This was the weekend the BCS picture was finally going to get sorted out. With three of the top four teams facing their toughest remaining challenges, Auburn-Alabama, Oregon-Arizona and Boise St.-Nevada, it looked like everyone would be able to pencil in all of the major bowl games by the end of the weekend.
Not so fast. When the BCS standing were released Sunday night may be more questions than ever at this point.
Let's start with the Tostitos BCS Championship Game that will take place in Miami, FL on January 10th. That seemed like a slam dunk for Auburn and Oregon. But is it?
Auburn must take on a red hot South Carolina team that lost a squeaker to the Tigers on the road earlier this season. The tow teams have already played once, and Auburn is coming off an emotional comeback win over the defending champs which makes this the textbook definition of a trap game.
Add to the fact that Steve Spurrier, the old ball coach, would love nothing better than to pull off the upset and move his team into the national limelight.
If the Gamecocks win, he will do a lot more than that. He'll make the whole BCS Bowl system an unholy mess. Here's why.
If the Gamecocks win, they won't just knock Auburn out of the BCS title game, they'll play themselves into a BCS game based on their position as SEC Champs.
That means that the 8-3 Gamecocks from the SEC, the Big East Champ, either Connecticut (7-4) or West Virginia (8-3) and the ACC Champ, either Virginia Tech (9-2), a team who lost to FCS Division James Madison (who finished 6-5 and in eighth in the vaunted Colonial Conference) earlier this year or Florida State (8-3) will all gain spots in BCS Bowls.
Currently, the only Big East team in the BCS Top 25 is West Virginia at No. 24. Virginia Tech is the highest rated ACC team at No. 15 and South Carolina is currently No. 19, although the Gamecocks will move up with a win over Auburn.
We already know that at least two of these teams will gain BCS bowl births along with the winner of this week's Big-12 Championship game between Nebraska and Oklahoma along with Oregon, Wisconsin, Stanford and TCU who are already locked into BCS games. Oregon as the Pac-10 Champ, Wisconsin as the Big-10 Champ and Stanford and TCU because they are all but assured of finishing in the BCS Top Four.
If South Carolina beats Auburn that will leave two at large spots for five teams with one loss each. Auburn, Ohio State, Michigan State, Boise St., Nevada and highly regarded two-loss teams like Arkansas and LSU.
The Rose Bowl has the best deal after the BCS Championship game. The Big Ten Champ is locked into the game, and this year they get the first choice of at-large teams. According to the rules, the Rose Bowl will then have to take TCU because TCU is the highest-ranked non-Big Six conference team this week.
A non-Big Six team is guaranteed a BCS spot in two ways. One is if it finishes in the top 12; the other is if it is ranked in the Top 16 and its ranking is higher than that of a conference champion with an automatic berth. This week, the Horned Frogs are higher than any team from the ACC, Big Ten, Big East and Big 12.
Under BCS rules, only one non-Big Six team is guaranteed a spot if it meets the criteria. Any others would be at-large candidates. At-large candidates must have at least nine victories and finish in the Top 14 in the final BCS standings.
Under terms of the most recent BCS agreement, the first time the Rose Bowl loses a team to the national championship game and a team from outside the Big Six conferences is an automatic qualifier, that team will play in the Rose Bowl. That means if Oregon is in the title game this season, the Rose Bowl must take the highest-placed non-Big Six team unless the non-Big Six team also is in the title game—unless South Carolina wins in which case they could take Stanford.
That means the Rose Bowl will have either a Wisconsin-TCU matchup or a more traditional Pac-10/Big 10 showdown between one-loss Stanford and the one-loss Badgers. Since Wisconsin travels better than almost any football team in the nation, they're guaranteed a full stadium and a quality matchup.
As far as the rest of the Bowls, good luck. Since they are stuck with the ACC and Big East Champs, they will have a hard time coming up with marque matchups. If South Carolina wins this weekend, it will be that much worse for the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls.
I'm not sure about you, but if I'm planning out my January 1 Bowl Schedule and the Outback Bowl is pitting Ohio State against Arkansas and the Fiesta Bowl has Florida State versus Connecticut later in the day, I'm going to do my after Christmas returns during the Fiesta Bowl.
I'd rather watch Grey Cup reruns than be forced to watch a possible showdown between the Big East and ACC Champions. I wouldn't be that thrilled watching an angry one-loss Auburn play Connecticut, either. Or Michigan State, Oklahoma or Ohio State.
Most likely, the Bowls will go into self preservation mode and pick the teams that travel best if South Carolina wins. Why worry about the fans when at the very least you can make a little more dough.
Having said that, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the teams that will get left out this year. If they wanted to be invited to the dance, they should have won their leagues.
It's the fans I worry about. Since we don't have a playoff system, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't get the best matchups possible.
That's not going to happen this year.
A South Carolina victory will make that situation worse, which will once again demonstrate that no matter how much tinkering the top conferences do to the BCS, it just does not work.