For Boise State, it had been a very bad week. So bad, that the Broncos now seem destined to be home for the holidays.
Despite a comfortable victory over Louisiana Tech last Tuesday, the Broncos dropped once again in the two polls that account for two-thirds of the BCS standings. And because of that, they're now No. 4 in the standings, being leapfrogged by their non-AQ competitor TCU.
What that means is: Never mind the BCS title game. A BCS bowl berth - at the Rose Bowl, no less - is slipping out of their clutch. If the season ended today, the Broncos would be consigned to play on their home blue turf, in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Oops, excuse me, the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl.
This isn't some kind of scare-mongering sensationalism, but the sad truth in the strange machinations of the BCS. OK, the Broncos probably will end up in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (my friend Doug Kelly's wet dream), but now we're splitting hairs.
Here's how everything would go down:
* Oregon would play Auburn in the BCS title game by virtue of being Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings.
* TCU would play the Big Ten champ in the Rose Bowl, which is contractually obligated to take the non-AQ qualifier should it loses the Big Ten or Pac-10 representative to the title game.
* The Sugar Bowl, having the next two picks, would take the best SEC team available, in this case Alabama. And this is where it gets interesting. It could take Boise State, but after the Tide's humiliation at the hands of Utah two years ago, and having had two non-AQ teams there the last three years, the Sugar Bowl will opt for the Big Ten runner-up instead (either Wisconsin or Ohio State, or Iowa, after the Rose Bowl plucks the champ). It gets a game with two traditional powers, with the expectation that the SEC team would rout another Big Ten opponent.
* The Orange Bowl, up next, has the ACC champ. With its historical ties to the old Big Eight, it would grab either Nebraska or Oklahoma, whichever doesn't win the Big 12 title.
*Finally, the Fiesta Bowl would be stuck with the Big 12 champ and the Big East champ, be it Pitt, Syracuse or whichever team comes out a conference that currently does not have a single team in the BCS top 25.
That's it. Virginia Tech, a team that Boise State beat in a virtual road game to open the season, most likely will be in a BCS bowl, representing the ACC. The Big East is guaranteed a spot as well, even though it's being outnumbered, 4-0, in the current BCS top 25 by WAC and Mountain West teams.
And Boise State, potentially with a 12-0 record and a No. 4 ranking in the BCS standings, will be shut out of a BCS bowl and get a MAC team (not even the champion) in its home stadium. Or play the day before the BCS title game, on the field of a baseball stadium, even if it belongs to the newly minted World Series champ ... (ugh, those words shouldn't go together).
Oh, the indignity.
The pivot here really is the Sugar Bowl. If it opts for the aforementioned SEC-Big Ten matchup, as is probable, then Boise would be locked out. The Orange Bowl, which has had nothing but crummy games of late, won't even think about picking Boise State. And the Fiesta Bowl won't have a choice but to take a potentially 4-loss Big East winner.
Falling to 4th behind TCU is what gets Boise State in this predicament, and the likelihood, going forward, of the Broncos jumping back over TCU is remote, and here's why:
* The Broncos do not have a single game left that will give them a boost in the polls, not even Nevada, which is currently No. 23 in the BCS standings. TCU, on the other hand, will gain additional poll points if it defeats unbeaten Utah this week.
* With the poll gap shrinking further, Boise's computer deficit will be the decisive factor in keeping the Horned Frogs ahead in the standings.
So all Boise State has left, besides winning its remaining games, is hope for change, because the status quo won't do (hmmm, I need to get the election out of my head). Basically, the Broncos need these scenarios to develop:
* A TCU loss, to Utah this weekend or to a resurgent San Diego State next week. The Frogs' only remaining game after that is a laugher at New Mexico, which they might win by 70 (Oregon beat the Lobos, 72-0).
* An Alabama loss to LSU this weekend or to Mississippi State next week. And then an Alabama win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The loss knocks Alabama out of the BCS title race, the win over Auburn eliminates the SEC entirely from the title-game picture.
* An Oregon loss to either Arizona or Oregon State in its final two games of the season.
Should two of the scenarios occur, then the Broncos are back in contention for the BCS title game. Should only one of them take place, they'll have the Rose Bowl (not a bad consolation prize, all things considered). If Oregon, TCU and either Alabama or Auburn win out, then the Broncos would be effectively boxed out.
The next two weeks will prove crucial to the Broncos - particularly this Saturday. Maybe they should put the Alabama and TCU games on a split screen when they host Hawaii this weekend, as all three games will take place simultaneously. Whatever happens on the blue turf will have far less impact on the Broncos than the ones they're not playing in.