Improbable, but now not impossible, the BCS flame is rekindled for the streaking TCU Horned Frogs.
They'll need No. 11 Houston and No. 20 Southern Miss to each fumble a golden opportunity, while the No. 19 Frogs -- 8-2 and winners of five in a row -- can ill-afford a stumble of their own in their final two games against below-.500 squads Colorado State and UNLV.
Still, these Frogs, boosted by Saturday's huge road win at No. 5 Boise State -- the non-AQ BCS frontrunner before the loss -- that put a hammerlock on the Mountain West Conference championship and subsequently made TCU the leading dark horse to earn a third consecutive BCS bowl berth.
How is this possible? Let's review:
When Baylor kicked the game-winning field goal with 1:04 to play in the season-opener, TCU swallowed the hard truth that just one game in and the BCS was all but dead to them. A month later, SMU's overtime victory in Fort Worth questioned if the 3-2 Frogs were even capable of capturing a third consecutive league title.
Fast forward five weeks and Gary Patterson's boys provided that answer with Saturday's come-from-behind 36-35 victory on the Broncos' near-invincible blue turf. The heart-and-guts effort, spearheaded by the tremendous play of first-year starting quarterback Casey Pachall, put TCU in the driver's seat for the conference title and, somewhat unsuspectingly, rekindled the BCS flame.
The BCS selection process offers two paths of entrance for non-automatic qualifiers like TCU. The first is for a non-AQ conference champion to finish with a top-12 ranking in the BCS standings. At No. 19, that's highly unlikely considering the Frogs' final two opponents and the number of teams ahead of them. The second route grants a berth for the non-AQ league champ by finishing in the top 16 and with a ranking higher than that of a champion of one of the six AQ conferences.
Say hello to the Frogs' once-future home, the Big East.
That league currently boasts no teams ranked in the top 25 of the BCS standings. Cincinnati (7-2) dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll, falling to 29th, and West Virginia is 27th. Neither team boasts a remaining schedule that would catapult it ahead of a 10-2 Frogs team, one that very well could claim a top-16 ranking.
Standing in the way is Houston (10-0) and Southern Miss (9-1). These two are on a collision course to meet in the Conference USA title game. If the Coogs win out, they'll be assured of the BCS berth. If the Golden Eagles win out, they'll likely hop the Frogs and earn the spot.
Pass-happy Houston, led by sixth-year quarterback Case Keenum, welcomes the disappointing Ponies (6-4) on Saturday (ESPN GameDay will be there) before traveling to Tulsa (7-3, 6-0) the day after Thanksgiving. Southern Miss has games against a pair of 2-8 teams in Alabama-Birmingham and Memphis.
The script favorable to the Frogs would see SMU or Tulsa knock off Houston, and then the Coogs beat Southern Miss in the title game, assuring each another loss. Of course, if Tulsa does the job, it would likely then face Southern Miss and that could hurt the Eagles' chances of jumping the Frogs.
If it plays out, the two-loss Frogs could very well become the first non-undefeated, non-AQ team to play in a BCS game.
If that happens, consider these Frogs charmed.