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What if Oregon or Auburn loses?

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Pete Fiutak

Pete Fiutak writes previews, predictions and prognostications for CollegeFootballNews.com.

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Let's start with what we know for sure.

If Oregon beats Oregon State and Auburn beats South Carolina, it'll be a Ducks-Tigers BCS Championship.

TCU, as the highest ranked non-BCS team — and with Oregon playing in the BCS title game — will get an automatic invite to the Rose Bowl, as will Wisconsin as the highest-ranked Big Ten team in a three-way tie-breaker with Ohio State and Michigan State.

Oklahoma, as the highest-ranked Big 12 South team in a three-way tie-breaker with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, will play Nebraska for the conference title with the winner going to the Fiesta Bowl, while the winner of the ACC Championship between Florida State and Virginia Tech will get an automatic invite to the Orange Bowl. Any team ranked in the top four gets an automatic invite, meaning Stanford will be in.

To try to simplify ... out of the 10 BCS slots, Auburn, Oregon, TCU, Stanford, Wisconsin, the Nebraska/Oklahoma winner, the Florida State/Virginia Tech winner and the Big East champion — most likely Connecticut or West Virginia — are in, meaning there will be two slots still open with Arkansas (if Auburn beats South Carolina) and Ohio State almost certain to get them.

That would mean this for sure:

  • BCS Championship: Oregon vs. Auburn
  • Rose Bowl: TCU vs. Wisconsin

And that would also most likely mean:

  • Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State
  • Orange: Virginia Tech/Florida State vs. Big East Champion
  • Fiesta: Oklahoma/Nebraska vs. Stanford

But what happens if Oregon or Auburn blows it? What happens if they both lose? Then it's lobbying time.

If Oregon loses to Oregon State and Auburn wins, it's over for the Ducks. The respect won't be there from the pollsters or the computers to put a one-loss Oregon in over an unbeaten TCU, and since Stanford, Wisconsin, and the Horned Frogs are all done with their regular seasons, the human pollsters will have to make a call. If they really don't want TCU playing for the national title, they'll have to vote that way, even though nothing will have changed from this week to next week, so if Oregon loses, it'll almost certainly be Auburn vs. TCU.

But it might be different if Auburn loses a battle to South Carolina. Since Stanford and Wisconsin won't overtake TCU without a major shift, the argument would be between Auburn vs. TCU to see who would play the Ducks.

The precedent was set in 2003 for a team to lose a conference title game, but still play for the national championship, when Oklahoma got obliterated by Kansas State 35-7 and went on to play LSU in the Sugar Bowl. But that was a debate between three one-loss teams, with USC getting left out. This year, for Auburn to lose the SEC Championship and play in the BCS Championship, not only will that create the ugly problem of a team getting a shot at the title even though it couldn't win its own conference, but it would mean a one-loss team would get in over an unbeaten No. 3 team.

It would all depend on how Auburn lost. A blowout would probably mean TCU would get in, but a tight battle that went down to the wire might be enough for the human pollsters to keep the Tigers No. 2. The more interesting debate will kick in if Oregon AND Auburn lose.

There would be a whole slew of problems if chaos reigns supreme. TCU would almost certainly be a lock for a top two spot as the only unbeaten team in college football, and then it would be a wild fight for the second spot.

Do you take Auburn, even though it's not a conference champion? Would Stanford move in even though is lost the Pac 10 tie-breaker to Oregon? Could voters make a conscious decision to move Wisconsin into a top two spot, reasoning that it won its conference tie-breaker making for a Badger-Horned Frog BCS Championship instead of a matchup in the Rose Bowl?

The voters, and the college football world, would have no interest whatsoever in a TCU-Stanford BCS Championship that might bring "Cop Rock"-like TV ratings. Wisconsin has too much ground to cover to get a top two spot, and Oregon losing to Oregon State would be ugly no matter what the final score. Best guess? As long as it doesn't get obliterated, Auburn will play for the national title, and TCU's only real shot is if Oregon loses.

Interesting aspects from the current rankings:

  • The Big 12 gets plenty of respect from the computers, but there's only one team in the top 11. However, 12 (Missouri), 13 (Nebraska) and 14 (Oklahoma State) are all Big 12, and Texas A&M is 18th.
  • Nevada came up with the biggest win in school history, and it went flying up the charts ... two spots. Going from 19 to 17, with Boise State at 11, has to be a wee bit disappointing.
  • The top ranked Big East team? West Virginia at No. 24; one spot ahead of Northern Illinois.
  • The No. 3 Pac 10 team? Arizona at No. 23.

The Big Winners: TCU (staying at No. 3), Stanford (6th to 4th), Oklahoma (13th to 9th to win Big 12 South)

The Big Losers: Boise State (4th to 11th), LSU (5th to 10th), Michigan State (ranked behind Wisconsin and Ohio State)

1. Auburn

Score: .9779

As it should be. Auburn's done much, MUCH more than Oregon and deserves to be the No. 1 team. As long as the Tigers don't get blown away, they should be OK. Because the SEC West was so nasty, and because the SEC's owned the BCS Championship over the last several years, Auburn will get every benefit of the doubt over TCU. At worst, the Tigers get destroyed by the Gamecocks and go to the Sugar Bowl, but it might require something truly out of the ordinary.

