Originally Published: November 15, 2010

Battling on the bubble

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

With three games left in the regular season, defending ACC champion Georgia Tech and defending Big 12 champion Texas are fighting for their postseason lives.

Teams such as Georgia, Oregon State, Pittsburgh and Washington, which came into the season with lofty aspirations, still haven't won six games, which is the required total for playing in a bowl game.

Meanwhile, upstarts such as Army, Louisville, Miami (Ohio) and Toledo are waiting in the wings and waiting to steal a bowl invitation from a BCS conference that can't fill its allotment.

Here's how the bowl picture stacks up for each conference:

ACC

Bowl spots: 8
Bowl-eligible teams (6): Florida State, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia Tech
On the bubble (3): Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech
Eliminated (3): Duke, Virginia, Wake Forest

The ACC might end up with nine bowl-eligible teams, if Boston College (5-5), Clemson (5-5) and Georgia Tech (5-5) win one more game each. The Eagles, who have won three games in a row, host Virginia on Saturday and play at Syracuse; the Tigers play at Wake Forest and host South Carolina; and the Yellow Jackets host Duke and play at Georgia. If the ACC ends up with nine bowl-eligible teams, one might be sent to the Kraft Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, which might not have a Pac-10 team available.

Big 12

Bowl spots: 8
Bowl-eligible teams (7): Baylor, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
On the bubble (4): Colorado, Iowa State, Texas, Texas Tech
Eliminated (1): Kansas

Texas Tech (5-5) has the best chance of becoming the Big 12's eighth bowl-eligible team. The Red Raiders need one more victory and close the regular season with nonconference games against FCS foe Weber State and Houston. Texas (4-6), which has lost six of its last seven games, will have to beat Florida Atlantic and Texas A&M to finish 6-6. Iowa State (5-6) would have to beat No. 15 Missouri on Saturday, and Colorado (4-6) would have to beat Kansas State and Nebraska to get to 6-6.

Big East

Bowl spots: 6
Bowl-eligible teams (3): South Florida, Syracuse, West Virginia
On the bubble (5): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers
Eliminated: None

There's still a lot to shake out in the final three weeks of the Big East season. Every team has at least three losses, and every team but Cincinnati has won at least four games. Connecticut (5-4), Louisville (5-5) and Pitt (5-4) each need one more victory and Rutgers (4-5) two more to become bowl-eligible. If Notre Dame wins one more game (against Army in New York or at Southern California), the Big East could lose its spot in the Champs Sports Bowl, possibly leaving one or two of its teams looking for a postseason home.

Big Ten

Bowl spots: 8
Bowl-eligible teams (7): Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
On the bubble (3): Illinois, Indiana, Purdue
Eliminated (1): Minnesota

The Big Ten championship is still up for grabs with two weeks to play, and there's possibly one more bowl spot up for grabs, too. Illinois (5-5) hurt its postseason chances with back-to-back losses to Michigan and Minnesota, and now it will have to win one of its last two games to finish 6-6. The Illini play at Northwestern on Saturday and at Fresno State on Dec. 3. Purdue (4-6) and Indiana (4-6) have to win their last two games to go bowling. The Boilermakers play at Michigan State on Saturday and Indiana hosts Penn State, before they play each other on Nov. 27. If Illinois or the Indiana-Purdue winner doesn't win six games, the Big Ten won't be able to fill its spot in the Little Caesar's Bowl (if two of its teams play in BCS bowls).

Conference USA

Bowl spots: 6
Bowl-eligible teams (5): Central Florida, East Carolina, Southern Miss, Tulsa, UTEP
On the bubble (4): Houston, Marshall, SMU, Tulane
Eliminated (3): Memphis, Rice, UAB

Two games on Saturday might go a long way in determining which other Conference USA teams will become bowl-eligible. Marshall (4-6) plays at SMU (5-5), which has lost three of its last four games to fall into bubble trouble. Houston (5-5) closes the regular season with consecutive road games at Southern Miss and Texas Tech and will have to win at least one to go bowling. Tulane (4-6) hosts Central Florida and plays at Marshall and will have to win both to finish 6-6.

Mid-American Conference

Bowl spots: 3
Bowl-eligible teams (5): Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio, Temple, Toledo
On the bubble (2): Kent State, Western Michigan
Eliminated (6): Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan

It might be a bonanza postseason for the MAC, especially if BCS conferences like the Big Ten and Pac-10 can't fill their bowl allotments. Kent State plays at Western Michigan on Saturday in a postseason elimination game. The Broncos play at Bowling Green in their regular-season finale.

Mountain West Conference

Bowl spots: 5
Bowl-eligible teams (4): Air Force, San Diego State, TCU, Utah
On the bubble (1): BYU
Eliminated (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming

BYU (5-5) has won three games in a row and only has to defeat woebegone New Mexico on Saturday to qualify for a bowl game. If No. 3 TCU plays in a BCS bowl game -- it closes the regular season at New Mexico on Nov. 27 -- the MWC will be one team short of filling its bowl allotment. The New Mexico Bowl would be left without an MWC participant.

