By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
Boise State’s Bowl Championship Series hopes got a boost Saturday when Southern Miss whipped Houston 49-28 in the Conference USA championship game.
But it’s impossible to predict exactly how that will affect the Broncos.
At a minimum, the Cougars’ loss opened an at-large spot in the BCS. Houston would have received an automatic berth with a win but, like Boise State, no longer is eligible for an automatic berth because it didn’t win its conference.
The BCS has 10 spots — six for BCS-conference champions and four at-large spots. Here’s a look at who appears in line for the four at-large spots. All this is dependent upon LSU beating Georgia, but the Bulldogs have an early lead. If Georgia wins, it gets even harder to figure.
— No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Stanford are in spots that come with automatic berths, so it’s hard to figure either of them getting left out.
— If TCU, currently No. 18, can climb two spots Sunday, the Horned Frogs will get the automatic berth available to the highest-ranked non-BCS champion. But getting to the top 16 could be difficult. The Horned Frogs are way back and their shaky computer numbers will take another hit with today’s win over UNLV.
— No. 16 Michigan is a lock for an at-large berth if the Wolverines can climb two spots, to No. 14. That also could prove difficult, particularly with Georgia giving LSU a fight. If Michigan State beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, it gets even more difficult for them.
— If after those rankings fall into place there is a spot left, it will come down to No. 7 Boise State (10-1), No. 11 Kansas State (10-2) and the loser of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game. It’s better for Boise State if Oklahoma State wins that game.
— And if TCU and Michigan both get left out, Boise State should grab the last at-large spot.
— A couple X-factors: If Clemson beats Virginia Tech, the Hokies would be an at-large option. And if Georgia beats LSU, the SEC could get an unprecedented three BCS spots and mess up the math. Plus, there’s the question of how far Houston falls. The Cougars were No. 6. If they fall behind Michigan and TCU, that helps both of those teams.
I’ll try to update this as results come in.