Interesting fact about last week. It was a good week for teams trying to get eligible on the East side of the Mississippi, and a bad one for teams on the West. (OK, except for Iowa, but Minnesota's so bad they throw the trends off.)
As I'm posting this on Thursday, there's 62 spots taken - 60 eligible teams, and 2 matchups between 5-win teams, so someone will get in. That means we should go past 64 this weekend, and bubbles will start bursting, although it will be too soon to officially count anyone out.
Same format I've been using. 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. After all of that, this week I'll start trying to show the in-out line for actually playing in a game as opposed to just being eligible.
ACC (8 bids)
IN: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech
OUT: Duke, North Carolina
BUBBLE: Miami - Maybe they really are a terrible team. I wouldn't write off their chances completely, but they aren't wonderful.
Maryland /N.C. St. - Since they play each other in 2 weeks, at least one of these guys is getting in. And based on how bad this week's opponents (Florida State/Wake Forest) looked this past week, that may not even be an issue.
So, at this point, they're a lock for 8 teams, with a 9th not being a huge stretch.
BCS: It's getting tough to say. Clemson and Virginia moved up this week, but given that 3 of the top 4 teams will have another loss, they just may not have 2 teams in the pool to pick from.
Big East (5 bids)
IN: USF, UConn, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers
OUT: Syracuse, Pitt
BUBBLE: Louisville - Beating either USF or Rutgers isn't that huge a challenge at this point, but you just don't know what you're going to get with Louisville.
BCS: The only way they could get 2 is if West Virginia doesn't win the conference, and if that happens, it wouldn't be surprising if UConn or Cincy wound up ranked below the WAC champ, giving them an automatic BCS spot, and at that point, West Virginia might get left out anyway, behind the Big 12 and Pac-10 runners-up and Georgia.
Big 10 (7 bids)
IN: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan State
BCS: Obviously, only if Ohio State loses to Michigan this week. Even then, they may not be a lock if the WAC team takes a bid and other matchups look better. (I guess there might be a chance that Illinois could climb into the top 14, but it seems unlikely. Plus you know Zook will blow it to Northwestern this week)
Big 12 (8 bids)
IN: Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech,
OUT: Iowa State, Baylor
BUBBLE: Oklahoma State - they only need 1 win, and they still have Baylor. Almost a lock. (Troy!)
Colorado/Nebraska - Two teams enter, one team leaves.
Kansas State - Who knows at this point? They should lose to Missouri, but they should also probably beat Fresno State. I think they will, but even if gambling were legal, I wouldn't be betting on it.
They really should have 8, and 9 is quite possible. But they don't have them yet.
BCS: At this point, almost certain, assuming the North winner enters the championship game with 1 loss.
Pac-10 (6 bids)
IN: Arizona State, USC, Oregon, Cal, Oregon State
OUT: Stanford, Washington
BUBBLE: UCLA - They could pull the upset they need, so don't count them out. But the odds are getting long.
Arizona: Need 2 wins from Oregon, at Arizona State. Very little chance.
Washington State: Need 2 wins from Oregon State, at Washington. That's not crazy, but their best win so far is UCLA, which isn't much to hang your hat on. But there is a semi-reasonable chance.
I think the Pac-10 will ultimately wind up with 5, but there is definitely a chance that one of the other teams will get their act together.
BCS: Looking more and more like a sure thing. Even if one of the top 2 went into a skid, there's a good chance USC would be an option and plenty of bowls would like them. That would leave 2 open slots, and now it doesn't look like C-USA will fill the Armed Forces Bowl spot.
SEC (8 bids)
IN: LSU, Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi State
BUBBLE: Vanderbilt - That may have been their best chance against Kentucky. They still have at Tennessee and Wake Forest. Beating South Carolina is looking less impressive. I still lean against it happening.
BCS: Georgia is looking VERY good right now, and even if they don't make it to the SEC championship game, will be a very attractive choice.
To summarize this, the SEC and Big 10 will cover all their slots, the Big 12 almost definitely will, and the Big East and ACC will unless they get 2 BCS bids (and even then have a solid chance at covering it). The Pac 10 will have an open slot, and very possibly 2, if they get 2 teams in. And there are plenty of teams that would like to take them.
OK, onto the mid-majors, more briefly.
C-USA (6 bids)
IN: East Carolina, UCF, Houston, Tulsa, Southern Miss, Memphis
OUT: Marshall, Rice, SMU, UAB, Tulane,
BUBBLE: UTEP - Still alive, but it is not happening.
Independents (1 bid)
OUT: Notre Dame, Army
MAC (3 bids)
IN: Central Michigan, Ball State, Miami, Bowling Green
OUT: Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Temple, Kent State, Akron
BUBBLE: Toledo, Ohio, Buffalo.
MWC (4 bids)
IN: Air Force, New Mexico, Utah, BYU, Wyoming, TCU
OUT: Colorado State, UNLV, San Diego State
BUBBLE: The MWC's problem is that it's the one conference that can't exploit the at-larges that the Pac-10 might leave, because they're the opponent in the Las Vegas/Armed Forces Bowls.
Sun Belt (1 bid)
OUT: Louisiana-Laffayette, FIU, North Texas, ULM, Arkansas State
BUBBLE: MTSU, Florida Atlantic. None of this should matter, although FAU could still get the bid if they win out and thus get the tiebreaker over Troy.
WAC (3 bids)
IN: Hawaii, Boise State, Fresno State
OUT: Utah State, Idaho, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech
BUBBLE: Nevada, San Jose State. Nevada's in much better shape than the other two.
