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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

If top two win out, TCU, Boise State left out ... again

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You can see it coming from here to Glendale, Ariz.

A snub bigger than Dallas .../Fort Worth. A blow off stronger than the wind coming out of the Boise foothills.

Boise State and TCU earned loads more credibility on Saturday. The Horned Frogs were the sport's top story with a 40-point punking at Utah. Boise State pounded a Hawaii team just out of the top 25. Even some of the myopians in the SEC have to admit that these teams can play with anyone.

But you can see it coming from here to New Orleans, can't you:

Dodd's Power Poll
1. Oregon
2. Boise State
3. Auburn
4. TCU
5. LSU
6. Wisconsin
7. Ohio State
8. Stanford
9. Nebraska
10. Oklahoma State
11. Iowa
12. Michigan State
13. Utah
14. Alabama
15. Mississippi State
16. Arkansas
17. Virginia Tech
18. Missouri
19. Oklahoma
20. Nevada
21. Arizona
22. Texas A&M
23. Penn State
24. Central Florida
25. San Diego State

A cold shoulder so dismissive that dry ice looks toasty.

Both celebrated non-automatic qualifiers start the week 3-4 in the BCS standings. One, maybe both, is a heartbeat away from playing in the BCS title game. That's the problem, though, with four weeks to go in the season. They are closer to heartbreak than a heartbeat.

You can see it from here to South Florida.

For the existing powers, it's too convenient to ignore them. Why? It's like explaining to your inquisitive kids when they ask how babies are made. It's complicated and it happens behind closed doors. The stakes are so high and these teams are so accomplished that even a supposed Rose Bowl berth for one of them smacks of discrimination.

For all the buzz they have generated, Boise and TCU still need help. They can't get to the BCS championship on their own. Both have played in mere BCS bowls. That's not enough now. The next step is, well, the next obvious step. Unless Auburn or Oregon loses, what some think are the two best teams in the nation will fall short for the same, tired reasons. Old guard trumps new school.

This is not about trashing non-BCSes. This space has been more than fair to the cause over the years. This is about alerting Frog and Bronco nations of their pending emotional meltdown. It's nothing new, really. The 2009 regular season ended with five undefeated teams (Texas, Alabama, TCU, Boise, Cincinnati). Cincinnati -- some say TCU -- was a missed Texas field goal from playing for it all. But Hunter Lawrence made it and that was that.

It's clear that Oregon and Auburn control their own destiny. Fair? Decide for yourself, but don't be surprised Dec. 5 when there are four undefeated teams and one of them is playing in the Las Vegas Bowl. That's where TCU would fall if it is left out of the BCS. For Boise, the reward for an undefeated season could be the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. I'll pause here while you catch your breath.

It goes like this: The Rose Bowl is contracted this season to take the highest-ranked qualifying non-A.Q. if either the Pac-10 or Big Ten champion is playing in the BCS title game. Assume that Oregon is going to win the Pac-10 and go to Glendale. That leaves Boise or TCU in Pasadena if they win out. A nice consolation prize -- no, a great consolation prize -- but still not the championship game.

The BCS rules state that only the highest-ranked qualifying non-A.Q. is guaranteed a spot in the BCS. That means the No. 4 team (Boise or TCU) that doesn't make it to the Rose is most likely left out of the BCS loop. Consider the politics:

Taking two non-A.Q.s has been done already. Last season, the Fiesta Bowl took TCU and Boise after deciding with their television partners that it was a worthy matchup. There was yapping about not matching either with a BCS power but, really, there wasn't much choice. No. 4 TCU and No. 6 Boise were locked out of the championship game because, well, because. That, folks, has been the best possible scenario for the non-A.Q.s. This year The Great Unwashed are back and better than ever. And if things stay the same, it's not going to matter. In fact it looks like it's going to get worse.

Here's how, if the top four win out:

The championship game will be spoken for (Ducks-Tigers). The Rose will be Boise/TCU vs. the Big Ten winner. The Fiesta Bowl will have the Big 12 winner against, most likely, the Big East winner (probably Pittsburgh). The Fiesta picks last this year, so if Pittsburgh is there, it has to take the Panthers as the automatic qualifier.

This is where it gets sticky. That leaves the Sugar or the Orange to take care of the Boise/TCU "loser." The Sugar most likely will take a second SEC team, probably LSU, for one of its spots. The Orange is locked into the ACC champion for half of its matchup. That's leaves two slots for either TCU or Boise. That's also two slots left for the likes of these power-conference leftovers: Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State.

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See where this is heading?

The bowls are about three basic things -- TV ratings, hotel rooms and attendance. The Sugar Bowl will have no problem selling out by inviting an SEC school. But it has taken Hawaii, Utah and Cincinnati for the other half of the matchup in consecutive years. It isn't likely to take another mid-major. For the Orange, attendance is more of an issue. A Virginia Tech-Boise game is a problem because it's a rematch from the season opener.

TCU-Virginia Tech? At least Wisconsin or Ohio State would fill the stadium.

Old guard vs. new school. The BCS rules allow a bowl the flexibility to take a one-loss, even a two-loss, traditional power over an undefeated upstart.

It doesn't seem like there is a damn thing TCU or Boise can do about it if everyone wins out. Don't look for the legal climate to bail them out. The Utah attorney general is trying to talk the Justice Department into an anti-trust investigation. We'll believe it when we see it. Playoff PAC has some documents that purport to show some shady non-profit financial dealings by some BCS bowls.

This just in: The BCS folks have lawyers, too. The commissioners feel they are legally protected as well. The fans? That's the last consideration. There have been some truly stinker BCS bowls since the fifth bowl was added in 2006. What's another dog?

This week TCU is the toast of the nation. Boise isn't far behind. In four weeks -- without a loss from either of the top two -- it will be feast (Rose) or famine (Kraft Hunger).

In five weeks, it won't matter. Auburn-Oregon will be cemented into our cerebral cortex.

By Jan. 10, the date of the championship game, most of us will have forgotten.

For another year.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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