On The Mark: How the BCS bowl games will shake out

Updated: November 3, 2008

BCS Bowl Breakdown

Another No. 1-ranked team fell Saturday.

If the final four weeks of the regular season are anything like last year -- when the top two teams in the BCS standings went a combined 3-7 -- the madness is only getting started.

But it's never too early to try and sort out which teams might be headed to BCS bowl games:

FedEx BCS National Championship Game

Alabama Alabama Crimson Tide
The No. 1 Crimson Tide blasted Arkansas State 35-0 on Saturday, staying healthy and staying unbeaten against an overmatched Sun Belt Conference opponent.

Alabama's biggest test to date comes Saturday when it travels to play at No. 16 LSU. The game will mark Nick Saban's return to Baton Rouge, La., as coach of the Crimson Tide. It also will be Alabama's first game as the country's No. 1-ranked team since Nov. 1, 1980. The Crimson Tide lost that game, 6-3 at Mississippi State, ending their 28-game winning streak.

Although the defending national champion Tigers allowed 50 points or more in losses to Florida and Georgia, they might be a better matchup against Alabama, which doesn't have as much speed as the Gators or Bulldogs.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Leave it to Red Raiders coach Mike Leach to add a little humor to his team's meteoric rise to No. 2 in the country. After Texas Tech upset then-No. 1 Texas 39-33 on Saturday night -- the school's first victory over a top-ranked team -- Leach told reporters: "Oklahoma State is now the biggest game in the history of the year."

The Red Raiders' next two games -- home against No. 9 Oklahoma State on Saturday night and at No. 6 Oklahoma on Nov. 22 -- might indeed be the biggest games in school history. And Texas Tech has never played with so much at stake.

No team is in better position to reach the BCS title game than Texas Tech -- as long as it doesn't lose one of its last three games. The Red Raiders close the regular season against Baylor in Lubbock, Texas, on Nov. 29.

If Texas Tech wins the Big 12 South title, it would probably play Missouri or Kansas in the Dec. 6 Big 12 championship game in Kansas City.

Penn State Nittany Lions
The Nittany Lions didn't play Saturday, but were still passed by Texas Tech for the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings.

Penn State might have the easiest road left among college football's unbeaten teams. The Nittany Lions play at Iowa on Saturday, and then play home games against Indiana on Nov. 15 and No. 18 Michigan State on Nov. 22.

A relatively weak schedule is what's hurting Penn State most. The Nittany Lions have beaten only two teams that were ranked at the time PSU played them. Penn State beat then-No. 22 Illinois 38-24 on Sept. 27 and then-No. 9 Ohio State 13-6 on the road on Oct. 25.

Texas Longhorns
Can the Longhorns recover from a November loss? Maybe. If Texas Tech loses at least once, the Big 12 South title might be decided by a tiebreaker, which would probably be good news for Texas.

Even after losing to Texas Tech, the Longhorns only fell to No. 4 in the BCS standings. If Texas Tech loses, Texas would probably be the highest-rated Big 12 team in the BCS standings at season's end.

The Longhorns' most difficult stretch -- playing four ranked opponents in as many weeks -- is behind them. Texas will be an overwhelming favorite in its last three regular-season games: home against Baylor, at Kansas and home against rival Texas A&M.

Florida Gators
The No. 5 Gators' 49-10 victory over Georgia on Saturday showed they might be the hottest team in college football. But will Florida suffer the same fate the Bulldogs did a year ago? Georgia won its last six games in 2007, but was left out of the BCS Championship Game.

Unlike the Bulldogs, however, the Gators will probably win the SEC East and would probably play No. 1 Alabama in the Dec. 6 SEC championship game.

As hard as it might be to believe, Florida could be penalized for playing in the SEC. The SEC has largely been reduced to a two-team league (Alabama and Florida) after Georgia and LSU struggled to meet lofty preseason expectations.

The Gators play at Vanderbilt on Saturday, then host South Carolina on Nov. 15 and FCS opponent The Citadel the next week. Florida closes the regular season at No. 22 Florida State on Nov. 29.

