Sunday, November 7, 2010

Boise State could be an undefeated #4 and not go to a BCS bowl

The rules for how teams qualify for the BCS and how the bowls select the at-large teams is fairly complicated, but we are getting close enough to the end of the season that it is worthwhile to start looking at how it might play out.

Let's assume that Oregon, Auburn, TCU, and Boise State all win out and finish undefeated.  Let's also assume that TCU stays ahead of Boise State at #3 and Boise State is #4.  Let's also assume Virginia Tech wins the ACC, a 1-loss Nebraska or Oklahoma State wins the Big-12, Pitt wins the Big-East, and a 1-loss Wisconsin, Ohio State, or Michigan State wins the Big-Televen.

That gives us the 6 AQs from the 6 conferences plus TCU gets an AQ bid by being the highest rated non-AQ conference team in the top-12.  That leaves 3 at-large spots, but these are not automatically determined by BCS rankings, rather each bowl that has an open slot gets to choose in a pre-determined order.  That order varies each year and also depends on which bowls lose a tied in team to the BCS championship game.  So let's take a look at how it works this year.

First, the rules for an at-large team are that they have won at least 9 games and are in the top-14 of the BCS rankings.  Each conference is limited to two teams unless two non-champs from a conference are #1 and #2 which is not the case in this scenario.

The bowl tie-ins call for the ACC champ (Virginia Tech) to go to the Orange Bowl, Big-Televen (Wisconsin) to the Rose Bowl, Big-12 (Nebraska) to the Fiesta, and then since the Pac-10 and SEC are in the championship game those auto tie-ins become open in the Rose and Sugar Bowls respectively.  And there is a clause that calls for the Rose Bowl's bid in this case to go to the non-AQ conference AQ, in this case TCU.  We then have our first bowl matchup, Wisconsin vs TCU in the Rose Bowl.

A summary at this point then is:

NCG: Oregon vs Auburn
Rose: Wisconsin vs TCU
Fiesta: Nebraska vs ?
Orange: Virginia Tech vs ?
Sugar: ? vs ?

with Pitt the remaining team that must be placed and a number of teams available as at-large including an undefeated Boise State, and potential 1-loss LSU, Stanford, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Utah teams.

The Sugar Bowl gets to select next as they lost Auburn to the NCG and they would likely stick with an SEC team likely picking LSU in this scenario.  The order for the remaining selections is Sugar, Orange, then Fiesta this year.

The Sugar Bowl picks next and is going to want to cater to ratings and a team that travels well from the mid-west or east, and would likely go with Ohio State or even Michigan State if available instead of AQ Pitt.  They could pick Boise State too, but likely wouldn't because it won't bring as many fans and money all the way from the west.  If they did "go west", they'd probably prefer a 1-loss Stanford.

The Orange Bowl picks next and with Virginia Tech already there, likely wouldn't take Boise State as that would be a rematch from the regular season.  They'd most likely take which ever of Ohio State/Michigan State or Stanford the Sugar doesn't pick.  There is an outside chance they'd take Pitt being from the east coast, but they aren't even in the top-30 of the polls now so that is unlikely.

That leaves the Fiesta to pick, and they'd love to take Boise State, but they may be forced to take the last AQ, Pitt leaving Boise out.  The Fiesta might even prefer Stanford to Boise, but I really doubt they'd make that choice if that was the option since Boise would be a solid pick and would be undefeated.

That would leave:

NCG: Oregon vs Auburn
Rose: Wisconsin vs TCU
Fiesta: Nebraska vs Pitt
Orange: Virginia Tech vs Stanford
Sugar: LSU vs Ohio State

So, there you have it!  A very realistic scenario where Boise State finished undefeated and #4 in the BCS, but doesn't get invited to a BCS bowl.  This really highlights the issue with AQs for the 6 conferences as clearly Virginia Tech and Pitt are less deserving of a BCS bowl than Boise State is.  I'd even argue that should Stanford get left out that is a travesty too as they are far more deserving.

Could the Orange Bowl bail us out of this scenario by taking Pitt?  Possibly.  Could the Sugar bail us out by taking Boise State or Pitt?  Possibly.  I certainly hope one of them do.