How a second non-BCS team could sneak into the BCS bowls

As of now, it looks likely that at least one non-BCS school is going to make a BCS bowl.  There are still three undefeated non-BCS teams, Utah (#7 in the BCS standings), Boise State (#9), and Ball State (#14).  In addition, BYU is #17 and could conceivably crash the top 12 if the one-loss Cougars were to beat Utah on November 22.

The real question is, could two non-BCS teams grab a BCS berth?  Probably not.  The rules state that if there are multiple non-BCS teams in the top 12, only the highest-ranked of them is guaranteed a bid.  Any other non-BCS school would go into the at-large pool.

The top 14 teams in the standings are eligible to be selected for an at-large bid.  Now, it’s possible that one of them could be selected over a BCS school for an at-large berth, but it strikes me as extremely unlikely.  After all, this whole setup is designed for the BCS schools, and the non-BCS’ers only got their meager semi-invitation to the party thanks to Congress raising its collective eyebrows.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for one of the outsiders to grab a bid.  What needs to happen is that a BCS bowl has no option but to pick a non-BCS school for an at-large bid.  How that could happen for this particular season…

There are 5 BCS bowls, so there are 10 spots available.  6 are reserved for conference champions.  No more than two teams from one conference can get bids (this is key).  Right now the top 14 in the BCS standings, by conference, is as follows:  Big XII – 5, SEC – 3, Big 10 – 2, Pac-10 – 1, Mtn. West – 1, WAC – 1, MAC – 1

So three of those Big XII teams can’t be picked, and one of the SEC teams can’t either.  Assuming the Big XII and SEC each get two teams into the BCS, which is just about a lock at this point, you have six spots left to fill.  Four of those go to the other BCS conference champions, and two are at-large selections.  One of those at-larges, though, technically becomes an automatic bid if a non-BCS school breaks into the top 12, which will almost certainly happen.  That leaves one spot for a second Big 10 team, a second non-BCS team, or…a second Pac 10 team.

Yes, a second Pac-10 team — and that team would be Southern California.  That’s because right now Oregon State still has the edge for the automatic berth out of the Pac-10, with the same number of conference losses as the Trojans and the tiebreaker by virtue of its victory over Southern Cal earlier this season.  If the Beavers win their last three games, they would go to the Rose Bowl, and then Southern Cal would become a very desirable at-large candidate.  That would eliminate any possibility of a second non-BCS school getting a BCS bid.

The other scenario involves the Big 10, which has two schools in the top 14 plus Michigan State, which is sitting at #15 and has an opportunity to at least tie for the conference title with a victory over Penn State.  Ohio State has two games left, against Illinois and Michigan, as does Penn State (the Nittany Lions play Indiana this weekend before finishing with the Spartans).  For a second non-BCS school to grab a berth, two of those three teams need to finish outside the top 14.  If you’re a fan of Boise State or Ball State, you probably should be rooting for Penn State to beat Michigan State, because there is a chance the Nittany Lions could stay in the top 14 even with a loss to the Spartans.  I tend to doubt it, but it’s possible (especially given that other schools in the top 14 will be losing too, as some of them play each other, so there will be further movement).  A loss by Michigan State definitely takes the Spartans out of the mix.

That leaves Ohio State.  I don’t think there is any way a 10-2 Ohio State team isn’t picked for an at-large berth (at least when the options are the Buckeyes or one of Ball State/Boise State).  A loss by Ohio State in either of its last two games, though, might drop it out of the top 14 (especially if the loss is to Michigan), and even if the Buckeyes hang in the top 14, 9-3 might not get it done.  Being a bit of a cynic, though, I suspect a BCS bowl given the choice between a 3-loss Ohio State team and an undefeated Boise State squad is taking the Buckeyes (I don’t think Ball State would have a prayer of getting the nod in that situation).

So basically, if you want two non-BCS schools in BCS bowls, you are rooting against Oregon State and Ohio State, and for everything else to shake out in an normal fashion, or at least as normal a fashion as you can get in college football.  (And you want the non-BCS’ers to run the table, obviously.)

Coming up short (again)

There isn’t a lot to say about yesterday’s loss.  It’s not like it was a surprise, and it had a lot in common with several of The Citadel’s defeats this season.  It reminded me most of the Furman game, although not nearly that bad.  However, the fact remains that Wofford had three possessions in the first half (not counting its brief possession that started with less than 15 seconds remaining) and scored TDs on all of them.  Then, Wofford immediately scored on its first possession in the second half, when The Citadel blew a coverage.  There wasn’t a Bulldog within 20 yards of Andy Strickland, and he waltzed (almost literally; kid has no rhythm, though) into the endzone.

After that, The Citadel was always climbing a mountain, and it was a bit too much, especially after the defense allowed another big play early in the fourth, a 55-yard run straight up the gut by Dane Romero, one of seven plays of 20+ yards allowed by The Citadel during the game.

The Citadel wasted a fantastic game by Andre Roberts.  He was ridiculously good yesterday.  Roberts’ second TD catch in particular was remarkable, given that he caught the ball without actually seeing it (as a Wofford defender had clubbed him in the head shortly before the pigskin arrived).  That was a special play.  He finished with 14 catches (a school record) for 190 yards and three TDs, and added 20 yards rushing from the “Zebra” formation (which I kind of like, but it’s still not the most smoothly-run of operations).

Last season Roberts had a great year but was not selected to the media’s all-conference team, for reasons not immediately apparent.  My guess is he’ll make it this year, since he leads the SoCon in practically every major receiving category, plus punt returns, although you never know with the way some media members vote.  He’s arguably one of the two best players in the league (along with Armanti Edwards).

At halftime Mike Ayers was interviewed by the broadcast team of Tom Werme and Sam Wyche (each asked him one question).  There was no sideline reporter, so Ayers donned a set of headphones and talked to the two broadcasters.  I mention this because I was amazed at the length of time Ayers spent talking.  Normally coaches are in a hurry to get to the locker room (we’ve all seen these why-did-they-bother-interviews with coaches in a rush), but Ayers spoke for two minutes and eight seconds (I went back later and timed it).  Much of it was standard coachspeak (he wanted the offense to be “more consistent”, never mind that Wofford had scored every time it had the ball), although he did mention that The Citadel was alternating defensive fronts.  In fact, he named them — “they’re running a 3-3, a 50, and an eight-man.”  Ayers also said that Wofford could tell what fronts The Citadel would be using for each play because of the personnel in the game for the Bulldogs, which I thought was interesting.  Anyway, that was as long a halftime interview with a coach prior to his going to the locker room as I’ve ever seen.

Next week is homecoming for The Citadel, playing a bad UT-Chattanooga team that has already fired its coach.  The Bulldogs desperately need a win, and really should get it.  I just wonder how confident the team (particularly the defense) will be in that game.  I don’t really want to think about the game against Florida yet…