The Stanford Cardinal looked like they were ready to pack their bags for the Fiesta Bowl after the LSU Tigers beat down the Georgia Bulldogs to eliminate the embarrassing three SEC team BCS scenario. And after the Virginia Tech Hokies went down to the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship game, Stanford seemed to have locked up the #4 spot, which by BCS selection procedure should have assured them an automatic qualifier bid.
After Saturday's results, they may very well still go to the Fiesta Bowl. But it's no longer a guarantee. Not after Bedlam.
The Oklahoma St. Cowboys laid a total smackdown on their rival Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday night in Stillwater, throwing a potential monkey wrench into the Cardinal's BCS title hopes. Oklahoma State looked totally dominant on offense and defense, giving them the big marquee victory they needed to lift them right up with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS title discussion.
Alabama seemed like a total knock-in to be the second representative along with LSU, but a lot of issues are starting to arise. There's a lot of resentment among the non-SEC bloc of the country that two teams from the same conference could play each other for the title, that Alabama doesn't deserve to be there because they didn't even win their own division, much less their conference, that Alabama-LSU would make for an uncompelling and unconvincing matchup based on the defensive slogfest that populated the first contest, that Alabama didn't even need to play Championship weekend to get to the title game. All these element could hurt them with the human votes, and could cost them their BCS title shot.
So Oklahoma State could work their way back into the BCS title picture. They have more wins over ranked teams, more quality victories, a better strength of schedule, and they won the highest-rated conference according to the computers. The computers should have the Cowboys #2 tomorrow, they'll just need the human element to catch up to earn that spot.
But enough about those guys. What happens with Stanford?
Here's the provision that would have applied for the Cardinal if it was an LSU-Alabama title game.
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.
Since #1 and #2 would have been SEC teams and #3 would have been the Big 12 champion and provision #5 wouldn't have applied. Provision #6 would have ensured Stanford would have been a BCS eligible team, and they would have very well earned a Fiesta Bowl invite to Tempe to feature Andrew Luck.
But if Alabama drops to #3, provision #5 applies. Stanford would no longer be protected. And as we've said before, Stanford being protected is what they needed to ensure the BCS didn't snub them because of lackluster fan attendance.
So who could take Stanford's spot?
The Crimson Tide would be selected to replace LSU in the Sugar Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl would go next to replace Oklahoma State and then have the first spots, and they have their pick of likely four teams: Kansas State (already in top 14 at-large eligible position), Stanford (the best of the bunch), Michigan (close to top 14 at-large eligible position, and should move there over Michigan State, Georgia and Oklahoma after Saturday), TCU (close to an auto-bid if they hit the top 16 and Michigan State and Georgia drop beneath them). That leaves three spots for four teams, and while it's unlikely, it's possible the Cardinal could be dropped from that group.
It'd be unprecedented for the Cardinal to be dropped out of the BCS altogether to the Alamo at the #4 spot. But it could happen because of the attendance issues. It's unlikely because of the Andrew Luck factor; it's more of a question of whether they'd drop to the Sugar Bowl for a matchup with Alabama.
It's not likely. Stanford should still feel 95% certain they're going to Tempe, and 100% sure if the LSU-Alabama title game holds. But the Cardinal should probably feel definitely uncertain (and perhaps a tad uneasy) like most of the top college football teams going into tomorrow's selection show.