One of the things that I really get into about college football is the whole bowl eligibility issue - I geek out about who might be getting the at-large bid to the Poinsettia Bowl (I know, never mind) even though I probably won't watch the game. So now that we're getting into the second half of the year, my goal is to provide a weekly update on who's likely to play in December(after the 1st). It's not like the basketball tourney, but there's 64 spots to fill here as well.
This is extremely long, er, comprehensive. Fair warning.
Now, in all honesty, this is a pretty dull year. The major conferences should fill all their slots, and there are likely to be BCS conference teams with nowhere to go.
OK, so I'm going to go conference-by-conference. Teams in italics haven't officially qualified or been eliminated, but their schedule makes it clear enough for this. For the BCS conferences, I'll also note how likely it is that they'll get a team in the big games beyond the automatic.
ACC (8 bids)
IN: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Miami, Wake Forest, Clemson, Maryland
OUT: N.C. State, North Carolina, Duke
BUBBLE: Florida State - needs 2 wins. Duke is one and they'll probably get another, but there's no sure thing on the schedule (at B.C., at Va. Tech, Maryland, at Florida).
BCS: Maybe, but not that likely. B.C. isn't a great sell as a #2 team unless they make it to the championship game unbeaten, and Virginia's even worse. Virginia Tech would work if they don't lose before then, and maybe even if they lose to B.C.
Big East (5 bids)
IN: USF, UConn, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers
BUBBLE: Louisville - needs 2 wins, probably Pitt and then 1 of West Virginia, USF and Rutgers. With Brian Brohm, you can't count them out.
Pitt - needs 3 wins, which would be Louisville, Syracuse and 1 from Louisville's list. Much less likely, but not totally impossible.
BCS: Pretty good chance if the #2 team is West Virginia. If it's a 10-2 Rutgers or USF? Could be, but by no means certain.
Big 10 (7 bids)
IN: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan State
BUBBLE: Iowa - Minnesota and Western Michigan should be good for 2 wins, the third is either Michigan State or at Northwestern. They haven't looked good, but this is certainly possible. Hopefully it wouldn't mean bumping Northwestern or Indiana out of a game because they travel better, but that happens.
BCS: Somebody has to beat Ohio State. If not, it won't be an issue because a 3-loss Michigan or Penn State isn't making the top 14. Even if they did get 2 teams in the BCS, there's still one more than they have slots for without Iowa.
Big 12 (8 bids)
IN: Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas State
OUT: Iowa State, Baylor
BUBBLE: Oklahoma State - they only need 1 win, and they still have Baylor. Almost a lock. (Troy!)
Colorado - 2 wins, but they have Iowa State and Nebraska left, and they're inconsistent. Likely, but not certain.
Nebraska - 2 wins, with an unfriendly schedule (at Texas, at Kansas, Kansas State, at Colorado), and the program's kind of in chaos. Don't bet on it.
BCS: A very good chance, assuming the North winner enters the championship game with 1 loss.
Pac-10 (6 bids)
IN: Arizona State, USC, Oregon, UCLA, Cal
OUT: Arizona, Washington, Washington State
BUBBLE: Oregon State - 2 wins with Stanford and the Washingtons left. Very good shape.
Stanford - they need 3 wins, but if they can beat USC, they could win any of the ones left - Oregon State, the Washingtons, Notre Dame and Cal (beware rivalry ganes). I don't expect them to make it, but I wouldn't be shocked.
BCS: Despite our gracious host's warnings today, I think they're in good shape for a second bid, just due to the lack of other options out there. However, the infighting could get out of hand.
So there's a decent chance of an unclaimed bid, but they already have a deal with C-USA to cover it.
SEC (8 bids)
IN: LSU, Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee
BUBBLE: Arkansas - FIU is a gimme, then they need 1 from South Carolina, at Tennessee, Miss. State, and at LSU. They have to get 1 win out of there, right?
Mississippi State - 2 wins from at Kentucky, Alabama, at Arkansas, Mississippi. Hey, if they can beat Auburn...
Vanderbilt - They have to beat Miami (OH) this week, then get 1 from at Florida, Kentucky, at Tennessee and Wake Forest. Hey, if they can beat South Carolina...I still don't think it will happen.
BCS: Almost certain despite the internal warfare. The conference reputation is too good and the other choices will have flaws of their own.
Seriously, the SEC could have 11 bowl-eligible teams and I wouldn't be shocked.
To summarize this, the SEC and Big 10 will cover all their slots, the ACC probably will, the Big 12 and Big East will unless they get 2 BCS teams, and even in that case, need a marginal team to qualify (Louisville/Colorado). The Pac 10 will probably have an open slot if they get 2 teams in, but they have a sub set, in theory.
OK, onto the mid-majors, more briefly.
C-USA (6 bids)
OUT: Marshall, UAB, Tulane, Rice, SMU
BUBBLE: God, what a mess. East Carolina, Southern Miss, UCF, Houston, Tulsa and UTEP all have 4 wins, & Memphis has 3. Numbers tell you that most of these teams will get to 6, but I have no idea who it will be. It wouldn't be surprising if all 7 did, which is what it would take to cover the Pac-10's shortfall.
Fans of teams that may not have a slot available for them want to bring order to the chaos. Next week we should have a better idea who to root for.
Independents (1 bid)
OUT: Notre Dame
BUBBLE: Army - not much chance, and probably no spot in any case.
MAC (3 bids)
OUT: Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan
BUBBLE: See CUSA. Just about everybody could still make it, but in this case, nobody else will be affected.
MWC (4 bids)
IN: Air Force, BYU, New Mexico, Utah
OUT: Colorado State, UNLV, San Diego State
BUBBLE: TCU and Wyoming are both pretty close. They need 2 wins and have at least 2 games left against the bottom 3.
Sun Belt (1 bid)
IN: Troy, Florida Atlantic
OUT: Louisiana-Laffayette, FIU, North Texas, ULM
BUBBLE: MTSU, Arkansas State. No big deal.
WAC (3 bids)
IN: Hawaii, Boise State
OUT: Utah State, Idaho, Louisiana Tech
BUBBLE: Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico State, San Jose State. Fresno's in good shape, San Jose State isn't, the other 2 are in-between.
BCS: Hawaii would probably crash the BCS if they went undefeated, but I don't think they will.
Goofy theory time (this wasn't my idea, BTW): Ohio State wins out and goes to the championship game, the Rose Bowl can't get another Big 10 team and doesn't like the other options - so they take an 11-1 Boise State team that knocked off Hawaii and will bring fans down from Idaho. I doubt it, if only because the Hawaii game will be too late in the season for Boise to move up in the polls that much.
Finally, here's some of the important bubble games this weekend:
Duke at Florida State: OK, they're not losing to Duke. But if they did, they'd be in really bad shape.
Pitt at Louisville: Loser is almost certainly done.
Michigan State at Iowa: Spartans are the best shot, schedule-wise, for a Big 10 team with 5 wins to crash and burn.
Miami (OH) at Vanderbilt: Vandy needs this one or they're done.
Stanford at Oregon State: Not an elimination game, but a significant step for the winner.