There is some confusion out there about how teams become eligible for the BCS, so to clear it up, here are the rules.
1. The champions of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC (the AQ conferences) will play in BCS games, regardless of rankings. There is no exception. That accounts for six of the ten bowl spots.
2. The top two teams in the BCS standings play for the BCS title. There are no restrictions. The teams do not have to be conference champions. They do not have to be from different conferences. The top two, whoever they are, play.
3. No more than two teams from any conference can appear in the BCS games. Exception: if No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS standings are from the same AQ conference and neither is the conference champion, the conference champion also plays in the BCS (rule #1), thus giving that conference three teams. Many think this exception would come into play if Georgia beats LSU this week. Under normal circumstances though, the four at-large teams must come from different conferences.
4. The highest rated non-AQ conference champion automatically qualifies for an at-large spot if it is in the top 12 of the BCS standings, or in the top 16 and ranked ahead of one of the AQ conference champions. That's why Houston did not have to pass Boise State in the rankings to automatically qualify. Boise will not be a conference champion. If Houston loses, it could open the door for TCU, which is 18th this week and would have to get up to the top 16 to qualify.
5. Notre Dame automatically qualifies if it is in the top eight. lol.
6. If a team from an AQ conference that did not win its league is ranked third or fourth, it automatically qualifies for an at-large spot. This rule cannot be used to supersede the two-team limit per conference, and only one team (the higher rated) can qualify under this rule. Stanford qualified under this rule last year, and is positioned to possibly do so again.
7. If there are any spots left after all that, any team with nine wins and a top 14 ranking can be selected at the discretion of the bowls.
There was some erraneous reporting tonight that indicated that the BCS could go down to the top 18 to grab a team from an AQ conference if its league only had its champion in the top 14. That is NOT true. Michigan fans - this means you. Michigan has to be in the top 14 to be eligible, period.
There is a provision to go outside the top 14 for at-large teams, but it only comes into play if it is not possible to fill the at-large spots with teams in the top 14. That will not be a problem this year. It almost happened in 2007, which is the year that rule was introduced.
Hope this clears things up!