If Texas beats the Aggies on T+1, the question every Longhorn fan will want answered is: can we make a BCS Bowl? There's been some great discussions on this in the diaries already, but let's walk through the scenarios and figure out where we stand.
Overview: We lead with the Rose Bowl because it remains my top destination choice for the 'Horns in any year where a national and/or conference title chance is off the table. The most important note with this bowl is that the Rose Bowl committee wants, as its first choice, the traditional Pac 10-Big 10 game. They will not stray from that formula if possible.
Where Things Stand Today: With Ohio State's loss to Illinois, the Big 10 representative is all but locked in. For the Buckeyes to reach the national title game, a monumental collapse among the contenders ahead of them is required. The winner of Michigan-Ohio State is Rose Bowl bound.
As for the Pac 10, Oregon is the favorite to win the conference, but they have a very reasonable chance to be national title game participants. If Oregon loses one or both of their remaining games, the Pac 10 champion is very likely headed to the Rose Bowl.
Texas Fans Should Root For: Unlike a lot of the scenarios, this one's pretty straightforward. For starters, Oregon must make the national title game. Additionally, the winner of the USC-Arizona State game must drop an additional contest. Best case scenario? USC beats Arizona State, but loses to UCLA. If the Trojans win out, they'd be the Rose Bowl's top choice to replace Oregon. Ditto Arizona State. We need both teams to have suspect finishes to their season.
Overview: The SEC Champion is locked into the Sugar Bowl each season, leaving one at-large team for the game per year, except when the SEC Champ qualifies for the national title game. As far as destinations for Longhorn fans go, New Orleans is at or near the top of the list. Burnt Orange Nation would be delighted.
Where Things Stand Today: LSU is currently on track to qualify for the national title game, though their appearance is not guaranteed, even if they win out. It is, however, very likely; their strength with the human polls, assuming it remained strong, would keep them in the top two. Assuming the Sugar Bowl lost its SEC representative, it would have an early choice for a replacement. Would they choose another SEC team? That's certainly going to be their first choice, but what if Tennessee and/or Georgia loses to Kentucky but makes the SEC championship game? Or if the SEC East winner gets embarrassed by LSU in Atlanta? In that case, the Sugar Bowl would have to decide if it wanted a three-loss Florida, Georgia, or Tennessee team.
This is the appropriate time to bring up Hawaii, as the Sugar Bowl is stuck last in the at-large choice rotation this year. Like the Fiesta Bowl last year, the Sugar Bowl would be the one forced to take an auto-qualified Hawaii, as no other bowl will select them voluntarily.
Texas Fans Should Root For: If you want the Sugar Bowl to have two at-large (non-SEC) spots, root for LSU and Kentucky. Should the Tigers make the title game, they'd be out. Should Kentucky take out Georgia and/or Tennessee, the odds of an SEC-less Sugar Bowl would increase dramatically.
As for Hawaii, there are two things to root for: first, that the 'Bows lose a game. Failing that, Texas fans should root for whomever wins the ACC and Big East to finish strong. If either conference champion is ranked behind Hawaii in the BCS Standings, then the Rainbow Warriors need only be in the Top 16 - as opposed to Top 12 - to qualify for an auto-bid to a BCS Bowl.
Overview: The Big 12 champion automatically is sent to the Fiesta Bowl unless the champ qualifies for the national title game. This year, two of the most important games for both the conference and national title picture will be Big 12 contests. The Kansas-Missouri game and Big 12 title match up will have enormous implications on this, and every, BCS bowl.
Where Things Stand Today: It's almost fruitless to speculate about this situation right now, as there are so many course-altering games remaining on the Big 12 slate. Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri are ranked 3, 4, and 5 in the BCS Standings, with two teams fated to take a dip once the games are complete.
I do think it's safe to say that the Fiesta Bowl will host a Big 12 team. Though it's not guaranteed, it's highly likely. If OU wins the Big 12 championship but does not qualify for the BCS Title Game, they'll be there. If Missouri beats Kansas and OU, it's unlikely to make the BCS Title Game and would head to Phoenix.
If Oklahoma were to make the BCS Title Game, the Fiesta Bowl would likely choose the Kansas-Missouri winner, provided neither loses this coming Saturday.
If Kansas runs the table and makes the BCS Title Game, then things get very interesting. The Fiesta Bowl would likely, as its first choice, select a two-loss Oklahoma team. A two-loss Missouri team is a possibility (if OU had, say, three losses), but seems unlikely to me.
