As Week 12 in College Football is about to kick off in earnest, the indignation and fear among the fan bases of the Top 25 turn to where their school will be bowling, or if their school will be bowling at all. Fans of TCU, Boise State, Oregon and the like are more concerned about the affairs of their conference title or trying to make it to Glendale for the National Championship.
But for teams in that 10-20 range, who are right on the BCS bubble for an at-large bid, these are the trying times. These are the days that will decide whether a team like Ohio State will be heading to Pasadena or to Orlando. It's the difference between playing in the Rose Bowl in the afternoon in a packed stadium in sunny California or playing early morning in rainy Florida in the Outback Bowl.
Just by sheer numbers, some teams will get screwed by the BCS. So, here are the 10 teams who could be the victims of more BCS controversy.
Does anyone want to play the Aggies right now?
I know what you're thinking, "How can a team with three losses get screwed out of the BCS?" Well, when you're playing as well as Texas A&M is right now, you can. This year's Aggies are the perfect example of the pro-playoff crowd. A dangerous team with a hot quarterback in Ryan Tannehill that's playing well at the right time.
They've beaten two ranked teams in a row including Oklahoma and have a massive game this weekend with No. 8 Nebraska. They're technically still alive in the Big 12 South, though they would need Oklahoma State to lose twice. But it could possibly be a scenario where Texas A&M has wins over three ranked teams and won't even get a sniff at the BCS.
Virginia Tech has one right now, and they're probably heading to the Orange Bowl.
What if Ryan Mallett doesn't throw that pick against the Crimson Tide? What if the Razorbacks could have held the lead against Alabama? What if the defense didn't implode at Auburn?
The Razorbacks had a very fine season, one of the best and more memorable ones in Fayetteville since Darren McFadden was on campus and maybe even before that. But it will be two defensive collapses, one at home against Alabama and on the road at Auburn that turned what could have been a great season into just a very good one.
Arkansas still has LSU in its annual post-Thanksgiving grudge match for the Golden Boot. But even if it wins, there's still a quandary about an at-large bid that at that point could pass by all three SEC West two-loss teams. Then what?
Only thing left is to think. What if?
There's no shame in losing two games in the SEC.
Alabama fans have to keep telling themselves that because two losses will be what does the Crimson Tide in as far as the BCS goes—a loss to the eventual SEC Eastern Division champs on the road (South Carolina) in a game that the Tide almost pulled out, and a loss on the road against the conference's probable at-large team (LSU) and a coach that just seems to get lucky doesn't he.
Even if they knock off the No. 2 team in the country next week in rival Auburn—a game that is in Tuscaloosa by the way—Alabama will probably be heading to Florida and either the Capital One Bowl or the Outback Bowl—or at worst the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
None of those are bowls to shake your head and be ashamed to play in. But, after a National Championship and two straight BCS bowls, everything else seems like a letdown.
Like so many teams on this list, Oklahoma State is following a similar path.
The big-name program who for so many years couldn't reach expectations or has a list of broken dreams and missed opportunities. Then one year, it finally comes together. All the pieces fall into place, and it looks like it just might happen. And then...
The karma and the baggage catches up with them.
Oklahoma State lost at Nebraska and now controls its destiny. Two wins and they're off to the Big 12 Title Game and a rematch with the Cornhuskers. But the Cowboys know that a loss against Oklahoma, and not only won't the Cowboys make it to the conference title game, they won't even have a chance at a bowl.
The clock's ticking, Cowboys. Will the baggage catch up with them again?
The Cardinal Renaissance under the Jim Harbaugh-Andrew Luck partnership could reach new proportions if No. 6 Stanford can win its last two games, including the Big Game with California. If Stanford wins, the Cardinal are probably safe bets for Pasadena assuming everything stays the same, considering the Rose Bowl does everything in its power to keep the Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup.
But if Oregon loses to Oregon State, for example, where does that leave the Cardinal. All of a sudden, Oregon moves into the Rose Bowl slot. Would Stanford then get knocked out for a Nebraska or Oklahoma State? History, at least with the Pac-10 says probably not.
