Twenty-one teams remain in the running
The remaining contenders in the running for a birth in a prestigious BCS bowl game have officially been announced.
According to the SEC Digital Network, 21 teams remain under consideration to participate in the five games that comprise the BCS: Discover Orange Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO. The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the final BCS Standings will meet in the Discover BCS National Championship Game January 7 in South Florida.
The conference champions of each of the major conferences -- the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC -- each earn an automatic bowl berth. Beyond those six elite teams, the highest-ranked conference champion from among Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Western Athletic Conferences earns automatic qualification to one of the BCS games if that champion is ranked No. 12 or better in the final BCS Standings, or No. 16 or better if it is ranked higher than any champion from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or SEC.
There are also at-large births available to those teams that rank among the top 14 but did not win their conference.
Have you been taking notes?
The Atlantic Coast Conference
The Florida State Seminoles are the class of the ACC, but they were no match for their in-state rival Gators in the final week of the regular season. Star defensive lineman Bjoern Werner and Co. have a shot at redemption against Georgia Tech, a squad coming into the game with a mere 6-6 record. The Yellow Jackets are only in the ACC Championship game due to the infractions committed and subsequent postseason bans of both Miami and North Carolina.
Clemson, standing at 10-2 themselves and No. 14 in the BCS Polls, also stands a chance at earning an at-large bid.
The Big East
Both Louisville and Rutgers lost on Saturday, thus minimizing the enthusiasm surrounding this conference championship game. Rutgers was upset, 27-6, by a Pitt team that has shown immense improvement since the season kicked off. The loss to the Panthers marked the Scarlet Knights first conference loss of the season.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville had been garnering some Heisman consideration as his team shot out of the gate with a 9-0 start to the season. The Cardinals have lost each of its two games since and limp into an opportunity for a BCS birth.
With the Big East as weak as it is this season (and only disintegrating further as Rutgers joins the Big Ten in 2014), whichever of the two programs should lose will have zero shot at an at-large birth.
The Big Ten
The Big Ten has expanded from 11 to 12 and will soon be 14 teams. As big as the conference has become, very few of the programs have acted the part.
Both Ohio State and Penn State have been banned from postseason play, thus opening the door for one of the nation's most disappointing teams, Wisconsin, to take on 10-2 Nebraska despite its five total losses.
Interestingly, Wisconsin's last three losses have all come in overtime, while its two in regulation were each by three points and to great teams. In Week 2 the Badgers lost to Oregon State 10-7, and in Week 5 they lost to none other than Nebraska in a back-and-forth 30-27 roller coaster ride.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez leads the conference's top-ranked offensive attack. The Huskers are expected to roll Wisco, but Montee Ball is the nation's all-time leader in total touchdowns, and he can smell his third-straight Rose Bowl birth.
Again, just like the Big East, a down year in the Big Ten will keep any postseason-eligible teams from earning an at-large invite.
The Big 12
There is no Big 12 championship game, so the automatic BCS bowl birth goes to the team with the best record, and that is either Kansas State or Oklahoma.
Both programs play one more game this season. Kansas State, at 10-1, has the chance to solidify quarterback Collin Klein's Heisman candidacy as they play host to 8-3 Texas.
Oklahoma's Landry Jones has been on fire as of late, becoming the first player to throw for more than 500 yards in consecutive games since Houston's Case Keenum did so in 2009. At 9-2 overall but an equal 7-1 in the Big 12, the Sooners will have to both beat TCU on the road and hope for the Wildcats to stumble once again to earn the automatic bid. However, as the team is currently No. 11-overall in the BCS standings, odds are both of these programs earn an invite to the grown-ups table.
Should they both lose, however, Texas is still alive for an at-large birth.
While the Pac-12 was predictably competitive in 2012, its two representatives in the conference championship are both a bit of a surprise.
Stanford made the risky move of going with a redshirt freshman mid-season. The team has since ridden Kevin Hogan to six consecutive wins, including on the road and in overtime over then-No. 2 Oregon.
The UCLA Bruins stunk up the field under former coach Rick Nieuheisel, but have undergone a transformation following the hiring of first-year head man and former NFL coach, Jim Mora.
Whichever school's record-setting running back, either Stanford's Stepfan Taylor (1,364 yards and 11 scores) or Johnathan Franklin (1,506 and 11), bulldozes at the line of scrimmage may just be earning their squad a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Lest we forget, Oregon is still sitting just behind Stanford with an 11-1 overall record. The Ducks, powered by a redshirt freshman of their own in quarterback Marcus Mariota, should be the conference's second representative as a BCS at-large invite.
By far the nation's most dominant conference over the last half-decade, an interesting scenario may wind up playing out for whomever loses the SEC Championship game.
The Florida Gators are currently ranked No. 4 in the BCS standings with one loss, and will most likely take a trip to Nola. Only two schools from any given conference can play in a BCS bowl. Either Georgia or Alabama will have two losses following their try for the conference title and will thus fall below Florida, who sitting idly and feeling good about the Sugar Bowl.
Oh, but did we mention the winner is all but guaranteed an invite to the BCS National Championship Game?
Independent, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
For the first time since 1988, one of the nation's most storied programs has finished out the regular season with a perfect record.
Led by Heisman hopeful, linebacker Manti Te'o, the Irish finished 12-0 and awaits the winner of the SEC Championship game for the rights to hoist that crystal ball.
The best of the rest
The winners of the MAC championship, either 11-1 Kent State or 11-1 Northern Illinois, should be ranked among the BCS top 16. The Golden Flashes are off to their best start in 90 years, while the Huskies boast a dark horse Heisman candidate in quarterback Jordan Lynch. The conference champion will be automatically in because that program will be ranked higher than the Big East champion.
The aforementioned Oregon Ducks and Florida Gators will be the second representatives of the uber-competitive Pac-12 and SEC, respectively.
Should Alabama lose the SEC Championship game, LSU at 10-2 still has a chance (albeit a ludicrous, outside chance) to jump both the Tide and Florida in the BCS polls and sneak into the SEC's second BCS bid. The same goes for Texas, who must beat Kansas State and watch Oklahoma lose and must move up high enough in the polls to earn an at-large invite.
While these last few teams mentioned seem very unlikely to make it to the BCS, they are still technically in the running.
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