PREDICTION: Florida vs. Penn State

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Boise State Boise State
The No. 10 Broncos have quietly gone 8-0 in the WAC and would probably be a popular choice to return to the Fiesta Bowl, where two seasons ago they stunned Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime in one of the greatest finishes in college football history.

To receive an automatic at-large spot in a BCS game, a team from a non-BCS conference must finish in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. Teams from non-BCS leagues are only guaranteed one spot in a BCS bowl, but there is an increasing chance two such teams might receive at-large spots this season.

Boise State has beaten only one ranked opponent, winning at then-No. 17 Oregon 37-32 on Sept. 20. The Broncos' past four opponents have a combined record of 13-22 and only one (Fresno State) has a winning record.

The No. 6 Sooners have been impressive since losing to then-No. 5 Texas 45-35 on Oct. 11. Oklahoma has scored at least 45 points in each of its past three victories against Kansas, Kansas State and Nebraska.

The Sooners play at Texas A&M on Saturday, and then have two chances to really impress voters. Oklahoma hosts No. 2 Texas Tech on Nov. 22 and No. 9 Oklahoma State the next week.

If Oklahoma wins both of those games, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't be invited to play in a BCS bowl game.

Since losing at then-No. 2 Oklahoma 35-10 on Sept. 27, the No. 12 Horned Frogs have blasted their past five opponents by a combined score of 184-42. Their five-game winning streak includes a 32-7 rout of then-No. 9 BYU on Oct. 16.

TCU can take a big step in getting a BCS at-large bid by winning at No. 8 Utah on Thursday night. The Horned Frogs close the season at home against Air Force on Nov. 22.

Texas Tech
If the Red Raiders lose one of their last three games -- and Texas or Oklahoma plays in the Big 12 championship game -- they still would be a popular choice to play in the Fiesta Bowl because of their high-powered offense and unprecedented success this season.

Remember, Kansas was picked ahead of Big 12 North champion Missouri to play in the 2008 Orange Bowl.

The No. 8 Utes have been relatively quiet since stunning Michigan 25-23 on the road to start the season, a victory that doesn't seem as impressive as it once did. But starting with Thursday night's game against TCU, the Utes will have two chances to impress voters.

After playing the Horned Frogs, Utah plays at San Diego State on Nov. 15 and at home against No. 15 BYU on Nov. 22. If Utah beats TCU and BYU, it will be guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl game.

PREDICTION: Texas Tech vs. Boise State

Allstate Sugar Bowl

If the Crimson Tide lose one of their last three regular-season games, and then win the SEC championship game, they would probably be headed to New Orleans as SEC champions. The Tide would probably have a good chance to get here even if Florida wins the SEC title and plays for the BCS national championship.

Boise State
If two teams from non-BCS conferences get at-large bids into BCS games, Boise State, TCU or Utah would be a possibility to play in the Sugar Bowl.

Florida Florida
If the Gators beat Alabama in the SEC championship game -- but don't finish in the top two of the final BCS standings -- they would be guaranteed a spot in the Sugar Bowl as SEC champions.

If a Big 12 team doesn't make it to the BCS championship game, the Sugar Bowl would probably love to match up a Big 12 team with an SEC opponent. A handful of other Big 12 teams would also be possible contenders to play in this game.

PREDICTION: Alabama vs. Texas

FedEx Orange Bowl

Florida State Florida State
The No. 22 Seminoles lost at Georgia Tech 31-28 on Saturday, but still remain in contention in the ACC's Atlantic Division. FSU trails Maryland by a half-game, and the teams play in College Park, Md., on Nov. 22. The Terrapins must still play road games at Virginia Tech on Thursday night and at Boston College on Nov. 29. They also play No. 19 North Carolina at home on Nov. 15. FSU plays consecutive home games against Clemson and Boston College before playing at Maryland.

Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets sit atop the ACC's Coastal Division, but would lose tiebreakers to Virginia Tech and Virginia because they lost to both of those teams. Georgia Tech has only two ACC games left -- at No. 19 North Carolina on Saturday and home against Miami on Nov. 20.

