It's Pasadena or...Pasadena?
Michigan State will potentially be in a win-win situation Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State.
Win, and the Spartans claim the conference title to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. Lose, and the Spartans send the Buckeyes to the BCS title game in Pasadena, with Michigan State getting to replace Ohio State as the Big Ten representative...in the Rose Bowl.
About the only thing that can foul up Michigan State's first trip to Pasadena in a quarter century is the provision that a team must finish among the top 14 in the final BCS standings to be eligible for an at-large BCS bowl berth. With Michigan State currently ranked 10th in the BCS standings, there is a chance the Spartans can fall out of the top 14 with a loss, forcing the Rose Bowl to pick someone else.
How likely are the Spartans to fall out of the top 14 if they lose to Ohio State? Their fate might hinge on just one other game—Bedlam, i.e., the latest chapter of the Bedlam rivalry that will take place in Stillwater, Okla.
|BCS At-Large Bid Contenders|
|Michigan St.||10||9||10||11||vs. Ohio St.|
|No. Illinois||14||18||15||10||vs. BGSU|
|Oklahoma||17||15||16||18||@ Okla. St.|
An Oklahoma victory at Oklahoma State on Saturday might be the only thing that could knock Michigan State out of the top 14 in the BCS. With a win, the Sooners not only would deny OSU the Big 12's automatic BCS berth to the Fiesta Bowl, but could sneak into the top 14 of the BCS standings themselves and squeeze out the Spartans.
As it is right now, the Spartans are unlikely to fall below No. 15 in the BCS standings with Oklahoma being the only team that could push them that far down.
With several teams currently behind them idle this weekend, the Spartans will fall only as far as around No. 15 or No. 16 in both polls—about even with three-loss LSU and still ahead of teams such as Northern Illinois, Central Florida and Louisville.
Even if it loses, Michigan State will not take a huge hit in the computers, as the Buckeyes are ranked somewhere between first and third by all six BCS computers.
Michigan State could very well have a Rose Bowl spot (theoretically, but not officially) clinched even before it takes the field Saturday night. Should Northern Illinois lose the MAC title game Friday night or Oklahoma go down in Bedlam with its noon ET kickoff Saturday, there would be no chance for the Spartans to fall out of the top 14 in the final BCS standings.
In the event that the Spartans do drop out of the top 14, the Rose Bowl will be in a bit of a pickle when it comes to selecting a replacement team for Ohio State. The Orange Bowl, which most likely will select first with Florida State ranked No. 1, almost assuredly will take Alabama with its pick.
Since Clemson isn't terribly appealing to the Rose Bowl, its choices are likely down to two-loss Baylor— which just handed Texas the Big 12's automatic BCS bid, two-loss Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, or two-loss Oregon.
There is a remote possibility that the Rose Bowl would opt for the first all-Pac-12(8/10) Rose Bowl since the 1944 game when USC played Washington due to World War II travel restrictions. That would only occur if Arizona State wins the Pac-12 title game over Stanford, as the Sun Devils did not face Oregon during the regular season.
If it's not an all-West Coast affair, then count on Boomer Sooner to make its second appearance in Pasadena, and its first since 2003.
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