But there's a chance.
Right now, there are three Big Ten teams fighting for at most two BCS spots. One going to the Conference Champion, which will be heading to California and the Rose Bowl. The other, should it come to that, would head to another bowl, probably the Fiesta or Orange. But one team will not be invited at all.
Ohio State has been there before, in fact it's been to BCS games for years. It doesn't mean it makes it any less wrong to not include them should the time arise just because they've been there before. But if Ohio State and the two other schools win out (which is definitely possible), then it will get very sticky and come down to tiebreakers, which don't favor the Buckeyes.
In that case, Ohio State's the one left out of the party, and most likely, the Capital One Bowl will come calling.
At least the field at the Citrus Bowl should be better than last year's.
In this whole Big Ten BCS drama that will play out over the last two weeks, Wisconsin takes the part of the middle child in all of this. The Badgers beat Ohio State, so they hold the tiebreaker over the Buckeyes. But the Spartans beat the Badgers and therefore hold the tiebreaker over them. And what if it comes to BCS ranking, where the Buckeyes could have the advantage on everyone?
Wisconsin moves ahead of Ohio State on this list because of the time factor. The Badgers haven't been to a BCS bowl since Ron Dayne broke the Division I all-time rushing record. They went to the Rose Bowl that year and beat Stanford.
It would be poetic justice if Wisconsin makes it back to Pasadena and plays Stanford. It would cement the Badgers as one of the better teams in college football.
And it would also mean they didn't hang 83 on Indiana in vain.
Michigan State's story is a lot like Oklahoma State's. The one year where things finally fall where they're supposed to. When everything's going right and every game and every win is getting bigger than the next. But supporting Michigan State football has to have the feeling of watching a horror movie—you just sit there, wondering when the other shoe will finally drop.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, go ask a Spartan Fan about Michigan in 2004, or Notre Dame and Northwestern in 2006 or any of the other times the Wolverines or Fighting Irish have ripped their collective hearts out.
Michigan State has the edge in that it doesn't play Ohio State, and that it holds the tiebreaker over Wisconsin thanks to the head-to-head win. But if Michigan State falls and ends up tied with Ohio State, it comes down to BCS Rankings, which would mostly likely be in favor of the Buckeyes if at all.
Spartan fans are hoping it doesn't come to that, because if everything holds Michigan State would be going to a BCS bowl for the first time. The last time it went to the Rose Bowl, the BCS wasn't around yet. But if the Spartans can't win one of their last two games, it'll just be more heartbreak in East Lansing.
TCU is one of the two teams that, perhaps just as much or maybe more, is under more pressure than Auburn or Oregon to win because one loss could take them from the Fiesta Bowl to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
I wish I was joking.
TCU is under constant pressure to win, to justify its ranking and stay ahead of the pack to ensure a second consecutive BCS bid for one of the best teams in the country. Not to mention the pressure of staying ahead of Boise State, who are gaining on the Horned Frogs with every win and every blowout on the blue carpet.
BCS rules state that one of these two teams are guaranteed in right now, so as it stands at least TCU is going. But one loss and it could be adios for the Horned Frogs.
Of course I guess there's an upside to the Armed Forces Bowl. At least it'll be at their home field.
Really, who else could it be?
Just like TCU, Boise State is under immense pressure to win to maintain and justify its ranking and a chance at a BCS game. Only there might be even more pressure on the Broncos than even on TCU.
At least TCU's in the Mountain West, a conference that has Utah and Air Force among others that is usually strong. Boise State's stuck in the WAC, where it has showdowns with Louisiana Tech and rivalry games with Idaho. So Boise State doesn't have to just win, they have to destroy schools.
And they have. They also have a win against Virginia Tech that's looking better and better with each week.
But only one spot is guaranteed. So Boise State must win and win big, even against a really good team like Nevada coming up because it has no choice. Because if not, anyone who supports the Broncos can't help but have that feeling like the college football world is just looking for a reason to kick them out.
It can't all be the blue turf, can it?