The most important development in this weekend of sports saw the Stanford Cardinal move into the fourth position in the 2010 BCS Standings. This is immensely significant because a rule change several years requires the BCS include a team in Stanford's position as an at-large team. The situation is when a power conference team is ranked third or fourth in the BCS but is not an automatic qualifier because another team in their conference is in the national title game. In this case, Stanford is fourth but their loss to the Oregon Ducks leaves them on the outside looking in.
Stanford was looking to be left in the cold but this weekend saw two huge upsets when Nevada shocked Boise State and Arkansas handled LSU in Fayetteville. The two losses combined with Stanford's win moved the Cardinal into the number four position. In spite of being one spot ahead of Stanford in the two human polls, Wisconsin is ranked fifth because Stanford's computer average is three spots higher than Wisconsin. At this point, Stanford and Wisconsin have both completed their seasons. Stanford holds a .0228 lead over the Badgers, which one would imagine cannot be overcome since neither team plays until their respective bowl games.
The question then becomes what bowl will the Stanford Cardinal play in once January hits? In years past they might have slid into the Rose Bowl to face the Big Ten champion (looking to be Wisconsin). However, recently the BCS changed their rules to appease the non-power conference schools and created a rule that required the Rose bowl in from 2011-2014 take the number three team in the BCS if that school is a non-power school. TCU is such a school and this year's required bowl is the Rose Bowl. Accordingly, as it currently stands, TCU would face Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, which would leave one of the other BCS bowls for Stanford.
Of course, before we get to those bowls, there is still one game to be played for both Oregon and Auburn. If Oregon loses the Civil War to Oregon State, they go to the Rose Bowl and we likely get TCU vs. Auburn in the national title game. In that case, Stanford would go to another BCS bowl. If Auburn loses the SEC title game to South Carolina, TCU would seemingly rise to number two and take Auburn's spot in the national title game. In that case, because TCU is in the title game, Stanford would then go to the Rose Bowl. This is assuming TCU doesn't get screwed and Auburn does in fact drop out of the top two spots.
If Auburn and Oregon both lose, anarchy would reign. I'd suspect Oregon would stay in the national title game since voters would know they beat Stanford, but it's entirely possible we would have a TCU-Stanford national title game. That's unlikely but would be fairly amusing.
Assuming the rankings stay as they currently stand, Stanford would probably end up in the Fiesta Bowl or Orange Bowl. At the end of this article I've posted the BCS selection rules. Based on the requirements for conference champions, the following teams would end up in the following bowls (two teams listed with slash are awaiting conference championship game result):
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech/Florida State
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU (if BCS standings hold)
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma/Nebraska
Sugar Bowl: If Auburn wins SEC title, Sugar goes with two at-large; If South Carolina wins, Gamecocks play in Sugar Bowl
After those teams are plugged in, the bowls then select at-large teams. If Auburn is in the title game, the Sugar Bowl would get a replacement choice before the normally rotating selections. After the Sugar Bowl picks, they then also get the first choice in the rotating picks this year as the order is Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl.
This option to pick is what could put Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. Stanford is getting a fair amount of bad press about their inability to draw well on the road. Had they not climbed to the number four position there is a good chance they would have ended up playing in the Alamo Bowl. Instead, the BCS has to include them. However, given the selection process, I would bet that the Fiesta Bowl gets them with the last pick. That would set up a matchup of Stanford against the Big 12 champion.
Here are my projections based on all the rules and my own predicted outcomes:
National Title Game: Auburn vs. Oregon
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU
Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Connecticut
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford vs. Nebraska
Team selection procedures
The bowls will select their participants from two pools: (1) automatic qualifiers, all of which must be selected, and, (2) at-large teams, if fewer than 10 teams qualify automatically. The following sequence will be used when establishing pairings:
1. The top two teams in the final BCS Standings will be placed in the National Championship Game ("NCG").
2. Unless they qualify to play in the NCG, the champions of selected conferences are contractually committed to host selected games:
Atlantic Coast Conference-Orange Bowl
Big Ten Conference-Rose Bowl
Big 12 Conference-Fiesta Bowl
Pac-10 Conference-Rose Bowl
Southeastern Conference-Sugar Bowl
3. If a bowl loses a host team to the NCG, then such bowl shall select a replacement team from among the automatic-qualifying teams and the at-large teams before any other selections are made. If two bowls lose host teams to the NCG, each bowl will get a replacement pick before any other selections are made. In such case, the bowl losing the No. 1 team gets the first replacement pick, and the bowl losing the No. 2 team gets the second replacement pick. If the Rose Bowl loses both the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions to the NCG, it will receive two replacement picks.
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.
A bowl choosing a replacement team may not select any of the following:
A. A team in the NCG;
B. The host team for another BCS Bowl;
C. When two bowls lose host teams, then the bowl losing the number one team may not select a replacement team from the same conference as the number two team, unless the bowl losing the number two team consents.
4. After steps No. 1, 2 and 3 have been completed, any bowl with an unfilled slot shall select a team from the automatic qualifiers and/or at-large teams in the following order for the games played in 2007 through 2010:
January 2011 games: Sugar, Orange, Fiesta
All teams earning automatic berths must be selected.
5. After completion of the selection process as described in Paragraph Nos. 1-4, the conferences and Notre Dame may, but are not required to, adjust the pairings taking into consideration the following:
A. whether the same team will be playing in the same bowl game for two consecutive years;
B. whether two teams that played against one another in the regular season will be paired against one another in a bowl game;
C. whether the same two teams will play against each other in a bowl game for two consecutive years; and
D. whether alternative pairings may have greater or lesser appeal to college football fans as measured by expected ticket sales for the bowls and by expected television interest, and the consequent financial impact on ESPN and the bowls.
The pairings may not be altered by removing the Big Ten Champion or Pac-10 champion from the Rose Bowl.