Boise State, currently No. 4 in the BCS standings and riding a 23-game winning streak, could find itself shut out of a BCS at-large spot if Auburn and Oregon play for the title and TCU finishes No. 3.
Or maybe No. 6 Stanford, whose only loss is at No. 1 Oregon, won't make the Rose Bowl or another at-large game.
There's also the possibility that No. 5 LSU, whose only loss is to No. 2 Auburn on the road, won't get into a BCS bowl, leaving the mighty SEC with just one team in the big bowls.
Whatever happens, it's quite likely that, if things stand as they do now, at least one very deserving team will get squeezed out of the BCS mix. One extremely miffed fan base and the national punditry will be outraged. And you know where they will turn that outrage?
Toward the Big East.
The Big East champion's automatic bid to the BCS will be under more scrutiny than ever this year. Can you imagine the outcry if say, an 8-4 Pittsburgh goes to the Fiesta Bowl while 12-0 Boise State is relegated to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl? Or how about an 8-4 Syracuse with two FCS wins playing in Glendale while 11-1 Stanford heads to the Alamo Bowl? If you thought the Big East had critics before, just wait until this holiday season.
The Big East need not apologize to anyone for its BCS bid. This is the system that everyone agreed to play within, and everybody knew the rules going in. It's been a down year for the conference, worse than what anyone could have expected, but the league has done no worse in the BCS standings or BCS games in the recent past than the ACC. (And the ACC's representative this year won't have that much stronger of a case).
"A lot of leagues go through ebbs and flows, and certainly this is not the Big East's best year nationally," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "But we've had some really great years the last four years. The Big East will be really strong over a long period of time, and that's what you're looking for."
Still, we live in a hyperactive, knee-jerk society, and there likely will be many critics who demand a repeal of the Big East's BCS bid this winter.
The worst previous year for the league was 2004, when an 8-3 Pitt won the BCS bid in a tiebreaker and went on to get destroyed in the Fiesta Bowl by Utah. But even that Panthers team finished 21st in the final BCS standings. The highest-ranked Big East team right now is Syracuse at No. 37, and the the Big East could become the first league ever to have a BCS representative who is not ranked in the Top 25.
The Big East's BCS bid is safe through the 2013 season, and no amount of bad publicity or poor performance will change that. But the league doesn't want to have a huge perception problem on its hands when the conference commissioners begin shaping the future of the BCS in 2012.
That's why the pressure will be on whoever wins the Big East to put in a competitive effort in its BCS game. It also wouldn't hurt if Boise State, Stanford or LSU dropped a game and lessened the "we-got-passed-over" fury.
Because as it stands now, the Big East is going to be the ugly duckling in the BCS beauty pageant. And there will be a whole lot of people hurling insults its way.