The Race For The BCS ... Teams In The Hunt
West Virginia RB Pat White
West Virginia RB Pat White
Posted Nov 25, 2007

Which teams are in the hunt for a BCS game, and what do they have to do to get in? Richard Cirminiello breaks it all down for all the teams still alive.

Seeking A Yes From The BCS

A weekly look at those teams with a realistic shot at this year’s five BCS bowl games

By Richard Cirminiello 

Ballin’ for N’Awlins
The front-runner(s) to play in the National Championship game

Missouri (11-1, 7-1) – It was fitting that the Tigers sealed their pivotal win over Kansas on a safety from linemen Stryker Sulak and Lorenzo Williams.  The defense, along with unflappable QB Chase Daniel, was the story all night, holding the high-powered Jayhawks scoreless for the first 37 minutes, allowing the offense to build a 21-point cushion.  A lock for the National Championship game with one more win, Missouri must avenge an Oct. 13 loss to Oklahoma to win the Big 12 and punch a ticket to New Orleans.  
West Virginia (10-1, 5-1) – With a Big East title already in the vault, the Mountaineers are thinking of a much bigger prize, namely a spot in the National Championship game.  West Virginia put on a clinic Saturday, destroying a Connecticut team, 66-21, that hadn’t allowed more than 27 points in a game all season.  The ‘eers have one more opportunity to impress the voting masses, a visit from 4-7 Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl.  

Still Thinking Big (Easy)
The top contenders for the National Championship game

Ohio State
(11-1, 7-1) – For a change, finishing the season early may be benefiting a team from the Big Ten.  As the Buckeyes await their destiny from the clubhouse, teams ahead of them, such as Oklahoma and LSU, are falling out of the national title chase.  With just one more break, a Missouri or West Virginia loss, and Ohio State will bowl in New Orleans, an improbable suggestion only a couple of weeks ago.        

Start Making Travel Plans
Schools that have locked down a BCS bowl bid

Ohio State (11-1, 7-1) – See above

West Virginia (10-1, 5-1) – See above  
(10-2, 6-2) – While nothing is official, you can bet on the Bulldogs getting the SEC’s second bid alongside this week’s winner of the LSU-Tennessee game in Atlanta.  Georgia is one of the nation’s hottest teams, winning six straight to close out the regular season, including five versus teams that’ll go bowling.  Of course the Dawgs would’ve liked a chance at an SEC crown, but they’ll wind up benefiting by standing pat and not having to play another game.      

Win Out, and You’re In
Schools that control their own destiny

USC (9-2, 6-2) – Four John David Booty touchdown passes plus four Lawrence Jackson sacks means the Trojans are now one win away from a sixth straight Pac-10 championship, a miraculous turnaround for a program that looked headed for the Holiday Bowl a few weeks ago.  USC’s Thanksgiving ambush of Arizona State coupled with another Oregon loss put Troy in a position to use rival UCLA as a stepping stone to another Rose Bowl.         

LSU (10-2, 6-2) – The Tiger magic, so common throughout this season, ran out Friday evening in a three-overtime, 50-48 loss to Arkansas.  In a year that’s been marked by thrilling endings and heroic efforts, LSU just couldn’t overcome the Hog running trio of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis, which combined for 379 yards and five touchdowns.  Although the SEC West champs are still favored to end the year in New Orleans, the prize will be far less than anyone expected before last week’s games.  
Virginia Tech (10-2, 7-1) – The Hokies are gelling at the most opportune time of the year, locking up the ACC Coastal division with Saturday’s 33-21 win at rival Virginia.  Tech is making the most of its two-quarterback system, while springing RB Branden Ore behind a markedly improved offensive line.  The Hokies now face Boston College in Jacksonville for the conference crown, a shot at redemption for their Oct. 25 collapse to the Eagles.     

Boston College (10-2, 6-2) – Beating Miami may not have had any impact on the ACC standings, but don’t tell the Eagles it was meaningless.  Prior to Saturday’s doubling up of the ‘Canes, Boston College had lost 15 straight to Miami dating back to 1984.  The Eagles will take a head of steam into next weekend’s date with Virginia Tech, which will produce the ACC champion and an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game.        

Oklahoma (10-2, 6-2) – The Sooners made a swift and decisive recovery from last week’s loss to Texas Tech, pounding Oklahoma State, 49-17, to wrap up another Big 12 South title.  Obviously, Oklahoma earns a spot in the Fiesta Bowl with a win over Missouri in the Alamodome next weekend, but where does it end up with a loss?  Two Big 12 programs will be getting BCS bowl invitations, but will No. 2 be the traditional power with three losses or one-loss Kansas?       

Tennessee (9-3, 6-2) – Although the odds weren’t very good of it happening, the Volunteers actually topped last week’s stirring comeback win to beat Vanderbilt, outlasting Kentucky, 52-50, in a four-overtime classic.  By doing so, Tennessee held off the charge of Georgia, winning the SEC East, and setting up a winner-take-all game with LSU for a trip to the Sugar Bowl.  With the Dawgs in the driver’s seat for an at-large berth, neither the Vols nor the Tigers have any margin for error if they hope to be one of the 10 BCS bowl participants.     

Schools that are looking for help

Kansas (11-1, 7-1) – The Jayhawks delivered a valiant effort in the fourth quarter of their loss to Missouri, but it wasn’t enough.  They fell for the first time, ending any hopes of a first league championship in almost four decades.  Still, as one of just four teams in the nation with a single loss, Kansas remains very much alive in the hunt for an at-large BCS bowl berth.  To not get that bid, someone will have to choose a two-loss Mizzou or three-loss Oklahoma over the Jayhawks.     

Arizona State (9-2, 6-2) – As Pac-10 champions go, the Sun Devils got exposed by USC Thanksgiving night, getting decked 44-24.  All, however, has not been lost.  If Arizona State beats Arizona Saturday night, it’ll likely earn an at-large BCS berth, possibly to the familiar Fiesta Bowl.  If Sparky wins and the Trojans get upended by UCLA for a second straight year, the Sun Devils will be outright Pac-10 champs, and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl.        

(9-3, 6-2) – Last week, the Bowl Championship Series decided to expand its pool of eligible candidates from the top 14 to the top 18 teams, if faced with a shortage of qualified programs.  That could be unbelievable news for an Illini team hoping to sneak into the BCS bowl picture as an at-large selection.  How about Illinois in the Rose Bowl if Ohio State winds up landing a spot in the National Championship game? 

UCLA (6-5, 5-3) – Yes, hard as it is to fathom, at 6-5, the Bruins remain mathematically alive to win the Pac-10.  Barely alive, that is.  For UCLA to play a home game in January, it needs to beat USC in The Coliseum, and hope for an Arizona upset of Arizona State.  In that scenario, a four-team tie would result, which the Bruins could win, especially if Oregon holds serve against Oregon State.           

BCS Buster
Non-BCS schools with a chance to play in a major bowl game

(11-0, 8-0) – The legions of doubters surrounding the program have shrunk considerably since Friday night’s pivotal defeat of Boise State that locked up an outright WAC championship and moved it to No. 12 in the rankings.  More important, the Warriors took an enormous step toward that coveted at-large BCS bowl invitation, a berth they’ll secure with a win over Washington this Saturday.