Boise State set out for Nevada on Friday to make its case for an automatic spot in the BCS and maybe even a shot at the BCS title game. And for a half, that looked like it was going to happen. But Nevada came back from a 17-point deficit to tie the game late and eventually win in overtime, 34-31.
The Broncos' loss has had a ripple effect in the standings and potential bowl selections. Even though they are 11th in the BCS this week and technically able to be chosen, that definitely won't happen now. Boise State appears to be headed to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and a date with Boston College in a rematch of the thrilling 2005 MPC Computers Bowl (it was thrilling, trust me).
Boise may end up getting shopped somewhere else -- doesn't matter -- the point is, that's one less "undesirable" the BCS has to worry about accommodating. However, Boise State may have been replaced by another one -- Stanford.
The Cardinals don't draw flies at home (even less than Indiana, for crying out loud), and the two bowls with the first choices from the at-large pool are three time zones away. But Stanford is up to No. 4 in this week's standings, and if things go chalk next week, the Cardinal will be an automatic at-large qualifier. The highest rated AQ-conference non-champion, if it's ranked third or fourth, automatically qualifies. That rule was created as a knee-jerk reaction to Kansas State being left out in 1998, the first year of the BCS.
The BCS puts a lot of restrictions on its bowl partners as to which teams they can select. You have the rule that qualifies TCU as an at-large. You have the rule that qualifies Stanford as an at-large. You have the no-more-than-two-teams-per-conference rule to keep the money somewhat evenly distributed. You have the rule to automatically qualify Notre Dame, even though no school needs the help less. And new to the limitations list this year is the rule that sticks the Rose Bowl with a non-AQ the first time it can take one. Oh, and then there is the selection order, which rotates, but often dictates which teams get taken. It's a kluge.
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Take this year, for example. Given the choice of TCU or Stanford, the Rose Bowl would jump with both feet to take Stanford. However, the other three bowls would all prefer TCU. Only the Fiesta would give Stanford a passing thought in that situation, but would quickly decide to go with the team that is higher-rated and has a bigger fan base. But the selection rules will force the Rose to take TCU and one of the other bowls to take Stanford. Everyone's a loser! The Orange Bowl, which seems to get the shaft in selections almost every year (and has the ACC champ to begin with), would face a choice of Stanford or the Big East champ, which may be unranked UConn. Ugh. The Fiesta gets whichever the Orange leaves for it.
Stanford isn't in the position it's in just because Boise lost. The Cardinal also needed LSU to lose, and the Tigers obliged. They lost to Arkansas 31-28 and will also probably miss the BCS. Arkansas would likely be the choice to replace Auburn in the Sugar Bowl now instead of LSU.
The Big Ten's Rose Bowl will be settled by the BCS standings after Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State all won this weekend to share the crown. Wisconsin has a very comfortable lead over the Buckeyes and without some sort of voter rebellion, that should stand up one more week.
Another tie broken by the BCS standings was the Big 12 South title. Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State 49-41 to forge a three-way tie with Texas A&M. The Sooners were the clear winner there, and will face Nebraska next week in the Big 12 title game.
Oregon clinched a BCS berth with a 48-29 win over Arizona. Even if the Ducks lose next week, they still get the Pac 10's automatic bid because of the head-to-head win over Stanford.
That win by Oregon, though, wasn't enough to hold off Auburn in the BCS standings. The Tigers came back from 24 points down to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and picked up just enough juice from the voters to move up to the top of the BCS ratings by a whopping .0002 of a point.
Of course, that is merely a battle over uniform color in the title game. That's always a harder decision for Oregon than other schools anyway, because the Ducks have more clothes than a Hollywood starlet.