Iowa, Oklahoma State, and Boise State, Oh, My!: The BCS At-Large Teams

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Iowa, Oklahoma State, and Boise State, Oh, My!: The BCS At-Large Teams
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With only two weeks until the BCS bowl selections, we have a pretty good picture of what at-large teams will be available. 

Of course, the BCS at-large choices do not represent the best teams, but merely those that are most likely to fill the stadiums and provide good television ratings.

The bowls will be extra cautious this year, given last year's absolute debacle in the Orange Bowl (thousands of empty seats and scalpers who tried to sell tickets for as low as $0.99). 

We know a few of the BCS teams: Florida, Alabama, Texas, TCU, and Ohio State. These five teams will play in BCS games without any doubt.

Add to that the ACC champion, the Pac-10 champion (Oregon or Oregon State) and the Big East champion (Pittsburgh or Cincinnati), and there's only, in fact, two available at-large positions.

To qualify for an at-large spot in a BCS bowl, a team from an automatic qualifying league must finish in the top 14. Boise, absent a loss to Nevada, is also eligible for an at-large spot.

Let's look closely at the possible teams.

 

Iowa

Best Wins:  Penn State (10-2), Wisconsin (8-3)

Bad Wins: Northern Iowa (FCS) 17-16, Arkansas State (2-8) 24-21, Michigan State (6-6) 15-13

Losses: Ohio State (10-2), Northwestern (8-4)

The Hawkeyes had one win over a ranked opponent, the singularly unimpressive Penn State. Near losses to Northern Iowa, Arkansas State, and Michigan State really call into question Iowa's status. 

While Iowa may get an at-large BCS bid due to its large following, the Hawkeyes will most likely get rolled.

 

Penn State

Best Wins: Northwestern (8-4), Temple (9-2)

Bad Wins: The other 8 cupcakes.

Losses: Ohio State (10-2), Iowa (10-2)

Even one of the softest schedules ever could not get Penn State into the Rose Bowl or the BCS title game.

The Nittany Lions have zero wins over ranked teams and are only in contention due to its large following and Joe Pa. Like Iowa, this Big Ten cream-puff will likely get rolled in a BCS game.

The Nittany Lions have been singularly unimpressive this year, even with eight home games.

 

Oklahoma State

Best Wins: No wins over ranked teams or even eight-win teams

Bad Wins: Texas A&M (36-31), Texas Tech (24-17), Colorado (31-28)

Losses: Houston (9-2), Texas (11-0)

All of a billionaire's money could not make the Cowboys into a good team. The near loss against Colorado last week really demonstrates how weak Okie State truly is. Okie State, like Penn State, stayed at home for its out-of-conference schedule, having played only three road games all season.

BCS committees beware: Okie State has failed to fill its new stadium, averaging about 7,000 empty seats a game. The Cowboys are not the Sooners and will not bring a large following to their game, nor will the Cowboys bring a lot of eyeballs to the TV.

The Cowboys will likely lose at Norman this week. The Sooners are undefeated at home this season and have not lost at Norman since 2005 to a TCU team that went 11-1. Even in a down year, Okie Lite is not OU, so this one will likely disappear from available options.

 

Boise State

Best Win: Oregon (11-1)

Bad Wins: Tulsa (28-21), Louisiana Tech (45-35)

Remaining Tough Game: Nevada (8-3)

Boise State has been in the top 10 for most of the season and the top six of the BCS rankings since the first week. Boise State not making a BCS bowl game would be an absolute crime.

Boise State is the best available at-large team, better than any team from the Big Ten or Pac-10 and better than a Big 12 also-ran.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, they are merely the second best team from a non-automatic qualifying conference.

As it currently stands, Boise State has a better win than Iowa, Penn State, or Oklahoma State, besides being undefeated. None of these teams has more wins over currently ranked teams.

Boise State will bring fans, maybe not as much as Penn State or Iowa, but more than Oklahoma State. 

As a TV draw, it is a far better team for ratings than Oklahoma State.

Unfortunately for Boise State, the established structure is an abomination. After being jilted for Ohio State last year, it is likely that the Broncos will be heading back to a minor bowl game so that another weak Big Ten team can bring the big bucks.

Oddly enough, the left out Big Ten team would still earn more from the Capitol One Bowl than Boise State would from a BCS game, another absurdity.

BCS shills, such as Mr. Perlman of Nebraska, newly appointed BCS head Bill Hancock, and PR hack Ari Fleischer, will try to justify the logic of this, but I find it absolutely pathetic.

That Oregon, the team that Boise State completely dominated to start the season, is a win away from the Rose Bowl, even with a second loss, while Boise State must await the beauty contest is disgusting.

 

Other Teams

Since any team from the Big Six conferences is eligible for a BCS bowl, what other teams could slip in?

If Cincinnati loses to Pittsburgh and finishes 11-1, the Bearcats would most likely be available for an at-large spot. Given last year's Orange Bowl disaster (the one in the stands and the TV sets, not the one on the field), Cincy will not be getting an at-large spot unless there is no other available team. Cincy will not get an at-large spot over Boise State.

A 10-2 Pitt team could finish in the top 14. It is possible that they could be an at-large team. However, it is unlikely that a second Big East team could be invited, given the overall poor ratings and attendance for BCS games with a Big East team over the last several years.

If Georgia Tech loses to Clemson in the ACC championship game, could a 12-2 Georgia Tech make it over Boise State? Maybe, if it is the Sugar Bowl doing the selecting. It is very unlikely that the Fiesta Bowl would take an at-large Georgia Tech team, not when 13-0 Boise State would be available with a large following ready to storm Arizona.

How about the Ducks if they lose in the Civil War? The Fiesta Bowl could like having a large Oregon crowd come to support a 9-3 Oregon team. However, it is really unlikely. The Pac-10 has been passed over so many times for a second spot in the BCS that is not reasonable to assume that any Pac-10 team will ever get an at-large bid unless it is USC.

Speaking of which, could USC back its way back into the BCS? The BCS computers love the Trojans, ranking them six spots higher than the human polls. If USC were to roll UCLA and Arizona over the next two weeks, it is very possible that USC could get back into the top 14. Given USC's national TV draw, it would really help the any BCS bowl get some good TV numbers.

The winner of the Holy War will likely be very close to reaching BCS eligibility, but a 10-2 BYU or Utah will not be invited.

As to other ACC teams, Miami, should the Canes beat USF in its final regular season game, could make it into BCS eligibility. Given the U's tough out-of-conference schedule, it is entirely possible that the Sugar Bowl could match up Miami against the loser of the SEC championship game. Possible, but not very likely.

In a very remote possibility, a 9-3 Ole Miss or 9-3 LSU could still make a BCS game. If Florida and Alabama lose to Florida State and Auburn this week, the loser of the SEC title game at 11-2 may not be the most attractive at large team from the SEC. Given last year's weak performance by Bama in the Sugar Bowl, maybe a BCS bowl would rather have a different team than Florida or Alabama. 

 

Conclusion

While the season has been pretty uneventful outside of TCU's extraordinary season and USC's relative decline, maybe we will see some crazy upsets completely shake things up. After all, this is college football and anything is possible.

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