West Virginia
Mountaineers fans were ready to run new coach Bill Stewart out of town after his team lost two of its first three games. But the Mountaineers recovered to win their past five games and are the only team unbeaten in Big East play. The Mountaineers still face several potential land mines: home against Cincinnati on Saturday, consecutive road games at Louisville and Pittsburgh, and home against South Florida in the Dec. 6 regular-season finale.

PREDICTION: Georgia Tech vs. West Virginia

Rose Bowl presented by Citi

Michigan State Michigan State
The No. 18 Spartans can win the Big Ten championship by winning their last two games: home against Purdue on Saturday and at No. 3 Penn State on Nov. 22. Two more wins might leave Michigan State in a three-way tie with Penn State and Ohio State. Even though the Spartans lost to then-No. 12 Ohio State 45-7 on Oct. 18, the Spartans would win the tiebreaker because they didn't play an FCS opponent during the regular season (a Big Ten rule).

Ohio State
If the Nittany Lions win out and play for the BCS national championship, the Buckeyes would be a strong possibility to play in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes play three more games -- at No. 24 Northwestern on Saturday, at Illinois and home against Michigan. The Rose Bowl tends to covet its traditional Big Ten/Pac-10 game.

Oregon State
The Beavers would win the Pac-10 title if they win their last four games: at UCLA on Saturday, home against No. 21 California, at Arizona and home against rival Oregon on Nov. 29. Oregon State owns a tiebreaker over No. 7 USC, which lost to the Beavers 27-21 on Sept. 25.

Penn State
If the Nittany Lions win their last three games, but still don't finish in the top two of the final BCS standings, they would play in the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champions.

Since losing to Oregon State on Sept. 25, the Trojans have blasted their past five opponents by a combined score of 214-20. USC beat winless Washington 56-0 on Saturday, its third shutout of a Pac-10 opponent in the past four games.

Yet the Trojans fell from No. 5 to No. 7 in this week's BCS standings, a sure sign they'll have a tough time jumping teams ranked ahead of them. USC has games left against No. 21 California, Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA.

PREDICTION: USC vs. Ohio State



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WEEK: Preseason | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

On The Mark: Precision passers

Graham Harrell Harrell

1. Graham Harrell, Texas
The senior outdueled Texas' Colt McCoy, completing 36 of 53 passes for 474 yards with two touchdowns in the Red Raiders' 39-33 upset of the No. 1 Longhorns.

2. Tim Tebow, Florida
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner put himself back into contention to win the award again, scoring five touchdowns (two passing and three rushing) in the Gators' 49-10 rout of Georgia.

3. Mike Kafka, Northwestern
The junior backup -- who had thrown three passes before Saturday -- completed 12 of 16 attempts for 143 yards with two touchdowns in the Wildcats' 24-17 victory at Minnesota. Kafka also rushed for 217 yards, the most ever by a Northwestern quarterback, on 27 attempts.

4. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State
Robinson stayed on track in the Cowboys' 59-17 rout of Iowa State, completing 18 of 27 passes for 395 yards with five touchdowns.

5. Max Hall, BYU
The Cougars needed all of Hall's 389 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-42 victory at Colorado State.

Harrell Talks Win Over Texas

Off The Mark: Slumping Teams

South Florida

1. South Florida
The Bulls are suffering through a late-season swoon for the second year in a row, falling to 1-3 in Big East play after a 24-10 loss at Cincinnati.

The Rebels lost their fifth game in a row (after a 3-1 start), falling to TCU 44-14.

3. Auburn
Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville has lost four games in a row for the first time, after Auburn lost at Ole Miss 17-7.

4. Michigan
The Wolverines fell at Purdue 48-42, guaranteeing them their first losing season since 1967. Michigan's 33-year streak of playing in a bowl game also will end.

5. Kansas State
The Wildcats lost to rival Kansas 52-21, the third time they allowed 50 points or more in a loss this season.

