The Stanford Cardinal football team has as much riding on the next three weeks of the 2010 college football season as anybody in the country due to the top heavy nature of the Pac-10. Over the past month Stanford has bounced back from their shellacking up in Oregon to climb back up to No. 6 in the 2010 BCS Standings. Although the Cardinal do not have much of a chance of getting into the national title game, they do still have a legitimate shot at their first Rose Bowl appearance since a 17-9 loss to Wisconsin in 2000.
Although Oregon will likely represent the Pac-10 as the conference champion in the BS, I mean BCS National Title game, the BCS provides an opportunity for Stanford to also claim a berth in a BCS bowl. The BCS provides automatic qualification in a BCS bowl to the following teams:
1. Top two teams in the BCS rankings
2. Champions of ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC
3. The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, OR the Western Athletic Conference if either: (a) Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or, (b) Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls. Only one team will get an automatic berth even if multiple teams satisfy the above requirements
4. Notre Dame gets an automatic berth if in the top eight of the final BCS standings.
5. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 4, and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 3 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier, provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game.
6. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 5, and if no team qualifies under paragraph No. 5 and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 4 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game.
Based on these above requirements (includes conference title game projections for all but Big 12) and current BCS rankings, the automatic qualifiers would be:
1. Oregon and Auburn
2. Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Michigan State, and Nebraska/Oklahoma State (Oregon and Auburn already in through first option)
Option 4 doesn't apply, and I believe 5 and 6 don't apply since TCU qualifies under option 3 and Boise State doesn't qualify for option 6.
After all that rigmarole we get to the part that actually applies to Stanford: at-large berths. According to the BCS, if there are fewer than ten automatic qualifiers, at-large berths will be used to fill the remaining BCS bowl spots. An at-large team is any D-1 school that is bowl eligible (buh-bye USC), has won at least nine regular season games, and is among the Top 14 in the final BCS standings. Also, only two teams are allowed from a given conference. Based on the current BCS standings, that pool would include Boise State, LSU, Stanford, Wisconsin, Nebraska/Oklahoma State (loser of Big 12 title game), Ohio State, Alabama, Iowa, Utah. Since that list includes nine team, the BCS Bowls are allowed to look at teams in the Top 18 as there must be at least ten eligible teams on this list. Don't ask me why.
So where does that leave Stanford? Well, Oregon would normally play in the Rose Bowl but if they win out they'll end up in the National Title Game, most likely against Auburn or TCU. There's a portion of the BCS selection page that reads:
For the games of January 2011 through 2014, the first year the Rose Bowl loses a team to the NCG and a team from the non-AQ group is an automatic qualifier, that non-AQ team will play in the Rose Bowl.
I'm honestly not all that sure what this sentence means so I'll just gloss over it for now. That sentence aside, the Rose Bowl would likely feature a matchup of the Big Ten champion (Michigan State, Wisconsin or OSU depending on the tiebreaker if they all win out) against the Stanford Cardinal. However, the Rose Bowl might have the option of picking somebody else if Oregon gets in the title game. It's a bit confusing at this point.
If Stanford were in fact left out of the BCS bowl picture, they would then end up in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Until recently, the Pac-10 runner up went to the Holiday Bowl. However, in August 2009, the Pac-10 came to terms on a deal with the Alamo Bowl that would send the runner up to San Antonio. The Pac-10 number two will face the Big 12 number three. At this point that would appear to be the Missouri Tigers or Oklahoma Sooners. Both great matchups, but certainly not as prestigious as a Rose Bowl appearance.