After seven weeks of limited intrigue, the 2009 season finally is poised to provide some BCS drama.
BCS bids in five of the six automatic-qualifying conferences will be determined in one winner-take-all game, setting the stage for one of the most interesting regular-season weeks in college football history.
The field of teams that will play in the BCS bowls is as undefined as it has ever been at this stage of the season, but here's what we do know:
1. Alabama or Florida will win the SEC and secure a spot in the Citi BCS National Championship Game.
2. Thursday night's Oregon State-Oregon winner will claim the Pac-10 crown and face Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
3. The Clemson-Georgia Tech winner will represent the ACC in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
In the probable category: the SEC runner-up's receiving an invitation to the Allstate Sugar Bowl and TCU's securing an at-large BCS spot.
Everything else will be decided on Saturday.
The Big 12 championship game has the most potential to turn the BCS world upside down. If Texas beats Nebraska, as expected, the Longhorns will face the SEC champion for the national title. However, an upset in the Big 12 title game could give No. 4 TCU or No. 5 Cincinnati a chance to play for the BCS title. And there's even a slight chance it could instead lead to a rematch of the SEC championship game for all the marbles.
TCU probably has the best chance to benefit from a Texas loss because Cincinnati not only has to beat Pittsburgh on Saturday to win the Big East, but also must do so in a way that convinces numerous voters to move the Bearcats ahead of the Horned Frogs on their ballots. That's certainly possible, but there's no way to know how many voters would be willing to drop a TCU team that dominated every opponent in the second half of the season.
And if Alabama beats Florida for the SEC title, don't ignore the possibility that some voters might not drop the Gators out of the top two. Florida also might not fall past third in any of the computers. If that happens, it's not unrealistic to think Florida could finish second in the BCS standings behind Alabama.
But there's one team outside of Austin, Texas, that does not want to see a Nebraska upset shake up the BCS standings.
If all goes as expected on Saturday, No. 5 Boise State should land one of the at-large spots to play in a BCS bowl. But if Nebraska beats Texas, the Big 12 probably will get two teams in the BCS (the Cornhuskers as the conference champion and Texas as an at-large pick), likely leaving Boise State on the outside looking in.
Projected BCS Bowl Selections
If Texas wins the Big 12 championship, here's how the BCS bowls could shake out:
The BCS National Championship Game would match No. 1 Florida or Alabama (SEC champ) vs No. 2 Texas. The Oregon State-Oregon winner would play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, and the FedEx Orange Bowl would get the ACC champion.
The Sugar Bowl would get the first BCS bowl selection to replace the SEC champion. It's assumed that pick would be the SEC runner-up.
The next pick would go to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl to replace Big 12 champion Texas, and here's where everything gets interesting. Because there won't be another Big 12 team eligible for at-large consideration, the Fiesta Bowl's choice is hard to predict.
The Fiesta Bowl basically has two options. One is to guarantee the biggest ticket sales possible by selecting a Big Ten team (most likely Iowa). The other, if Cincinnati wins on Saturday, is to take TCU with this pick, guaranteeing a matchup of undefeated teams. No BCS bowl aside from the national championship game has ever featured two undefeated teams.
For argument's sake, let's assume the Fiesta goes for the financial guarantee and picks Iowa. Next, the Orange would select an opponent for the ACC champ and would have a choice of TCU, Boise State or the Big East champ. The likely pick is TCU.
That brings it back to the Fiesta to choose an opponent for Iowa. Boise State makes the most sense because it creates a non-AQ vs. AQ matchup that would generate some viewer intrigue.
And that leaves the Big East champion to face the SEC runner-up in the Sugar Bowl.
It all sounds simple and predictable. Just like the 2009 season to this point. But there's still one more Saturday for everything to be sent spinning into chaos.
Brad Edwards coordinates the college football research for ESPN and is an analyst for "College GameDay" on ESPN Radio each Saturday throughout the season.