Northern Illinois is out of the BCS picture after an upset loss to Bowling Green in Friday night's MAC Championship, opening up a spot in one of the big bowls. Our bowl projections had them in the Fiesta Bowl, but the Huskies' loss will move UCF from the Sugar to that spot against the Big 12 champion.
Which teams could take that extra available BCS spot?
Clemson Tigers (10-2, 7-1 ACC)
Why they're in: Well, we actually already projected them to take one of the at-large spots, and this result could only help their chances. A marquee early season win over a healthy Georgia team on national television helps, too, as does a double-digit win total. Also, the Orange Bowl has heavy ties with the ACC and will need a very good reason to pick outside the conference.
Why they're out: Besides Georgia (who finished 8-4), they haven't exactly beaten anybody, and their other two big matchups (Florida State and South Carolina) have ended with the Tigers losing by a combined margin of 82-31. That loss to the Gamecocks will especially hurt, as it came in the last week of the season and will be fresh in the minds of the voters and the bowls.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-1, 7-1 Big 12)
Why they're in: They've been one of the best teams in the country in the second half of the season, blowing out Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor all in the month of November.
Why they're out: Their loss to West Virginia is pretty far and away the worst for any of the contenders for this spot. And they still have a tough game against Oklahoma left. But more likely? They're out of this conversation anyway because they beat Oklahoma and win the Big 12 crown (and the automatic Fiesta bid).
Baylor Bears (10-1, 7-1 Big 12)
Why they're in: The Bears are one of the most exciting teams in the nation, leading the country in scoring and holding a number of blowout victories (including one over Oklahoma). And their fans are just one state over in Texas.
Why they're out: Baylor was beat down by Oklahoma State, 49-17, and the hangover was apparent in their next game, a decidedly un-Baylor-like 41-38 win over 4-8 TCU. They're without one of their most crucial players for the year, receiver Tevin Reese, but we'll see how they can perform against a revitalized Texas squad.
Oregon Ducks (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12)
Why they're in: The Ducks have been one of the most consistent and entertaining programs in college football over the past few years, and started the season as a national title favorite with eight straight blowout wins, including victories over ranked opponents Washington and UCLA. They're also a national television draw.
Why they're out: They didn't win their division, and were blown out by Arizona -- who had a sub-.500 record in Pac-12 play. There's also the question of how well their fans would travel across the country to New Orleans.
For those wondering about Alabama, Auburn, and Missouri, none of them will be taken in this spot. The Tide will undoubtedly be the first at-large team off the board, while the winner of Auburn/Missouri will be either in the national title game or the Sugar Bowl. Because of the cap of two teams from any conference in the BCS, the loser of the SEC title game will not be eligible. The Pac-12 Championship's loser could also be considered a longshot, but that team will have three losses and would have to travel very far to get to Louisiana.