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Major BCS impact from small number of games

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The day everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived. All the decisions will be made this weekend. We'll know, or have a really good idea, who will play in the BCS games by the end of the day Saturday.

BCS No. 1 Auburn will take on South Carolina in Atlanta for the SEC title. Auburn holds a slim 0.0002 lead over Oregon in the battle for home/road in the title game. If Auburn wins, it will be the fifth straight year an SEC team has played for the title, and the fourth different SEC team to do so in that time.

If the Gamecocks win, they will play in the Sugar Bowl. Their opponent is likely to be Ohio State. Arkansas is expected to be the choice to replace Auburn if the Tigers win the SEC title and earn a trip to Arizona on Saturday.

Auburn's hopes of playing for the BCS title aren't entirely gone with a loss to USC-East. More on that in a moment.

Second-ranked Oregon is playing at the same time in the not-so-Civil War against Oregon State. The Ducks will also play for the BCS title with a win. They are in the BCS either way, having already clinched the Pac-10 automatic berth. The Beavers are looking to just become bowl-eligible after playing a murderer's row schedule that also included No. 3 TCU, fourth-ranked Stanford and No. 11 Boise State.

The Ducks could also play for the BCS title with a loss. It is unlikely either Auburn or Oregon would get a chance to play for the title by losing this weekend unless both lose. If it's just one or the other, TCU would almost certainly move up to play the one that won.

I say that despite what would surely be a relentless media campaign for Auburn if the Tigers are the only loser. But voters have always preferred conference champions, which means the softest landing spot likely in the polls for Auburn is fourth. It is a strong computer team but probably not strong enough to finish second overall if it is that far back in the polls.

And why should they do better? Why should a team that lost a conference championship game to an inferior opponent be rewarded with a shot at an even bigger title against an even better foe (and, yes, I know about their strength of schedule)?

They would have a better chance of having staying in the title game if Oregon also loses. Although the Ducks are still a conference champion and might be favored by voters as the opponent for TCU. Stanford would have the same problem Auburn does -- voters would not likely view the Cardinal as a conference champion, although they will likely be a better computer team than Oregon.

So the voters would probably like Wisconsin and Oregon and the computers would prefer Auburn and Stanford. That means if the voters can't decide, the computers will have a role. They might have a role even if the voters love Wisconsin. The Badgers are so weak in the computers that I can see them being even a unanimous No. 2 in the polls (behind TCU) and still finish third or worse in the overall BCS.

My guess is that Oregon would finish No. 2 in this scenario; if not them then Auburn. That's assuming close enough losses that voters don't drop them out of existence. It's not just a question of if they lose, but how they lose.

The ACC, Big 12 and Big East titles will be decided as well. Virginia Tech looks to wrap up a perfect conference season when it plays Florida State for the ACC championship. Oklahoma takes on Nebraska for the Big 12 title in the last conference game for the Cornhuskers.

Connecticut heads to South Florida with a chance to wrap up the Big East title and its first-ever BCS berth. If the Huskies lose, West Virginia would win it if the Mountaineers defeat Rutgers. Pitt, which plays Cincinnati, would need both UConn and WVU to lose to have a shot.

Barring something unforeseen, the four BCS at-large teams will be TCU and Stanford as automatic choices, with Ohio State and either Auburn or Arkansas.

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