I spent most of Saturday afternoon working on a post explaining the possible ways the Cougars could still make a BCS bowl even with Boise State going undefeated and taking the one guaranteed BCS bowl spot that the non-automatic qualifying conferences get. Then Boise State's kicker missed a game-winning field goal as time expired, giving TCU the upset win and almost surely knocking Boise State out of BCS-bowl contention.
So this post is, in turn, rather simple. The Cougars (10-0 and ranked 11 in the BCS standings), for the first time all season, control their own BCS-bowl destiny. To quote the late Al Davis, all the Cougars have to do is "just win, baby."
The BCS is a rather convoluted process, especially when it comes to those schools in the non-AQ BCS conferences. Conferences like C-USA and Mountain West, the homes of the Cougars and the Broncos. But that no longer matters because as long as the Cougars win their remaining three games this season, they're a cinch to make a BCS bowl.
The BCS rules now applying to the Cougars are as follows: If they finish in the top 12 of the final BCS standings, they're in. And as long as they drop no lower than the top 16 of the final BCS standings, they can still earn that bowl bid if they're the C-USA champs and if they finish higher in the standings than the champion of one of the AQ conferences.
The non-AQ team now on the outside looking in is Boise State. Even if the Cougars should lose one of their remaining three games, Boise State's chances to get that automatic bid are near impossible as, to get the bid, they have to be a conference champion. And right now, as things stand, TCU will be the conference champ of the Mountain West, and with TCU's final two games being against Colorado State and UNLV, Boise State appears to be out of luck (as is TCU seeing as they have two losses on the season).
Now before figuring out which BCS bowl the Cougars will be going to, it needs to be stated time and time again that the Cougars still have to win three more football games because the fine folks doing the voting in the human polls making up the BCS will be looking for every excuse in the world to knock the Cougars down in the polls. And as luck would have it, the final three games of the season, should there be three games, will be the most difficult games of the season for them. And in these games, it's doubtful that critics will be able to accuse the Cougars of running up the score.
The Cougars host SMU (6-4, 4-2 in C-USA) in a very special game this week. Not only is it senior day, but ESPN is bringing the College GameDay road show to The Rob, and if things work out, Lee Corso will put on the Cougar mascot's head at the end of the show. And a Cougar win means that SMU will be out of the running for the C-USA West Division title.
The final game of the season will see the Cougars travel to Tulsa (7-3, 6-0 in C-USA) to face the only team left in the West Division that can challenge the Cougars for the division title. Tulsa has three losses on the season, contrasted to the zero losses of the Cougars. But Tulsa's losses have been to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State, and they've had a pretty easy trip through C-USA. The Cougars should be able to win the game, but Tulsa has a decent defense and a good offense, and they're without a doubt the best team the Cougars will have faced this season.
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And if the Cougars best Tulsa and win the West Division, they've got the C-USA title game to win. Right now, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles appear to be the team the Cougars will face in that game. The Golden Eagles are the only other C-USA team that is ranked, and they're currently 9-1 (5-1 in C-USA) on the season. This would be a good match-up, but it's one that the Cougars should win.
So where does a C-USA championship and an undefeated season leave the Coogs? Well, here's what you need to know: The champions of the six AQ conferences are guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl, whether or not they are ranked. And due to the at-large process, those conferences can also get at least one more team into a BCS bowl. The BCS bowls also have some conference tie-ins that must be factored in. So, a preliminary BCS bowl schedule, if the season finished today, would look like this:
Title Game: LSU versus Oklahoma State Rose Bowl: PAC 12 conference winner (either Oregon or UCLA) versus Big 10 conference winner (either Penn State or Michigan State) Orange Bowl: Cincinnati versus ACC conference winner (either Clemson or Virginia Tech) Sugar Bowl: Alabama versus a BCS qualifier Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma versus a BCS qualifier
And various projections have the Cougars going to Phoenix to face Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl while others have them going to New Orleans to face Alabama. But there's a lot that can happen in the remaining three weeks. There are injuries and upsets and unpredictable poll results. But as long as the Cougars just keep on winning, they'll be in a BCS bowl. And that's something that no other team in Texas will be able to say.