BCS: Hawaii would almost certainly make the BCS if they went undefeated, but I don't think they will. Boise is tougher to say. (I am a Bronco fan, but I think I can be objective.) They're currently 18th in the the BCS standings, so they'd have to pass 6 teams to be in an auto-bid spot. You've got Hawaii, and the 3 ACC teams that will get at least one more loss. Who else? Maybe the USC-Arizona State loser, but they're both pretty far ahead for now. Florida's not far ahead in the polls, but has a big computer edge. Texas is the other way around, and neither of those teams should lose again. The Broncos may be better off hoping for Michigan, UConn or Cincinnati to pull off an upset and win their conferences, and hope they can get ahead of them in the BCS (which isn't a sure thing either).
OK, so let's try and define the bubble in terms of who gets to play. Right now, I would rank the odds of the conferences getting an at-large bid as follows:
1. Big 12
2. Pac 10
6. Big 10
7. Big East
Now we look at who that might leave on the in-out line. For each conference, the first team is who gets the last spot if they only have 1 (or none for the WAC) BCS team, the second is who gets it if they have 2 teams, and the third is anybody left staring in the window. This is only my best guess, of course.
Big 12: Oklahoma State/Kansas State/none (OSU hasn't officially locked up their bid yet)
Pac 10: (see below)
SEC: Mississippi State/Arkansas/South Carolina (& Vanderbilt if they make it)
ACC: Maryland/N.C. State/Miami
WAC: Fresno State/Nevada/None
Big 10: Iowa/Indiana/Northwestern & Michigan State
Big East: Rutgers/Louisville/None
The Pac-10 will have 2 open spots if they get 2 teams in the BCS and UCLA and Washington State don't qualify, both of which I think are likely. The Armed Forces Bowl will go to the 7th Conference USA team if there is one, which will not happen.
Things get murky here for a couple of reasons. There's a good chance for a 7-win team without a bid from the MWC (which is who the Pac-10 plays in the Las Vegas and Armed Forces Bowls) and I'm sure the bowls won't want to have two MWC teams - but the NCAA rules don't seem to give them a choice. The other thing that isn't clear is who gets the 4th pick from the Pac-10. The Pac-10's website says the Emerald and Las Vegas are 4th/5th, but the Emerald just says it's the 4th. I'm sure the preferable situation for the Pac-10 is for the Las Vegas to get the 4th team, the Emerald to get a MWC team, and the Armed Forces to get whoever's left.
The teams that are bowl-less or possibly bowl-less that can still get to 7 wins are as follows:
Arkansas: 6-4, Mississippi State, at LSU
South Carolina: 6-5, Clemson
Vanderbilt: 5-5, at Tennessee, Wake Forest
Miami: 5-5, at Virginia Tech, at Boston College
(Note: Maryland and N.C. State can both be eligible, but only one can get to 7-5.)
Nevada: 5-4, Hawaii, at San Jose State, Louisiana Tech
Indiana: 6-5, Purdue
Northwestern: 6-5, at Illinois
Michigan State: 6-5, Penn State
Louisville: 5-5, at South Florida, Rutgers
TCU: 5-5, UNLV, at San Diego State*
Wyoming: 5-5, BYU, at Colorado State
Florida Atlantic: 5-3, at Florida, at Florida International, at Troy
(*In theory, San Diego State could get to 7-5, but then TCU wouldn't, and the likelihood is very small.)
The MAC has 1 team at 7 wins and would need all 3 of the following to reach 7 to take an at-large bid.
Miami (Ohio): 6-5, at Ohio
Ball State: 6-5, at Northern Illinois
Bowling Green: 6-4, at Buffalo, Toledo
Then there are the teams I'm counting as being in bowl slots that don't have 7 wins yet, so if they don't get them, these teams would be bowl-less, but not available for an at-large ahead of a 7-win team. ACC: Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida State. Big 12: Texas A&M. Big East: Rutgers. Big 10: Iowa. SEC: Alabama, Mississippi State. WAC: Fresno State.
In other words, for the ACC to take one of the at-large bids with a 7-5 team, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Florida State, Miami, and the Maryland/NC State winner would ALL have to get to 7 wins, and the league couldn't place 2 teams in BCS games. (It is possible, and outside of Miami winning out, not particularly outrageous.) Even if that doesn't happen, they still could theoretically get a bid as a 6-6 at-large if one is available, although a Big 10 or SEC team would seem more likely.
So, to sum up, if 2 of those teams get to 7-5 (counting the 3 from the MAC as one team), then there won't be any more at-larges available.
Finally, here's some of the important bubble games this weekend:
Hawaii at Nevada (Fri.): On the one hand, this would just about assure Nevada of a 7th win. On the other hand, it would most likely put the kibosh on any thought of a BCS bid for a WAC team. Depends on who you're rooting for here.
Ohio State at Michigan: Like everybody else in the league didn't hate the Buckeyes anyway.
Purdue at Indiana, Northwestern at Illinois, Penn State at Michigan State, Western Michigan at Iowa: The winner gets to go to Detroit! Are you sure you want to win?
Maryland at Florida State, N.C. State at Wake Forest: Next week's game could be vital - or relatively meaningless.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee: Both for the 6th win for Vandy, and to disrupt the SEC East race.
Oklahoma State at Baylor: A MAN doesn't lose to the Bears.
Miami at Virginia Tech: There is still a slim chance of an at-large bid in the Humanitarian Bowl.