Dallas Colleges: Sugar Bowl
TCU started the weekend at No. 18 in the BCS. Southern Miss was No. 24 and West Virginia No. 23. TCU is likely to stay in front of those teams, unless the polls give Southern Miss a huge jump for its win over Houston (but TCU was six spots up, so that's doubtful).
So it comes down to getting two spots higher in the BCS (at least before the weekend started). That's a tough chore.
"I don't think they do it," ESPN's BCS guru Brad Edwards said. "The computers aren't going to help TCU and I couldn't find three teams that fall past them with Clemson going ahead of them."
But here's a look at where things stand and what needs to happen for TCU to do it:
* Clemson's win over Virginia Tech will not only impress voters, but the computers will love it. So the Tigers seem destined to leapfrog (yes, I said it) TCU in the BCS. That means the Frogs essentially must jump past three teams to get to No. 16.
* TCU's most logical avenue to rising in the polls was Texas beating Baylor in Waco. But RGIII and the Bears were impressive and could even work themselves into the discussion for an at-large BCS bid from the Big 12. They won't be dropping past TCU (and they beat the Frogs in week one).
* Wisconsin's close win over Michigan State may not have helped, either. Since it was such a good game and a tight one, voters may not penalize the Spartans much (the computers probably won't either) and they started the week at No. 13, five spots ahead of TCU.
So is there any hope for TCU? Yes. Here are some possibilities:
* There are other teams that could be downgraded in the polls. Let's start with Houston. They had a weak strength of schedule coming into the C-USA championship game and then lost to Southern Miss. Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings are already out and the Cougars went from eighth to out of the top 25. The polls won't penalize them that much, but is a 10- or 12-spot drop out of the question? No.
* What about Georgia? They were No. 14 in the BCS, but lost in blowout fashion to LSU. But that is the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country. And Georgia's strength of schedule goes up with the loss. That one depends on the voters.
* We talked about Michigan State earlier, but it's possible they could slip behind TCU. Still, with a close loss and starting five spots ahead, it could be close.
* What about Oklahoma? Coming into the day, that probably wasn't a team on TCU's radar as one that could slip. But after the drubbing they took in Stillwater, OU now has three losses and that last one is fresh in the minds of voters. They started No. 10, so it would take a big fall.
"I think there's just too much ground to make up without help from the computers," Edwards said.
If TCU does qualify, the Sugar Bowl could end up taking them to face Michigan, assuming the Wolverines make the top-14 (and it appears they will). Some have also speculated that the Sugar Bowl could take West Virginia and the Orange Bowl would end up with TCU against Clemson. Still, with TCU's history of bringing folks, I'd think the Sugar would look pretty hard at TCU (plus, with Michigan, will they be concerned with ticket sales at that point or more the matchup?).
Edwards, interestingly, thinks that if TCU doesn't qualify, the Sugar Bowl may seriously consider Boise State. We'll see.
Landing spots for the TCU Horned Frogs are wide open as college football's regular season winds down to the final two weeks. TCU (9-2), ranked No. 20 in the BCS standings, is idle this week and will do some scoreboard watching as it hopes to move up in its ultimate quest to get to No. 16. That's where TCU must get to keep alive its long-shot bid for a third consecutive BCS berth.
Short of a surprise trip to the Sugar Bowl, three non-BCS bowl options exist. Here's a look at those options in the order that the Mountain West-affiliated bowls select:
1. Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 26: Pac 12 No. 5 vs. MWC No. 1
The misnomer here is that although this game is slotted for the Mountain West champ, the bowl does not have to select the champion. After all, TCU won the conference three other times and has never played in Vegas. In this case, with TCU needing a victory over UNLV on Dec. 3 to win its third-consecutive MWC crown, No. 7 Boise State might be the better choice. The positive side of going to Vegas for TCU is playing a Pac-12 opponent, which at this point could be anybody from former MWC rival Utah to Arizona State to Washington. The negative side is that Vegas presents another costly trip for Frogs fans, who have traveled in huge numbers to the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl the last two years. There's a long history of attendance problems here and the Las Vegas Bowl committee probably would pick Boise if it believes frozen Broncos fans will travel better than Frogs fans during what is typically a slow week in Sin City.
2. Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego, Calif., Dec. 21: WAC champ vs. MWC No. 2
TCU played in this game in 2008, beating Boise 17-16, and not that the Frogs don't enjoy San Diego as much as the rest of us, this would be the bowl TCU would likely least like to play in for two reasons. Again, an expensive travel scenario tops the list and second, the Frogs would face the WAC champion. No offense to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, who have the edge in winning the WAC after beating Nevada, but a TCU-Louisiana Tech matchup wouldn't figure to fire up the Frog faithful to make a long trip during Christmas week. And, frankly, it does little to enhance the Frogs' season. A year ago, the San Diego State Aztecs made their return from a long bowl drought by staying home and playing huge regional draw Navy. The Aztecs could stay home again, but if they want to expand their horizons and travel, and the bowl committee sees nationally ranked TCU has a more prominent draw -- even without a large traveling contingent -- it could still select the Frogs.
3. Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La., Dec. 26: ACC No. 7 vs. MWC No. 3
About a four-hour drive from Fort Worth, this just might be the bowl game of choice for the Frogs. It spares fans from a major expense and imagine the purple caravan that would head down I-20 to enjoy a little football, perhaps against North Carolina or North Carolina State, and then a little casino action the day after Christmas. On top of that, the Independence Bowl grants the biggest payday with each team guaranteed $1.1 million. Sure, Las Vegas and San Diego are sexier destinations, and if you ask the players, they certainly might pick either one over this Louisiana border stop. But, the administration might do some lobbying here with the MWC and the individual bowls to allow it to stay close to home and gather up what would easily be its largest traveling party.
First, a brief look at how all of this works. The bowls that lose their tie-ins get to pick replacements. If the SEC champion is the No. 1 team in the country (very likely), the Sugar Bowl picks first followed by the Fiesta (assuming Texas is the No. 2 team). After that, the Orange selects, followed by the Fiesta and the Sugar. The Rose Bowl gets its traditional Pac-1o-Big Ten matchup.
The Fiesta Bowl will really determine how all of these teams fall because the Sugar Bowl will certainly take the SEC runner-up with the first pick. That leaves the Fiesta to choose from the remaining pool of teams. The decision they have to make is whether to take a No. 4 TCU or go with a more traditional team that is likely to bring a bunch of folks, like Penn State or Iowa, for instance. If they take one of those teams, than the Orange Bowl could take TCU. It's also possible that if the Orange Bowl takes another BCS school, the Fiesta could get TCU with its second pick. One thing does seem clear: It's a longshot for TCU to end up in the Sugar Bowl, assuming the Sugar takes the SEC runner-up with that first pick. It would mean that Orange Bowl passed up on TCU once and the Fiesta Bowl twice.
A few possibilities (Warning: This is me speculating a bit here):
* If Oklahoma State runs the table, which would include a tough Bedlam win in Norman on Nov. 28, that gives the BCS bowls two options for big BCS teams that should travel well. In that case, the Fiesta could take TCU and then take either OSU or Penn State/Iowa, whichever one the Orange Bowl didn't select. Or they could take Penn State/Iowa and then select either TCU or OSU, whichever one the Orange Bowl didn't choose. Remember that one conference can't have more than two teams in BCS bowls.
* Would the Orange Bowl take TCU if Clemson wins the ACC? I can't think they would. That would cause a rematch of an earlier game, won by the Frogs in the rain in Clemson. If OSU does not beat OU, that could mean that Cincinnati or Pittsburgh goes to the Orange instead of TCU if Clemson wins the ACC.
* If Georgia Tech wins the ACC and the Fiesta Bowl decides to go with Penn State or a team like that, the Orange Bowl would probably take TCU and avoid having a Big East team in the game again (they had Cincinnati last year). Many folks have a Georgia Tech-TCU matchup on the assumption that the Fiesta Bowl takes one of those Big Ten at-large teams with its first choice.
* Is there a scenario that sends TCU to the Sugar Bowl? Sure. You never know how these bowls might select. But it's a longshot. To me, that would have to be if Oklahoma State wins out, Pittsburgh beats Cincinnati and Clemson wins the ACC. In that case, I could see the Fiesta taking Penn State (or Iowa), the Orange selecting Pittsburgh and the Fiesta taking Oklahoma State to play one of those Big Ten teams. That leaves the Sugar Bowl to take TCU (and Boise is left out).
* Could TCU and Boise State play each other again? It's possible. And the Fiesta Bowl would be the location. If Oklahoma State loses, there's no good Big 12 at-large option. The Fiesta Bowl could choose TCU with its first pick and, assuming the Orange takes a Big Ten at-large, the Fiesta would have to choose between the Big East champ and Boise. I just don't know if a bowl wants to put two non-AQs together based on how many fans might travel and the fact that Boise State and TCU played each other in a bowl last year.
Have I completely confused you? The bottom line: TCU's chances of going to the Sugar are remote. With two picks so high up, TCU could certainly end up playing someone in the Fiesta Bowl. But if Georgia Tech wins the ACC, it wouldn't surprise me to see TCU play them in the Orange Bowl.
Of course, none of this matters if TCU doesn't win its remaining two games. And I think a BCS bowl will be pleasantly surprised by how many fans from TCU attend. The school has never been to a BCS bowl, which should get fans excited. We should know a lot more after Nov. 28. The bowls select on Dec. 6.
TCU fans: Which BCS bowl would you prefer? What do you think of these scenarios?
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