OU and OSU remain in contention for the Big 12 title, though Baylor and Texas and Texas Tech all are unbeaten and thus a game up on the Bedlam rivals. The conference schedule is backloaded — so far, OU-Texas is the only game matching two of the five teams in contention. So we won’t know for a few weeks how the title race will shake out.
But this we know. Whoever wins could be destined for a squishy Fiesta Bowl.
The Fiesta has last pick in the BCS rotation, and the selections could be quite unappealing. The American Athletic Conference, which is the remnant of the Big East, has one last season with an automatic berth to the BCS. Louisville was unbeaten and ranked eighth last week, and with Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals provided a marquee attraction. But Louisville lost to Central Florida last week. Still lots of football left, but Central Florida certainly becomes the AAC favorite.
Baylor-Central Florida, anyone?
Of course, Central Florida or Louisville might not be the last pick in the BCS selection process. A couple of mid-majors could earn themselves a spot, just as Northern Illinois did a year ago. Schools from leagues without an automatic berth can reach the BCS automatically by finishing in the top 12 of the BCS rankings or finish in the top 16 and be ranked higher than at least one champion from an automatic-qualifying conference.
The latter scenario is how Northern Illinois jumped into the Orange Bowl a year ago. The Huskies, then 11-1, climbed into the No. 15 spot in the final BCS rankings, six slots ahead of Big East champ Louisville. Thus Northern Illinois was automatic.
This week, Fresno State is 17th and Northern Illinois 18th in the BCS rankings. If either wins out, they would likely be in the top 12. And even if they didn’t make the top 12, the top 16 is almost for certain, and with the American Athletic Conference champ unlikely to rise much, another BCS bowl berth would ensue. Louisville is 20th and Central Florida 23rd, currently.
Texas Tech-Fresno State? Texas-Northern Illinois?
OU vs. Any of the Above? OSU vs. Any of the Above?
Talk about the BCS system going out with whimper, at least from a Big 12 perspective.
The selection order this season is Orange, Sugar, Fiesta. Even if the Fiesta lost its Big 12 champ to the national title game, the Fiesta would remain stuck last in the selection process, since it would have two slots to fill.
Here’s an early guess on how the BCS bowls could look:
Big Bowl: Alabama vs. Oregon
Rose: Ohio State vs. Stanford (the Rose would get to fill the slot left by Oregon, and would almost surely take a Pac-12 team)
Sugar: Missouri vs. Central Florida (the Sugar would get to fill the slot left by SEC champ Alabama and would likely take an SEC team. Maybe the Sugar wouldn’t take Mizzou, but the Tigers could be 11-2 or 12-1 by then. However, the Orange would get to pick next and would leave the Sugar to pick between perhaps UCF and Fresno State).
Orange: Florida State vs. Wisconsin (the Orange would have some difficult choices. Clemson might be the best available team, but it wouldn’t want a Clemson-Florida State rematch. Will a Big 12 team have a good enough record to warrant consideration? Seems unlikely. So like many a year, the Big Ten becomes the default position. Wisconsin very easily could win out to get to 10-2).
Fiesta: Baylor vs. Fresno State (the Fiesta might not have a choice to make. The choice could be made for the Fiesta).