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Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Is the Big Ten's BCS streak in jeopardy?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Here in Big Ten country, we've grown accustomed to two things happening on the first Sunday of December.

1. Really cold weather

2. Two Big Ten teams being selected for BCS bowls

I'm not Tom Skilling or Brick Tamland, but I think we can expect the chill to be here Dec. 5.

What about two Big Ten teams punching their BCS bowl tickets? The forecast is a little hazy.

Here's the deal: the Big Ten has sent two teams to BCS bowls in each of the past five seasons. The Big Ten has had more BCS bowl appearances (21) than any other conference. The big bowls LOVE to select Big Ten teams, which boast large fan bases who love to escape the cold for Pasadena, Miami, New Orleans and Glendale.

Even in seasons where the Big Ten didn't necessarily deserve a second team in a BCS bowl (i.e. a 9-3 Illinois team going to the Rose Bowl after the 2007 season), the league still received multiple bids.

So what's the problem? The Big Ten boasts four elite teams -- No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 9 Ohio State, No. 11 Michigan State and No. 13 Iowa -- and could have as many as three squads finish at 11-1. The league is more deserving of two BCS berths this year than it was in 2007 or 2008.

But as is the case with many things BCS, the deserving aren't always the rewarded.

The picture gets cloudy because you have two teams from non-AQ conferences -- No. 3 TCU and No. 4 Boise State -- virtually assured of BCS berths if they win their remaining games to finish undefeated.

Also, the Pac-10 could get two teams into BCS bowls, which hasn't happened since after the 2002 season. If No. 1 Oregon runs the table to go to the title game, the Rose Bowl then might select Stanford to keep the traditional Pac-10 vs. Big Ten matchup in Pasadena.

The champions from both the ACC and the Big East take up two more spots (talk about undeserving). The champs from both the Big 12 and SEC occupy two more.

If Boise State, TCU and Stanford all earn at-large berths, it leaves just one left. This is virtually guaranteed to go to a team from the Big Ten or the SEC.

It could come down to LSU going against Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State or Iowa for that final at-large berth.

I tend to think the Big Ten team would get the nod, but you never know.

The Big Ten certainly benefited from Alabama losing to LSU on Saturday. The Tide's second loss eliminated them from the national title picture and most likely BCS at-large contention. The Big Ten would benefit from losses by either Auburn or LSU down the stretch.

The league also would benefit from a non-traditional Rose Bowl matchup against Boise State or TCU. I can't see any other BCS bowl selecting Stanford but the Rose, especially if given a Big Ten option. And if Stanford is out of the picture, another at-large spot opens up.

My take: I think the Big Ten's BCS streak reaches six, but a lot can happen between now and Dec. 5.