By Brian Murphy
Boise State is undefeated, ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press, No. 3 USA Today Coaches and Harris polls and No. 4 in the Bowl Championship Standings.
So why were the Broncos missing from ESPN's BCS projections unveiled on Sunday night's BCS show?
And is it really possible that an undefeated Boise State could be left out of the five BCS bowls altogether? Sadly, the answer is yes.
Here's one scenario:
National Championship Game: Oregon (Pac-10 champ) vs. Alabama (SEC champ)
The top-ranked Ducks continue winning and Alabama, which has one loss, beats LSU and Auburn to claim the SEC West crown, then avenges its loss to South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game. The SEC has won four consecutive national titles and Alabama, the defending national champ, squeeze into the title game.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin (Big 10 champ) vs. TCU (top-ranked non-AQ)
The Badgers earn a share of the Big 10 title and find their way to Pasadena based on BCS rankings. TCU, which remains ahead of Boise State in the BCS rankings, replaces Oregon in the Rose Bowl. If the Rose Bowl loses one of its participants to the title game, it must take the highest-ranked non-AQ, if the team is eligible.
From the Rose Bowl site: "For the games in January 2011 through 2014, the first year the Rose Bowl loses a team to the NCG and a team from the non-AQ group is an automatic qualifier, that non-AQ team will play in the Rose Bowl."
The Rose would have the first pick in the selection order because it lost the No. 1 team in the country (Oregon).
Sugar Bowl: Auburn (at-large) vs. Ohio State (at large)
In this scenario, the Sugar Bowl will have the second pick (for losing Alabama) and the No. 3 pick (pre-determined on a rotating basis). Auburn, with its one loss to Alabama and its likely Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, is a no-brainer for the New Orleans-based game. The second pick is a little tougher. But the Sugar has been saddled with Hawaii and Utah in recent years, so it opts for a marquee name in the Buckeyes, who have just one loss.
(Note: I think this entire scenario still works if you swap Auburn and Alabama. The Sugar would still take a 2-loss Alabama.)
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Oklahoma (at large)
The Orange Bowl picks next, again as determined by the rotating selection order. The Orange is contractually obligated to have the ACC champ, which I'm projecting to be Virginia Tech. The Orange doesn't want a rematch between the Hokies and Broncos and it doesn't want the Big East champion. Instead, it grabs Oklahoma, which has two losses after dropping the Big 12 title game to Nebraska.
Fiesta Bowl: Nebraska (Big 12) vs. Pittsburgh (Big East)
The Fiesta Bowl has the final pick in the selection order. Nebraska is bound to the game as the Big 12 champ. And the Fiesta, which would love to match the Cornhuskers against Boise State, is forced to take Pittsburgh — the Big East champion.
So where do the Broncos go?
Probably the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on Jan. 9. With Hawaii already accepting a spot in the Hawaii Bowl, the only options for Boise State are the Kraft, UDrove Humanitarian or New Mexico bowls.
"The Kraft Bowl will have a priority over the Humanitarian and New Mexico bowls in terms of its choice or its preference," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said.
The game would love to have the undefeated Broncos.
And so the Broncos head to San Fran and to play the Pac-10's No. 6 qualifier, perhaps 6-6 California, which was stomped by Nevada earlier in the season.
It's also possible that the Pac-10 may not have enough bowl eligible teams to fill the Kraft Bowl. With USC not eligible, the Kraft game might have to fill its spot with a team from another league.
The key to avoiding this fate for Boise State is to get ahead of TCU (and remain ahead Utah) in the BCS Standings.
Report: Minnesota targeting Petersen as next coach
Minnesota, which fired coach Tim Brewster earlier this season, has Boise State coach Chris Petersen at the top of its wish list for a new head coach. Petersen, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh and TCU's Gary Patterson were named in the story as the Gophers' top three choices.
I don't think Minnesota has much of a chance to lure Petersen away, but we've been through this before — and we will again. Petersen's name is going to continue to come up for openings around the country as long as the Broncos continue having tremendous success.
Conference shuffle on overdrive
How would you feel about a 12-team Mountain West Conference without TCU, but with Houston, SMU and UTEP? Jon Wilner explores the realignment game.
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