Texas Fans Should Root For: There are so many difference scenarios here that it's tough to pick one rooting strategy as the best one. I've given this a lot of thought, though, and think I've figured out the best-case scenario for Texas.
Actually, there are two. First, there is the obvious one: Oklahoma loses to both Tech and Pokie State to close the season, while Texas beats A&M. In that case, we make the Big 12 Title Game and can earn the auto-bid.
That's highly, highly unlikely, though. More realistically, Oklahoma dropping one of its final two games is within the realm of possibilities. In that case? Texas would want Kansas to beat Missouri, beat Oklahoma, and qualify for the BCS Title Game. Suddenly, the Sooners are a three-loss team on a downward trend. Furthermore, the Sooners were Fiesta Bowl participants last year, a factor bowl committees give weight in their deliberations. Under this scenario, the Fiesta Bowl's most likely choice is between Missouri and Texas. I'd put the odds at 75% that Texas would be their choice.
Overview: The ACC champion automatically qualifies for the Orange Bowl. No ACC team has a realistic chance to qualify for the national title game.
Where Things Stand Today: Like the Big 12 and SEC, the Atlantic Coast Conference pits its two division winners against one another in a championship game. The winner of this coming Saturday's Clemson-Boston College match up will clinch the Atlantic Division. Virginia Tech must beat Miami and Virginia to capture the Coastal Division crown; otherwise, Virginia is the representative.
The only real question with this conference is whether the conference champ will finish ranked behind Hawaii in the BCS Standings. If so, the Rainbows need only finish in the Top 16 for an auto-bid. Otherwise, Hawaii must finish inside the Top 12.
Texas Fans Should Root For: It's not the most critical conference to Texas' chances, but all these factors matter (and are all subject to change if unexpected results pop up). I think the most logical team to root for is Virginia. Should the Cavs beat Virginia Tech, the Hokies would be a three-loss team unlikely to receive an at-large bid. For its part, Virginia as ACC Champ would almost assuredly finish ahead of Hawaii in the BCS Standings, forcing the Rainbow Warriors to finish in the Top 12.
The worst case scenario? Boston College beats Clemson but falls to Miami in the season finale, then goes on to win the ACC championship game. In that case, the Golden Eagles would be in real danger of finishing behind Hawaii in the BCS Standings, making UH's path to auto-qualification all the easier.
Beyond the Hawaii issue, it's pretty much wait-and-see. After the bowls which lose national title participants make replacement selections, the Orange Bowl will have first choice of the at-large teams. Without knowing how the rest of the season plays out, it's impossible to say who they'd want. A Big 12 runner up Kansas would be attractive. A one-loss Kansas team (to Missouri) is a less likely, but entirely plausible, selection. A two-loss Oklahoma team (provided it beat Tech and Okie State, losing to Missouri in the Big 12 championship) would be an attractive choice. If West Virginia were to lose to UCONN and finish second in the Big East, they would be a viable option. If Oregon wins the Pac 10 but fails to qualify for the national title game, a one-loss Arizona State or two-loss USC team would be strongly considered. The Orange Bowl will have its pick of the litter, but can't make any kind of decision until all these conference championships are decided.
It's pretty crazy to think about how many different scenarios are in play with teams having just one or two games remaining on their schedules. With that in mind, it's virtually impossible to handicap which BCS Bowl Texas is most likely to receive a bid from. The odds of Texas receiving a BCS bid of any kind can't precisely be calculated, but there are certain outcomes which would significantly help our chances. Clearing Hawaii from the picture is the most important one. Chaos among teams who won't be winning conference championships is always helpful.
Still, we'll just have to wait and see. And, of course, beat Texas A&M. My suggestion would be to pick the bowl you most want Texas to attend and root for that scenario to unfold. The odds are things won't go as any of us foresee them, but as best I can tell, these are the most likely barriers to a Texas bid in a BCS Bowl.
For me? I tend to agree with those who say that a BCS Bowl bid isn't the be-all and end-all. Priorities 1 and 1A are national and conference titles. BCS Bowls are nice for travel, fun, money coffers, and exposure - benefits which are nice but not fundamental goals in the way that championships are. Moreover, I personally wouldn't be too jacked about an Orange Bowl trip to play Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, or Clemson. Truth be told, I'd rather go to the Cotton Bowl to play Florida, or Holiday Bowl to play USC. Everyone's got their own preferences, so pick where you hope we wind up and root for that.
You never know...