TCU's chances of making a BCS bowl just improved with Sunday's release of the latest BCS standings.
The Horned Frogs are teetering on the brink of being excluded from a BCS bowl and coach Gary Patterson knows it. That's the reason he went through the ESPN "car wash" over the weekend, flying to Bristol, Conn. for appearances on various ESPN platforms. Patterson was low key and stated his case to the point that he even made it to Chicago Saturday to be on the set of GameDay.
What even Patterson probably doesn't know is, as of Sunday night, that a spot looks like it is opening up for his team in the Orange Bowl. TCU's case was helped by the Nebraska's loss to Texas A&M. The Huskers could have been a potential at-large team. That possibility probably no longer exists with Nebraska having dropped to 9-2.
TCU's plight is affected by a BCS rule that allows a berth to only one automatically qualifying non-BCS school. After that, it's up to the bowls' discretion. That was the scenario last season when Boise and TCU played in the Fiesta Bowl. This year it's likely they both get in again if you assume that the top eight in the BCS win out. Here's why:
1. An Oregon-Auburn championship game creates an opening in the Rose Bowl that this year, per BCS rules, allows for the highest-ranked qualifying non-A.Q. (automatic BCS qualifier) to go to Pasadena. Given the numbers posted Sunday that is most likely Boise State. The Broncos -- fourth in the BCS -- moved within .0135 of No. 3 TCU. With two games remaining, Boise State seems destined to move into that No. 3 position.
2. Assuming Boise is in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin (winner in a three-team Big Ten tie), then it's easy to slot these teams:
Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/Nebraska or Missouri vs. the Big East champ in the Fiesta.
LSU (SEC at-large) vs. Ohio State (Big Ten at-large) in the Sugar.
3. This is where it gets interesting in the Orange Bowl. There simply isn't that large of an eligible pool to match against the ACC champion (Virginia Tech, Florida State or NC State). At that point only Oklahoma State (11-2 coming off a Big 12 title game loss), Missouri (10-2 if it beats Kansas), Stanford (11-1 if it wins out) and TCU (12-0 if it beats New Mexico) would likely be eligible for a BCS berth. Every other team would have at least three losses or, like Michigan State, be shut out because its conference already had the limit of two BCS teams.
Remember that the Orange is very sensitive to attendance. It needs two teams who can guarantee a sellout (or come close to guaranteeing) a sellout. That seemingly eliminates Stanford and Missouri. Stanford would be traveling across the country. Only one Pac-10 team (USC in 2003) has played in the Orange Bowl in a non-championship BCS year since 1985. Missouri has a notoriously mediocre fan following in bowls.
That leaves only TCU, not exactly an attendance draw but a better team than any of the other candidates. Virginia Tech-TCU doesn't quite stir the blood the same way that, say, LSU-TCU does but in my scenario the Sugar is not going to pass up a chance for a rematch of the 2008 BCS title game (LSU-Ohio State).
In my scenario, everyone is happy -- TCU, the BCS -- which doesn't have to take a load of ---- for leaving out the Horned Frogs -- and my man Patterson. Once again, the biggest development of Saturday was Nebraska being eliminated. If the Huskers had won that created the unsavory scenario involving the Orange Bowl. The bowl possibly would have had to choose between a two-loss Nebraska and an undefeated TCU. Isn't it great how things work out?
Once again, recapping why TCU fans should be happy if the top four win out:
BCS championship game: Oregon-Auburn
Rose: Boise State-Wisconsin (assuming Badgers win three-way tiebreaker)
Fiesta: Big 12 (Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/Nebraska/Missouri) vs. Big East (too many possibilities even to post on the Internet)
Sugar: LSU-Ohio State
Orange: ACC (Virginia Tech/Florida State/NC State)-TCU
Top eight in the BCS as of Sunday:
1. Oregon, 10-0
2. Auburn, 11-0
3. TCU, 11-0
4. Boise State, 10-0
5. LSU, 10-1
6. Stanford, 10-1
7. Wisconsin, 10-1
8. Ohio State, 10-1