Predicted Wins: South Carolina (SEC Championship)
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 13-0
Predicted Bowl: BCS Championship
Toughest Remaining Test: South Carolina

2. Oregon

Score: .9777

The Ducks dropped to No. 2 ... no big deal. After surviving a rough date with Arizona, Oregon has to survive the Civil War to play for the national title. After keeping Oregon State out of the last two Rose Bowls with wins in the regular-season finale, Oregon has to avoid the ultimate returned favor. The Beavers are struggling and got obliterated by Stanford last week, but Oregon has to prove it can play well on the road after struggling against a bad Cal team a few weeks ago. While Oregon State needs the win to become bowl eligible, all the pressure will be on the Ducks. In the absolute worst-case scenario, Oregon will play in the Rose Bowl.

Predicted Wins: at Oregon State
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 12-0
Predicted Bowl: BCS Championship
Toughest Remaining Test: at Oregon State

3. TCU

Score: .9167

It was a foregone conclusion that Boise State was going to blow the doors off TCU and rocket into the No. 3 spot, then Kyle Brotzman pushed two kicks wide and everything changed. Last week at this time, TCU appeared to be questionable for a BCS slot, and now, with a lot of luck, it has a chance to play for the national title. With the Rose Bowl needing to take a non-BCS team the first time it loses a Big Ten or Pac 10 team to the BCS Championship, the Horned Frogs will likely end up in Pasadena.

Final Record: 12-0
Predicted Bowl: Rose

4. Stanford

Score: .8413

Dead in the water last week at this time, with complaints about the lack of a travelling fan base possibly squeezing out the Cardinal from a BCS spot, now it's automatic. The BCS has to take a team that finishes in the top four, meaning that Stanford being ahead of Wisconsin means everything. Because of geography, the Fiesta Bowl might make a wink-wink deal with the Orange to try to bring in the most fans possible. The Fiesta would take the Cardinal, while the Orange would take the Big East champion.

Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Fiesta

5. Wisconsin

Score: .8185

POLL

  • Which BCS title matchup would be the most entertaining?
    • Oregon vs. Auburn
    • Oregon vs. TCU
    • Auburn vs. TCU
    • Other

A reasonable case could be made that Wisconsin, the hottest team in college football, should be third in the rankings and on the doorstep of playing for the national title, but the computers have killed the overall BCS ranking. The humans are on board with both polls, putting the Badgers in at No. 4, but it's not enough. Ranked higher than Ohio State and Michigan State, Bucky wins the Big Ten tie-breaker and is off to the Rose Bowl, likely to face TCU.

Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Rose

6. Ohio State

Score: .7632

Ohio State made a push, but it couldn't quite get past Wisconsin in the BCS rankings and missed out on going to the Rose Bowl. Because it's Ohio State and because the rabid fan base will travel, there will be some interesting jockeying to see who might get the big at-large prize. While the Orange Bowl is a possibility, the Sugar is the most likely pick. Either way, it's hardly a bad consolation prize for not going to Pasadena.

Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Sugar

7. Arkansas

Score: .7189

In one of the biggest wins in school history, Arkansas got by LSU, and with a win over South Carolina it has the right to be called the second-best team in the SEC. The Hogs will get an at-large BCS bid as long as South Carolina doesn't beat Auburn for the SEC Championship. At worst, they'd likely end up in the Outback.

Final Record: 10-2
Predicted Bowl: Sugar

8. Michigan State

Score: .6980

Michigan State got hosed. It came up with its first Big Ten title since 1990, it beat Wisconsin, didn't get its shot against Ohio State and it'll almost certainly get left out of the BCS entirely. The Capital One Bowl is nice, but it's not Pasadena. There's a miniscule chance the Orange or Sugar will want the Spartans over Ohio State, but that's a long shot.

Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Capital One

9. Oklahoma

Score: .6780

And it wasn't even close. With a three-way tie for the Big 12 South title, it came down to the BCS rankings. Oklahoma was miles ahead of both Oklahoma State and Texas A&M and will now play Nebraska for the Big 12 Championship. No. 1 when the BCS standings first started, the Sooners managed to fight their way back up the rankings, and while ninth isn't great, this is good enough.

Predicted Wins: Nebraska (Big 12 Championship)
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 10-2
Predicted Bowl: Fiesta
Toughest Remaining Test: Nebraska

10. LSU

Score: .6067

Along with Boise State, this is the biggest loser from last weekend. LSU had its chance to earn a spot in the BCS with a win over Arkansas, and it would've been in the mix to be the top-ranked one-loss team, but the loss ended all of that. The Tigers are out of the big money games, but it'll be off to a strong New Year's Day bowl, possibly the Outback against either Iowa or Illinois.

Final Record: 10-2
Predicted Bowl: Outback

In Range:

11. Boise State: 0.5805
12. Missouri: 0.5148
13. Nebraska: 0.5071
14. Oklahoma State: 0.4630
15. Virginia Tech: 0.4396
16. Alabama: 0.4201
17. Nevada: 0.4043
18. Texas A&M: 0.3910
19. South Carolina: 0.3817
20. Utah: 0.2254

Tagged: Boise State

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