. for the crystal football. Despite what the SEC folks might think, if there are two unbeaten teams from BCS conferences still standing, they will play for the title ahead of a one-loss SEC team, strength-of-schedule be darned.
It's not "un-American," as suggested by Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs—it's the way the numbers came out.
But ours is an uncertain world, where nothing is definite, and the possibility of chaos and mayhem are always just a fluke tipped-pass or an extra second added onto the clock away.
While some teams are virtual locks to play in a BCS game, only Central Florida is guaranteed to be playing in a certain place and time in early January. There are countless scenarios that still exist for all five games, including some particularly scary (for bowl organizers) ones.
Traditional scenario: The Rose Bowl is the only one of the BCS bowls that has affiliations to two conferences, and it likes to stick with that as best as possible. The Big Ten champ (or the next-best representative from the league) is to face the Pac-12 champ (same deal as the Big Ten).
Most likely scenario: Michigan State vs. Stanford-Arizona State winner
Nightmare scenario: MSU would go to the Rose Bowl with a win over Ohio State, but also could end up there with a loss because Ohio State would be in the BCS title game. The Rose Bowl will do its best to keep that Big Ten/Pac-12 tradition going, but if MSU loses so badly it falls out of the top 14 (and thus isn't immediately eligible for an at-large spot) the game would have to look elsewhere.
The Rose Bowl had to take TCU following the 2010 season, but that was because it lost Oregon to the BCS title game and a rule required it to pick the highest-ranked team that didn't automatically qualify for a BCS game.
In that scenario, the Rose would get the ASU-Stanford winner against someone like Baylor.
A Big 12 team last played in the Rose Bowl in 2006, when Texas beat USC in the national title game.
Traditional scenario: The Big 12 champion (if not in the BCS title game) faces an at-large opponent, which according to formula this year would be the last team available.
Most likely scenario: Oklahoma State vs. Northern Illinois
Nightmare scenario: If Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, and both Florida State and Ohio State were to lose to Duke and Michigan State, respectively, the possibility exists for the Cowboys to move up into the top two in the BCS rankings and get into the championship game. If that happens, the Fiesta would get to replace the Cowboys with another choice, likely from the Big 12 to stick with tradition.
But if Texas were to beat Baylor, and Baylor fell outside the top 14 (the Bears are No. 9 right now, while Texas is No. 25), that would force the Fiesta to choose a matchup devoid of the Big 12. That hasn't happened since 2010, when Texas was the only Big 12 team eligible for the BCS but ended up playing in the national title game instead, leaving the Fiesta with a Boise State-TCU matchup.
If the Fiesta loses Oklahoma State and no other Big 12 teams are available, you're looking at something like a Northern Illinois-Oregon pairing.
Traditional scenario: The SEC champion (if not in the BCS title game) against an at-large choice (after the Orange chooses, but before the Fiesta).
Most likely scenario: Auburn-Missouri winner vs. Central Florida
Nightmare scenario: If Missouri beats Auburn, and both Florida State and Ohio State lose their conference title games, you could see Alabama jump back into the national title game with the top three teams all losing. If that happens, though, odds are either FSU or OSU wouldn't drop any further than to second place.
That would make for an Alabama-FSU or Alabama-OSU BCS title game, with Missouri playing in the Sugar Bowl as the SEC champ (but behind another SEC team that's playing for the championship).
Additionally, Central Florida could lose this week to SMU, thus falling farther down the BCS standings (the Knights are No. 16 now) and possibly behind Louisville, who they beat.
Because of the SEC's national dominance in the BCS era, the Sugar Bowl has routinely been the most screwed of all the major bowls. These nightmare scenarios would make it even worse.
Traditional scenario: The ACC champion (if not taken by the BCS national championship game) faces the first at-large choice.
Most likely scenario: Alabama vs. Clemson or Oregon
Nightmare scenario: If Florida State beats Duke, it's going to the BCS title game, and since FSU is No. 1 that would give the Orange first dibs on a replacement. Odds are it would go with Alabama, which if it finishes in the top four has to be selected, and the chance to get the defending national champs into this game is too much to pass up.
But if the Seminoles lose, then Duke represents the ACC in Miami, while Florida State would be a prime choice for all the other bowls to take as an at-large pick. While Duke is a great story, the Blue Devils don't have the national profile that the Orange would want. And whoever they'd face (the choices would include Baylor or Oregon, most likely) would be a prohibitive favorite.
BCS National Championship
Traditional scenario: The teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS standings.
Most likely scenario: Florida State vs. Ohio State
Nightmare scenario: If one of those teams loses, then it would come down to how the rankings panned out between the SEC winner and No. 4 Alabama to fill the second spot. If Auburn were to win the SEC, as No. 3 it would almost certainly jump up to second and play for the national title, but if Missouri were to win there's a chance the Tigers could still finish behind Alabama.
If Florida State and Ohio State were to both lose, though, that's where the chaos sets in. Do either of them only fall to second place, and thus stay in? Does Alabama move in, possibly against the SEC winner, thus creating yet another all-SEC title game?
And what about Oklahoma State? As a conference champ, shouldn't the Cowboys move ahead of teams that lost in their league title games, as well as a one-loss Alabama team that didn't even win its division? Even if that means playing for a national title when your only loss was to a team that finished 4-8?
Oh, the headache-inducing (and critic-fueling) calamity that would be.