The familiar phenomenon of late-season chaos in college football has opened the possibility Oregon could squeeze into a BCS bowl, which would radically alter the presumed bowl order for Pac-12 teams.
Friday night’s loss by previously undefeated Northern Illinois removed the possibility of a BCS-busting team for this season and set up some serious debate among several teams wrangling for at-large spots in the final year of the BCS.
In the Big 12, Oklahoma (10-2, 17th in the BCS standings) upset Oklahoma State (10-2, 6th), opening the door for Baylor to nail down the conference title and Fiesta Bowl berth with its victory over Texas.
Six of the 10 berths in BCS games (including the title game) will be filled by Florida State, Auburn, Baylor, Stanford, Central Florida and the Big Ten winner. Alabama, two-time defending champion, is considered a lock for an at-large berth, which leaves three spots open for probably four teams: The Big Ten loser, Clemson, Oklahoma and Oregon.
The Orange seems likely to take Alabama (or Ohio State if it loses to Michigan State) with its replacement pick for Florida State (headed to the title game) and might match Clemson (10-2, 13th) with Alabama or OSU. If it wants to angle for more national scope, it could choose Oregon or Oklahoma.
The Sugar is the other possible landing spot for the Ducks, who would be battling Clemson or Oklahoma for that spot. It’s possible Oregon and Auburn could meet there in a rematch of the BCS championship game three years ago.
In either case, Oregon may face an uphill battle to be selected because proximity might suggest lesser fan support than the other choices.
Meanwhile, if Oregon gets to the BCS, it would leave the Alamo Bowl, ironically, with no choice but to take Arizona State, loser of the Pac-12 title game to Stanford. ASU, at 8-1 in the league, is two games better than any other choice available to the Alamo, which would exceed the one-game limit allowed for a Pac-12 bowl to “jump” a lower team.
The Holiday would likely then take USC, which it hasn’t yet hosted, leaving UCLA for the Sun.
Then it might get interesting for the Las Vegas Bowl. Washington has the best record of the remaining teams at 8-4 but played in the game a year ago. Arizona went 7-5 but played at UNLV in September, which might open the door for Washington State (6-6).
After that, the Fight Hunger in San Francisco picks, followed by the New Mexico.
If Oregon fails to crack the BCS, the bowls appear to align like this:
Rose — Stanford.
Alamo — Oregon.
Holiday — Arizona State.
Sun — UCLA.
Las Vegas — USC.
Fight Hunger — Washington.
New Mexico — Washington State.
By this reckoning, Arizona and Oregon State (6-6) would have to go outside the Pac-12-affiliated bowls for landing spots in places in which other leagues couldn’t fill their spots.