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ACC, Big East, South Carolina biggest obstacles for Broncos, Buckeyes in BCS

Ohio State has played in five straight BCS bowl games and in seven BCS games in the last eight years, but this year there are a number of factors that could keep Ohio Sate on the outside looking in on the BCS party.

The ninth ranked Buckeyes are in position to see two teams ranked behind them be awarded a guaranteed spot between the ACC and Big East champions, but that is just the start. If the Big Ten ends in a three-team tie Ohio State is at the bottom of the food chain when you look at head-to-head competition. The Buckeyes lost to Wisconsin, who is in the lead for the Big East race as determined by the conference’s tiebreakers procedure citing the BCS rankings as a tiebreaker. But Wisconsin’s lone loss to this point came against Michigan State, who is also currently eligible for a BCS bid. The Spartans and Buckeyes do not play this season so the question will be what team from the Big Ten, if any, would receive a second BCS bid?

Though not likely, an undefeated Boise State team is currently at risk of losing out on the BCS as well. One automatic berth to the BCS slate of games will be awarded to the school with the highest BCS ranking that does not compete in a conference already receiving an automatic berth to the BCS. At the moment, based on the current BCS rankings, that would go to TCU and would leave Boise State in the “at-large” category. The Broncos have built a solid reputation in big games over the last few years though and as long as they stay undefeated during the regular season they would be too attractive to pass up somewhere in the BCS bowl picture.

The problem this year is that two schools that would not normally qualify for the BCS are on track to receive an automatic invitation. Virginia Tech and Florida State may be on track to determine which ACC school will receive one of the automatic bids. The Hokies are currently ranked 16th in the BCS rankings and Florida State creeps in at #25. To be considered for an at-large berth a school must be in the top 12. The Big East further sparks a debate because one of the schools from that conference will also receive an invite to the BCS. At the moment no BCS school is ranked in the BCS rankings, AP Top 25 or USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Pittsburgh, Syracuse, or West Virginia could steal one of the seats at the BCS table in the next few weeks.

Now ask yourself this: what if Auburn loses before the end of the season?

Auburn, currently ranked second in the BCS poll could lose one game and still be in great position for a BCS at-large berth, if not the automatic bid. The Tigers play Alabama in two weeks and are set to play South Carolina in the SEC Championship game. South Carolina can grab the SEC’s automatic bid with a win in the conference championship game, leaving the debate between Auburn and LSU to be picked as the second SEC team in the BCS. That debate would likely lead to Auburn being chosen based on head-to-head play but if LSU has just one loss it is possible that LSU could be ranked ahead of Auburn so who really knows for sure?

Here is a look at my latest BCS bowl projections, based on how I feel the season will end up with regular season games and conference championships decided.

Automatic BCS berths awarded

  • Pac 10 – Oregon
  • SEC – Auburn
  • Big Ten – Wisconsin
  • Big East – Pittsburgh
  • ACC – Virginia Tech
  • Big 12 – Nebraska

BCS Championship – No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 2 TCU

My guess is that Alabama beats Auburn, which would open up the door for either TCU or Boise State. I don’t think TCU loses a game this regular season and with a slight edge over the Broncos right now I think they can find a way to hold on to reach the championship game as the number two team in the BCS.

Oregon needs to rebound strongly after a scare against Cal, and I think they will do just that.

Rose Bowl – Wisconsin vs. Stanford

The Rose Bowl likes their traditional Big Ten vs. Pac 10 match-up. They will already get whoever ends up as the Big Ten champion, and I think everything plays in Wisconsin’s favor right now, and I would not be surprised to see them opt to pick up another Pac 10 team in place of top ranked Oregon. There is a precedent to do just that. In 2007 the Rose Bowl invited Big Ten runner-up Michigan when Ohio State went to the BCS Championship game. The same happened a year later when the Rose Bowl invited Illinois to the game with Ohio State in the championship game. An undefeated Boise State might be interesting to have, but I don’t see the Rose Bowl giving up on tradition that easily when there is a very good Stanford team available.

Fiesta Bowl – Nebraska vs. Boise State

Boise State loves the Fiesta Bowl and the feeling may be mutual. The Broncos have been in the Fiesta Bowl twice, including last year’s meeting with TCU, and are 2-0. Could a third trip be in the near future? Probably. The Fiesta Bowl will welcome the Big 12 champions, which I am predicting will be Nebraska, and they will have an invite available for an at-large team. If Boise State is available, they will take them.

Sugar Bowl – Auburn vs. Pittsburgh

The Big East champions have to go somewhere and it may be the Sugar Bowl. The conference is truly up for grabs but right now Pittsburgh sits on top with some games in hand. The Panthers are currently un-ranked but f they finish the season as Big East champions then they will in all likelihood be a top 25 team. I have Auburn slipping against Alabama, which would knock them out of the BCS championship game and send them to the Sugar Bowl as SEC champion.

Orange Bowl – Virginia Tech vs. LSU

The ACC champion, I predict Virginia Tech, is heading to Miami where they will face one of the top one-loss teams in the country, the LSU Tigers. This is the kind of match-up the Orange Bowl needs to see after a couple of games with less than intriguing opponents. The Hokies of Virginia Tech still provide some name power despite coming up short in big games in recent memory and LSU has only lost once this season (Auburn).

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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