Should a team that got blown out by Kentucky get a BCS bowl berth?
That's the burning question - not who's No. 1 or No. 2 - from the latest BCS standings. Kent State is on the precipice of becoming the first MAC team to land a BCS bid. At No. 17, the Golden Flashes need to move up just one spot in next week's final standings to secure a huge payday for their conference.
But should they get a spot? Should a team that accounted for Kentucky's only victory over an FBS team this season be playing in the Orange Bowl in Miami?
The full BCS standings entering the final week of the season:
That's right, the Wildcats went 2-10 this season, which was good enough to get their coach fired. They beat FCS Samford in their penultimate game before getting pummeled by coachless Tennessee in the season finale. But UK didn't just win, but routed Kent State, 47-14, in the second game of the season.
But ah, when has "deserve" ever meant anything in the history of the BCS?
The fact is, Kent State is 11-1 and will be facing 11-1 Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game next Friday. With a victory, and a little help, the Golden Flashes could snag the final BCS bowl slot, as the other nine berths are already spoken for - six conference champions plus Notre Dame, Florida and Oregon will all go BCS bowling.
On paper, it looks as if Kent State just needs a UCLA loss in the Pac-12 championship game (and of course, winning the MAC championship) to accomplish the goal. That might be the one and only path the Golden Flashes have to the top 16. Losses by either Nebraska in the Big Ten title game to Wisconsin or a shocking upset loss by Florida State to Georgia Tech in the ACC title game might not be enough to help Kent State to move up that single spot.
This also means that neither Boise State nor Northern Illinois has a realistic chance of rising into the top 16. While the Huskies can beat Kent State in the MAC title game, their current spot at No. 21 in the BCS standings makes it about a bridge too far for them to close that gap. The same goes for Boise State, at No. 20 and facing 7-4 Nevada in the season finale. The Broncos simply have very little chance of making up four spots.
BCS bowl projections
BCS national championship game: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl: Nebraska vs. Stanford
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Kansas State
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Rutgers
By the time the MAC championship game takes place, we should already know which team would represent the Big East in the BCS. Rutgers hosts Louisville on Thursday in what essentially will be the conference title game. Rutgers can win the Big East outright with a victory, while a tiebreaker featuring the BCS standings will be applied in the event of a Louisville victory.
Louisville sits at No. 26 and Rutgers at No. 27 (and Cincinnati at No. 36 and Syracuse at No. 43), just outside the official top 25. It's certain that if Louisville wins the game, the Cardinals will represent the Big East because they'll be the only conference team to land in the top 25 in the final BCS standings.
Whether Rutgers or Louisville wins the game, it'll nevertheless mark the stunning and continuing fall of the Big East, which just three years ago had a team ranked No. 3 in the final BCS standings - Brian Kelly's Cincinnati team that was waxed by Florida in the Sugar Bowl after Kelly jumped to take over at Notre Dame.
Since then, the Big East champion has finished at No. 22 in 2010 and No. 23 in 2011, with this year's champion possibly setting a new low. In those two years, Boise State finished at No. 10 and No. 7 respectively, and was shut out of a BCS bid each time. In '10, the Broncos were behind No. 3 TCU, which earned a Rose Bowl berth. Last season, they were not selected as an at-large after finishing second to TCU in the Mountain West.
The rest of the BCS bowl picture is pretty cut-and-dried. Conference championship game winners from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will earn berths. The only thing that will be somewhat unsettled going into Saturday would be the status of the Big 12 winner, and that will be decided by two games.
If Kansas State defeats Texas at home, the Wildcats will win the Big 12's automatic bid and head to the Fiesta Bowl to face Oregon. If they lose, and Oklahoma wins at TCU, then the Sooners would win the conference outright and be headed to Glendale. Oklahoma will get that last BCS bid with a win and be plucked by the Sugar Bowl if Kent State fails to qualify. But if OU loses, it opens up one last possibility of intrigue.
A Sooners loss should drop them out of the top 14 in order to be eligible for a BCS at-large berth, but not enough to be out of the top 16 to allow Kent State to sneak up one spot. In that scenario, then the Sugar Bowl will have no other choice but to take a two-loss Clemson team to pair it with Florida.
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