Pac-10

Bowl spots: 6
Bowl-eligible teams (3): Arizona, Oregon, Stanford
On the bubble (4): California, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington
Eliminated (2): Arizona State, USC (not eligible), Washington State

If Oregon plays in the BCS National Championship Game and Stanford goes to the Rose Bowl, the Pac-10 might not be able to fill three of its bowl slots. California (5-5) must defeat either Stanford or Washington at home to go bowling. Oregon State (4-5) has lost three of its last four games, including a 31-14 loss to Washington State on Saturday. The Beavers will have to win two of their last three games: USC (home), Stanford (road) and Oregon (home). UCLA (4-5) will have to win two of its last three games, too, and Washington (3-6) will have to win three in a row to finish 6-6. The Pac-10's dearth of bowl-eligible teams might create vacancies in the Kraft Hunger Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl and Sun Bowl.

SEC

Bowl spots: 9
Bowl-eligible teams (8): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina
On the bubble (3): Georgia, Ole Miss, Tennessee
Eliminated (1): Vanderbilt

The SEC might have too many or too few bowl teams when the regular season ends in two weeks. Georgia (5-6) must beat rival Georgia Tech on Nov. 27 to finish 6-6. Tennessee (4-6) has won back-to-back games over Memphis and Ole Miss and can still finish 6-6. The Volunteers play at Vanderbilt on Saturday and then host Kentucky, which has lost to Tennessee in 25 straight seasons. Ole Miss (4-6) would have to defeat LSU and Mississippi State to go bowling.

Sun Belt Conference

Bowl spots: 2
Bowl-eligible teams: None
On the bubble (6): Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, Troy
Eliminated (3): Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, Western Kentucky

Every Sun Belt team has at least four losses, and Arkansas State (4-6), Louisiana-Monroe (4-6) and Middle Tennessee (3-6) would have to win out to get to 6-6. Troy (5-4) has to win once more to go bowling and has games left against South Carolina (road), Western Kentucky (home) and Florida Atlantic (road). Florida International (4-5) has to win twice and plays three games against teams with losing records. Florida Atlantic (4-5) has to win twice and plays Texas (road), Middle Tennessee (road) and Troy (home).

Western Athletic Conference

Bowl spots: 4
Bowl-eligible teams (4): Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada
On the bubble (3): Idaho, Louisiana Tech, Utah State
Eliminated (2): New Mexico State, San Jose State

If Boise State plays in a BCS bowl game, the WAC will probably end up one team short of filling its bowl slots. Louisiana Tech (4-6), Idaho (4-6) and Utah State (4-6) will have to win out to qualify for a bowl game. The Bulldogs play at San Jose State and host Nevada; the Aggies host Idaho and play at Boise State; and the Vandals play at Utah State and Fresno State and host San Jose State. Idaho will have to finish 7-6 to go bowling because it plays 13 games.

Conference rankings

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Ranking the BCS conferences after 11 weeks of the season:

1. SEC
Six SEC teams are ranked in the top 21 of the BCS standings: No. 2 Auburn, No. 5 LSU, No. 11 Alabama, No. 13 Arkansas, No. 17 South Carolina and No. 21 Mississippi State. But unless Auburn plays in the BCS Championship Game, the league might not be guaranteed two spots in BCS bowl games for the first time in a while.

2. Big Ten
There are four Big Ten teams -- No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 9 Ohio State, No. 12 Michigan State and No. 20 Iowa -- ranked in the top 20 of the BCS standings. Northwestern and Michigan are just outside the Top 25. Don't be surprised if two Big Ten teams play in BCS bowl games.

3. Big 12
Five Big 12 teams are included in the BCS rankings: No. 8 Nebraska, No. 10 Oklahoma State, No. 14 Oklahoma, No. 15 Missouri and No. 19 Texas A&M. The league isn't as top heavy as it was in the recent past, but there's more overall depth, even with Texas and Texas Tech struggling.

4. Pac-10
The league boasts two teams in the top six of the BCS standings: No. 1 Oregon and No. 6 Stanford. But No. 22 Arizona is the only other Pac-10 team in the BCS standings, and the league might come up woefully short of filling its bowl slots.

5. ACC
No. 16 Virginia Tech has risen from the ashes of an 0-2 start to take control of the ACC's Coastal Division. No. 25 Florida State is in a three-way tie in the loss column with Maryland and NC State for first place in the Atlantic Division, and No. 24 Miami is starting to show signs of life, too.

6. Big East
Each of the league's eight teams has at least three losses and more than half have lost at least four games. Syracuse is the league's highest rated team in the BCS standings, and the Orange trail Pittsburgh by one game in the loss column of the league standings.

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