Whoa, things just got more interesting. This was the week for "crappy teams beat halfway decent teams", and muddle everything up. OK, UCLA actually did that the last 2 weeks, but never mind.
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
BUBBLE: Miami - 1-for-14 notwithstanding, they're not a terrible team and they only need 1 win. But they're playing the 3 teams with the best records (Virginia, at Virginia Tech, at B.C.). They probably should be able to do it, but they may not.
Maryland - Uh-oh. They still need 2 wins, and the schedule isn't friendly. They'll be thankful if the N.C.State game is a win-and-you're-in.
N.C. St. - 2 wins needed, with North Carolina, at Wake Forest, and Maryland. They could get them, but I wouldn't expect it.
N. Carolina - Have to sweep at N.C. State, at Georgia Tech, and Duke. It could happen.
Overall, while they all have issues, I think ultimately one of these teams will get it done. But it would not be shocking if they didn't, and the Humanitarian Bowl goes looking for an at-large.
BCS: I'm shifting them from "more likely", to "more unlikely", in part because of the B.C. loss, and in part because I'm thinking the Big 10 is more likely to grab one.
Big East (5 bids)
IN: USF, UConn, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers
OUT: Syracuse, Pitt
BUBBLE: Louisville - Beating either USF or Rutgers looks less challenging than it did last week*, but this team is totally unpredictable. (*I'm repeating this comment, but it is still correct. They both slipped another notch.)
BCS: If UConn wins the conference, I still see a 10-2 West Virginia as a popular option, but does anybody really expect UConn to win the conference? (Although they don't have to beat Cincinnati this week to pull it off.) If the Mountaineers come out on top, I have a hard time seeing another Big East team in the top 14 pool.
Big 10 (7 bids)
IN: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa
BUBBLE: Northwestern - Indiana and Illinois at home are both very winnable games. But nothing is certain.
Michigan State - A 5-2 MSU team losing its last 5 games? Probably not as surprising as it should be. They need 1 win from at Purdue, & Penn State. I think it's this week or not at all.
BCS: If Michigan wins out, then they get 2. But I'm starting to think that even if Michigan loses to Ohio State, they may not drop all that far, and still wind up in the top 14. It would be a loss to the #1 team after all, how much would they be punished? And then the Rose Bowl may want the available Big 10 team (although an Oregon rematch could be an issue), or one of the others a la Notre Dame last year. I don't think a 9-3 team that lost to Appalachian State deserves a BCS game, but I could see it.
Big 12 (8 bids)
IN: Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Colorado
OUT: Iowa State, Baylor, Nebraska
BUBBLE: Oklahoma State - they only need 1 win, and they still have Baylor. Almost a lock. (Troy!)
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
BUBBLE: UCLA - Washington State & Arizona? Even Dorrell can't screw this up! Um...Given their history, they probably will pull the upset they need, but it will not be easy.
The rest: All 4 of them have to win out:
Arizona: Oregon, at Arizona State
Stanford: at Washington State, Notre Dame, Cal
Washington: at Oregon State, Cal, at Washington State
Washington State: Stanford, Oregon State, Washington, at Hawaii
Arizona's is way too difficult, and the other 3 are too inconsistent to win that many in a row. Vanishingly small chance.
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.
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, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas
BUBBLE: Mississippi State - 1 win needed, and they still have Ole Miss (and Arkansas). Just about a lock, but they're not very good.
Vanderbilt - Got waxed by Florida, and still need 1 from Kentucky, at Tennessee and Wake Forest. Hey, if they can beat South Carolina...I still don't think it will happen.
BCS: After LSU, everybody has at least 3 losses but Georgia. That doesn't eliminate them, but it makes it dicey. But the "toughest conference" argument will probably be enough to get someone in.
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 Big 12 probably will, and the Big East will unless they get 2 BCS bids (and even then have a good shot at Louisville). The ACC is more likely to than not, but a second BCS bid will probably leave a spot open. The Pac 10 will have an open slot, and very possibly 2, if they get 2 teams in, but they have a replacement ready, in theory. It definitely looks better than in prior weeks as far as the odds of at-larges being available.
OK, onto the mid-majors, more briefly.
C-USA (6 bids)
IN: East Carolina, UCF, Houston, Tulsa, Southern Miss
OUT: Marshall, Rice, SMU, UAB, Tulane,
BUBBLE: Memphis - still in good shape with UAB and SMU left, as well as at Southern Miss this week.
UTEP - Rice sure knows how to pick their wins, don't they? The Miners need 2 wins from at Tulane, Southern Miss, and at UCF. Right now, I'd come down on "probably not".
Independents (1 bid)
OUT: Notre Dame, Army
MAC (3 bids)
IN: Central Michigan, Ball State, Bowling Green
OUT: Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Akron, Temple, Kent State
BUBBLE: Miami, Toledo, Ohio, Buffalo. The main issue here is whether they can get 4 teams to 7 wins, which would give them priority over any 6-win teams for an at-large. I think all of the "in"s should make it, the 4th would be Miami or Ohio, who both play Akron and each other. Fairly good chance.
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
BUBBLE: MTSU, Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic. None of this should matter, although MTSU and 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, Louisiana Tech
BUBBLE: Nevada, New Mexico State, 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 doing better in the computers than Hawaii, but they still have to play the two dog turds of the conference, so they'll take a hit. I have a nagging feeling they'll wind up 13th or 14th in the BCS - not quite enough to get an automatic bid, and probably not ahead of a BCS league champ. (The best scenario for that is probably for UConn to lose to Cincy and then beat West Virginia, and even that might not do it.)
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
4. 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.
Big 12: Texas A&M/Oklahoma State/None (K-State and Colorado are more likely to get to 7 wins even though they're not eligible yet)
Pac 10: (see below)
SEC: Kentucky/South Carolina/Mississippi State (& Vanderbilt if they make it)
Big 10: Indiana/Iowa/Northwestern (& Michigan State)
WAC: Fresno State/Nevada/None
ACC: Miami/None/None (but it may be that no one makes it)
Big East: Rutgers/Louisville/None
The Pac-10 will have 2 open spots if they get 2 teams in the BCS and UCLA doesn'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 I also doubt right now.
Things get murky here for a couple of reasons. The most likely at-large teams to have 7 wins are from the MWC, 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.
My guesses at who will have 7 wins but no bowl bid, in order of likelihood:
1. MWC teams (1 or 2)
2. MAC team (Ohio or Miami)
4. Mississippi State
6. 6th Big East team
Finally, here's some of the important bubble games this weekend:
Virginia at Miami: Best chance for the Hurricanes to get eligible
North Carolina at North Carolina State: Whose dream will survive?
Boston College at Maryland: A win would make up for last week for Maryland
Indiana at Northwestern: A little bit better opportunity than next week for the Wildcats.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt: Kentucky needs to get their 7th win to get a game; Vandy needs their 6th to have a chance.
Kansas State at Nebraska; Colorado at Iowa State: Games that they should win, and will give them eligibility.
Arizona State at UCLA: Time to save Karl's job again!
TCU at BYU (Thurs); Wyoming at Utah: Not essential for qualification (although they are the 6th wins for the road teams), but important in the jockeying for the slots.
Memphis at Southern Miss: Winner gets to breathe easier, loser still has work to do.
UTEP at Tulane: Absolutely imperative to get the win.
Ohio at Akron (Wed): Important game for the MAC to try and get an extra bid.