The Stanford Cardinal are in good position to earn a BCS bowl bid. But nothing is guaranteed or certain at this moment.
In fact, it's hard to think of anything less certain when it comes to bowl projections than where Stanford will end up come bowl announcement time.
Stanford should rise from sixth to fifth in the latest BCS rankings with Arkansas's loss to LSU, but barring some huge upsets this week they are probably out of the BCS title hunt. LSU is locked in and will probably be going to the title game regardless of what happens in Atlanta, and Alabama beat up Auburn in the Iron Bowl to assure themselves that they'd be in strong position to earn that second seed. Even if certain teams ahead of Stanford lose, they'd all have to probably lose big to get Stanford into that top two. The Cardinal aren't playing in the Pac-12 championship game, and they can't earn that extra win that would probably give them that boost over Alabama or a one-loss LSU in the rankings.
No, this week the Stanford Cardinal are going to have to do an about face and root for an all-SEC title game. Because even if they're fifth in the rankings, Stanford is still not guaranteed of going to a BCS bowl game. Here's why.
Here is your pool of BCS candidates and likely bowl projections.
- Title game: LSU vs Alabama
- Fiesta Bowl: Big 12 champion vs. at-large
- Rose Bowl: Pac-12 champion vs. Big Ten champion
- Sugar Bowl: SEC champion/at-large if LSU & Alabama are in the title game vs. at-large
- Orange Bowl: ACC champion vs. at-large
There are four potential at-large candidates. The Big East champion will be one of those options. Undefeated Houston has a great shot themselves as another at-large candidate that gets in as an AQ. So that leaves two spots.
The pool of candidates is long and wide.
Stanford. Obviously the best potential at-large on this bid now that their season is done, there could be valid ticket sale concerns about the Cardinal. The Andrew Luck factor might have to win the day to keep Stanford into the BCS bid if they don't get into the top four and earn their automatic bid.
Michigan. Michigan's regular season is done, and they're currently on the fringe of the BCS rankings at #15. With Michigan State and Wisconsin in close proximity to Michigan and the two facing off in the Big Ten championship, and Georgia likely to lose to LSU, Michigan has a very reasonable shot at finishing in the top 14. The Wolverines are probably right along with Notre Dame and USC in terms of history and interest, and would probably be a huge TV and fan draw. If the Wolverines hit the top 14, they are likely to get picked by the first bowl that has an at-large bid to spare.
Oklahoma State/Kansas State. Oklahoma must win Bedlam if they plan on getting back to the BCS. No, the only two teams that could possibly earn an at-large bid are the Cowboys (if they lose but don't fall too far) or the Wildcats if they win (they're currently in the top 14 of the BCS standings, and a win the final week of the season against Iow State would put them at a strong spot at 10-2). if they lose to Oklahoma The case will become stronger for the Big 12 to earn an at-large if they have two two-loss Big 12 teams instead of a 9-3 Oklahoma finishing second
The Big 12 runner-up could be a serious contender to take one spot away from a higher ranked Stanford. This would be the first BCS bowl for the Cowboys and the Wildcats have solid football fanbases that are starved for an appearance at a big school, so there would be decent enough advantages for these teams to be picked.
These would likely be the biggest competition for the BCS bids. But it's likely Stanford would still be picked over the Big 12 programs. Michigan is too big to ignore.
Georgia. This is the nightmare scenario for Stanford. Say Georgia upsets LSU (it would likely be a narrow upset). Georgia would then earn the automatic bid, but both the Tigers and the Crimson Tide would still be in good shape to be the #1 and #2 seeds. The Bulldogs would still earn a BCS bowl bid because they won the SEC title game, thus allowing three bids from the same conference.
I figure Cardinal fans will be going Geaux Tigers next Saturday, as antithetical as that may sound. The title game may be out of reach, but a second BCS consolation bowl in as many years is a fine prize for two consecutive 11-1 seasons.