BMOC: Forde on BCS

On The Mark: Ground-churning runners

Devin Moore Moore

1. Devin Moore, Wyoming
The senior ran 24 times for 234 yards with three touchdowns, helping the Cowboys end a five-game losing streak with a 35-10 victory over San Diego State.

2. Daniel Porter, Louisiana Tech
The junior ran 20 times for 189 yards with two touchdowns, including a 43-yard scoring burst in the final two minutes, helping the Bulldogs upset Fresno State 38-35.

3. Curtis Brinkley, Syracuse
Something good finally happened for the Orange, as Brinkley ran 33 times for 166 yards with one touchdown in a 28-21 victory over Louisville.

4. Jake Sharp, Kansas
The junior was a workhorse in the Jayhawks' 52-21 win over rival Kansas State, carrying 21 times for 181 yards with four touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 76 yards.

5. LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh
McCoy had his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, carrying 32 times for 169 yards with one touchdown in the Panthers' 36-33 overtime victory at Notre Dame.

Off The Mark: Coaches on the hot seat


1. Tom Amstutz, Toledo
"Toledo Tom" will reportedly step down as Toledo's coach on Monday after the Rockets' 2-6 start.

2. Chuck Long, San Diego State
The Aztecs fell 35-10 at Wyoming on Saturday, dropping their record to 1-8.

3. Doug Martin, Kent State
The not-so-Golden Flashes lost at Bowling Green 45-30, their fifth defeat in six games. 4. Shane Montgomery, Miami, Ohio
The RedHawks are 2-6 heading into Tuesday night's game at Buffalo.

5. Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State
Croom might have to make big changes to his coaching staff to return next season.

On The Mark: Big-play receivers

Dennis Pitta Pitta

1. Dennis Pitta, BYU
Max Hall's brother-in-law caught 12 passes for 175 yards, including the winning touchdown with 22 seconds left in a 45-42 victory at Colorado State. Receiver Austin Collie caught nine passes for 156 yards with three scores.

2. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
Bryant caught nine passes for 171 yards with four touchdowns in a 59-17 victory over Iowa State. Bryant has 15 touchdown catches this season, the second-most in school history.

3. David Richmond, San Jose State
The senior caught eight passes for 138 yards, including touchdowns of 63 and 35 yards, in a 30-24 win at Idaho.

4. Patrick Turner, USC
The senior from Nashville, Tenn., caught a season-high six passes for 100 yards with two touchdowns in a 56-0 rout of Washington.

5. James Casey, Rice
The Owls tight end caught 12 passes for 142 yards with three touchdowns, including two scores in the fourth quarter of a 49-44 victory at UTEP.

On The Mark: Bowl-clinching wins


1. Miami
The Hurricanes scored two late touchdowns in a 24-17 victory in overtime, ending Virginia's four-game winning streak.

2. Rice
Owls have already doubled their victory total from coach David Bailiff's first season, beating UTEP 49-44 on the road to improve to 6-3.

3. Navy
The Midshipmen rallied from a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter of a 33-27 overtime win over Temple, and then promptly accepted an invitation to the inaugural EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C.

4. South Carolina
After a 1-2 start, the Gamecocks have won five of their past six games, beating Tennessee 27-6 on Saturday night to become bowl eligible.

5. Kentucky
The Wildcats are headed to a bowl game for the third season in a row after beating Mississippi State 14-13 on Saturday.

• To see all the teams eligible for bowl games this season, click here.

Herbie on BCS standings

Resiliency Revisited

Central Michigan senior Brian Brunner was named the Chippewas' starting quarterback before the 2006 opener against Boston College. He suffered a severe concussion on the second play of the game, and Dan LeFevour came off the bench and never relinquished the starting job.

Brunner finally got another chance to play this season, as LeFevour missed two of the past three games with a badly sprained ankle. In the Chippewas' 37-34 win at Indiana on Saturday, Brunner completed 35 of 53 passes for a school-record 485 yards with four touchdowns. The Chippewas (7-2, 5-0 MAC) and No. 17 Ball State (8-0, 4-0 MAC) are on a collision course for their Nov. 19 game in Mount Pleasant, Mich.