While teams have dropped from the ranks of college football’s unbeaten like flies, the Houston Cougars have endured.
Led by star quarterback Case Keenum and underrated coach Kevin Sumlin, the Cougars are one of only two undefeated teams (LSU is the other) left standing.
With Houston’s impressive run continuing, it’s only natural that talk of the Cougars possibly playing in a prestigious Bowl Championship Series bowl game is intensifying.
Obviously, certain factors have to break Houston’s way if the Cougars are realistically getting to a BCS game.
Here are 10 of those scenarios.
First and foremost, for the Houston Cougars to have any chance at making a BCS bowl game, they must win their final two games to finish the regular season undefeated.
It doesn’t take a BCS expert to tell you that teams from non-BCS conferences don’t play in BCS games unless they’re undefeated (although Boise state could be a very rare exception this year).
First, Case Keenum and the Cougars must take care of business against Conference USA West foe Tulsa. Then, Houston will need to beat the East champion (Southern Miss, East Carolina or Marshall) in the Conference USA title game.
Obviously, more scenarios need to fall in Houston’s favor if it wants to see its BCS dreams realized. But if this first one doesn’t materialize, everything else becomes irrelevant.
Given how unimpressive the Houston Cougars’ conference schedule has been, they need to gain some credibility from teams they’ve beaten non-conference. The one team that can help in that regard is the UCLA Bruins.
If the Bruins can somehow knock off crosstown rival USC in their annual tussle, it will strengthen Houston’s standing with the human college football pollsters. Houston already defeated UCLA earlier in the year.
So, if the Cougars beat the Bruins, who beat a very good Trojan team, that could earn Houston some needed brownie points among the voters.
And let’s not forget that the human voters play a role in the BCS rankings, too. Impressing them can only help.
As the victories pile up and the passing records fall, the legend of Houston quarterback Case Keenum continues to grow.
If Houston runs the table and Keenum ends up in New York City as a Heisman finalist, that could attract attention from the BCS bowl game committees when it comes time to select at-large teams.
It’s evident that Keenum is the face of Houston Cougars football—he’s the first name that comes to mind in a college football word association game. Having a Heisman finalist of Keenum’s stature could help move tickets at a BCS bowl game and generate some serious advertising revenue.
If Keenum continues the buzz he’s generated throughout the year, representatives from all of the major bowls will want a piece of him and the Cougars.
By rule, teams must finish in the Top 14 in the final BCS rankings to be eligible for an at-large BCS bowl bid.
In that regard, the Houston Cougars are sitting pretty.
They’re currently eighth in the latest edition of the standings. If Houston wins its final two games to remain unbeaten, it’s tough to picture the Cougars falling lower than 14th.
Of course, if they don’t escape unbeaten, they’re likely to plummet out of BCS bowl eligibility, mainly because they don’t play in a major conference.
But, if they win, they’ll comfortably stay in the Top 10.
It’s probably impossible for any three-loss team to make a BCS bowl game this year. So, the Houston Cougars need to start rooting against the two-loss teams out there.
One of those teams is Oklahoma.
The Sooners, who suffered their second loss of the season to Robert Griffin III and Baylor, currently sit ninth in the BCS rankings with two losses. With a win over rival Oklahoma State, the Sooners would earn the Big 12 title and an automatic BCS bid, while the two-loss Cowboys would likely take one of the at-large bids, leaving one less spot open for Houston.
However, if the Cowboys emerge from Bedlam victorious, they would take the conference crown and automatic bid, dashing Oklahoma’s BCS dreams in the process.
Picturing that scenario, it’s easy to see why Houston should be rooting for either Iowa State or Oklahoma State—Oklahoma’s final two opponents.
Another team poised to snag a BCS bowl spot is the Georgia Bulldogs.
If the ’Dawgs can beat whoever emerges from the West Division in the SEC title game, then obviously Georgia will earn an automatic spot in the BCS.
However, if they lose the title game, they’ll have at least three losses and likely won’t be invited to sit at the BCS dinner table.
Eliminating Georgia from the conversation means that’s one less power conference team Houston will have to duke it out with regarding a BCS appearance.
This scenario likely won’t come to fruition, given that Boise State’s remaining two games are on the blue turf on which the Broncos almost never lose.
Nevertheless, if it happens, that clears the way for Houston to represent college football as the lone mid-major in the BCS.
Even with one loss, Boise is still poised to make a BCS bowl, as the Broncos are seventh in the latest rankings.
However, a second loss would surely eliminate them from the BCS conversation, as two-loss teams from non-AQ conferences simply don’t play in BCS games.
At 9-2, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles have had quite the 2011 season. They’re one win away from advancing to the Conference USA title game and have even been ranked in the Top 25 polls for a portion of the season.
This means Houston’s BCS bid would look that much more impressive if they defeat a quality Southern Miss team for the conference title.
If either East Carolina or Marshall advance to play Houston, the voters may not be impressed with a Cougars win, since neither the Pirates nor the Thundering Herd are considered as strong an opponent as Southern Miss (although Marshall did beat the Eagles).
It’s all about credibility here, and Houston’s win over Southern Miss would give the Cougars more of it.
For this to happen, the Stanford Cardinal need to leapfrog the Oregon Ducks for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game.
You see, if Oregon wins the Pac-12 title, Stanford (even with two losses) would likely claim an at-large BCS spot, leaving one less BCS door open for Houston.
However, if Oregon somehow loses to rival Oregon State and Stanford wins the Pac-12 title game, then Stanford would be the only Pac-12 team represented in a BCS bowl, as Oregon—the only other viable team—would have three losses.
That would virtually eliminate the Ducks while keeping hopes alive for the Cougars.
If the human voters and computers have anything in common, it’s that both parties are impressed with blowout victories.
So, it would help Houston’s BCS cause if it can light up the scoreboard en route to blowout victories in its remaining two games—a road contest against Tulsa and a potential appearance in the Conference USA title game.
And if there’s any college football team capable of putting up a basketball-type score, it’s the Cougars. They’ve scored 56 points on three separate occasions and 73 points in two other games so far this season.
If head coach Kevin Sumlin’s team continues to win games in such eye-popping fashion, it will go a long way in impressing the computers and voters.