TCU's BCS bowl hopes up in the air

It's going to be an interesting day for TCU. After Houston's loss to Southern Miss and the Frogs' win over UNLV, TCU has hope for making a BCS bowl. But things have to line up. First, some background. To make a BCS bowl, TCU must: finish in the top 16 of the BCS rankings (that come out tonight at 7:15 on ESPN) and be ranked ahead of Southern Miss and the highest-ranked Big East champ (likely West Virginia).

TCU started the weekend at No. 18 in the BCS. Southern Miss was No. 24 and West Virginia No. 23. TCU is likely to stay in front of those teams, unless the polls give Southern Miss a huge jump for its win over Houston (but TCU was six spots up, so that's doubtful).

So it comes down to getting two spots higher in the BCS (at least before the weekend started). That's a tough chore.

"I don't think they do it," ESPN's BCS guru Brad Edwards said. "The computers aren't going to help TCU and I couldn't find three teams that fall past them with Clemson going ahead of them."

But here's a look at where things stand and what needs to happen for TCU to do it:

* Clemson's win over Virginia Tech will not only impress voters, but the computers will love it. So the Tigers seem destined to leapfrog (yes, I said it) TCU in the BCS. That means the Frogs essentially must jump past three teams to get to No. 16.

* TCU's most logical avenue to rising in the polls was Texas beating Baylor in Waco. But RGIII and the Bears were impressive and could even work themselves into the discussion for an at-large BCS bid from the Big 12. They won't be dropping past TCU (and they beat the Frogs in week one).

* Wisconsin's close win over Michigan State may not have helped, either. Since it was such a good game and a tight one, voters may not penalize the Spartans much (the computers probably won't either) and they started the week at No. 13, five spots ahead of TCU.

So is there any hope for TCU? Yes. Here are some possibilities:

* There are other teams that could be downgraded in the polls. Let's start with Houston. They had a weak strength of schedule coming into the C-USA championship game and then lost to Southern Miss. Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings are already out and the Cougars went from eighth to out of the top 25. The polls won't penalize them that much, but is a 10- or 12-spot drop out of the question? No.

* What about Georgia? They were No. 14 in the BCS, but lost in blowout fashion to LSU. But that is the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country. And Georgia's strength of schedule goes up with the loss. That one depends on the voters.

* We talked about Michigan State earlier, but it's possible they could slip behind TCU. Still, with a close loss and starting five spots ahead, it could be close.

* What about Oklahoma? Coming into the day, that probably wasn't a team on TCU's radar as one that could slip. But after the drubbing they took in Stillwater, OU now has three losses and that last one is fresh in the minds of voters. They started No. 10, so it would take a big fall.

"I think there's just too much ground to make up without help from the computers," Edwards said.

If TCU does qualify, the Sugar Bowl could end up taking them to face Michigan, assuming the Wolverines make the top-14 (and it appears they will). Some have also speculated that the Sugar Bowl could take West Virginia and the Orange Bowl would end up with TCU against Clemson. Still, with TCU's history of bringing folks, I'd think the Sugar would look pretty hard at TCU (plus, with Michigan, will they be concerned with ticket sales at that point or more the matchup?).

Edwards, interestingly, thinks that if TCU doesn't qualify, the Sugar Bowl may seriously consider Boise State. We'll see.