Wolverines turn to SEC for BCS help

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- There is some symmetry and irony to all of this now. Michigan's regular season is over, a surprising one at that, and now the Wolverines have this:

In order to make their first Bowl Championship Series appearance since 2006, they need the help of an alum and former coach who twice was considered a candidate to be the head coach in Ann Arbor: Les Miles.

Michigan is No. 16 in the BCS standings and is done with its regular season, so the Wolverines will move up only if teams ahead of them lose.

"I don't have that decision," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Saturday. "I think we have a good football team. Somebody will make that decision."

This is where Miles, among others, comes in to play.

Miles, of course, coaches top-ranked LSU, and the Tigers will play for the national championship if they beat Georgia in the SEC championship on Saturday. But if for some reason the Bulldogs upset LSU and the Tigers remain in one of the top two slots in the BCS standings along with Alabama, Michigan could be left out.

Some at-large spots are locked.

Alabama, with its current perch at No. 2 in the BCS with no games left to play, is assured one of the four at-large slots in the 10-team series. So, too, is Stanford so long as it remains in the top four in the BCS standings -- per BCS rules.

If Houston beats Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA title game Saturday, it'll take a spot as well. If the Cougars lose, Boise State will nab an at-large slot.

Add in the six guaranteed spots for conference champions (Big Ten, ACC, Big East, SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12) and that leaves one at-large spot for Michigan, either Houston or Boise State, or a second team from the Big 12 (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma or Kansas State) to fight over.

Here is how this could play out for Michigan.

The main game to pay attention to is LSU-Georgia. However, there are scenarios where if the Tigers win, Michigan could still be looking at something other than a BCS game, albeit unlikely.

The Wolverines still need to climb two spots into the top 14 of the BCS standings -- and if they do not, they'll end up in either the Capital One Bowl or Outback Bowl on Jan. 2.

What would help Michigan is an Oklahoma State win over Oklahoma as well as a Michigan State win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. A Sooners win could make Oklahoma State, which would be 10-2 but almost definitely ranked higher than Michigan, an attractive at-large candidate.

A Michigan State win helps because it almost definitely would knock No. 15 Wisconsin behind Michigan as well as strengthen the Spartans' numbers, which could help the Wolverines with the computers.

What helps Michigan is the .431 BCS average number. No. 13 Michigan State has a .537 average, No. 14 Georgia has a .535 number and No. 15 Wisconsin has a .458 number. So the Wolverines would need Georgia to lose to have a shot.

However, if Georgia pulls the upset and LSU stays in the top two, the Bulldogs would end up being a rare third team from a conference in the BCS and eat up the fourth at-large slot.

The Wolverines also need to pay attention to No. 17 Baylor against No. 22 Texas. Not because the Bears are a threat to take an at-large slot from Michigan, but if they beat Texas handily, they could leapfrog the Wolverines. Baylor is No. 18 in the coaches' and Harris polls and already higher than Michigan in the computers with a No. 13 ranking. The Bears currently have a .391 average.

So if Baylor were to jump over Michigan, it could keep the Wolverines out.

The Wolverines, should they reach the top 14, are an attractive pick for either the Sugar or Fiesta -- those would be the two likely destinations -- because of their strong, national fan base as well as potential television ratings and the excitement factor of how Michigan plays led by quarterback Denard Robinson.

The Sugar has the first pick of at-large teams.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.